Ram Navami: Birth of a King
The birth of Lord Rama to king Dasharatha and queen Kausalya of Ayodhya is celebrated as Ram Navami. Lord Ram is the 7th incarnation of the Dashavatara of Vishnu. The Rama Navami festival falls in the Shukla Paksha on the Navami, the ninth day of the month of Chaitra as per the Hindi calendar.
Thus, it is also known as Chaitra masa suklapaksha Navami, and marks the end of the nine-day Chaitra-Navratri celebrations. Rama Navami is one of the most important festivals of the Hindus, particularly the Vaishnava sect of the Hindus. This day, marking the birthday of Lord Rama, is also observed as the marriage day of Rama and Sita and thus also referred to as Kalyanotsavam. This year the festival will be celebrated on Tuesday (8 April).
The important celebrations on the occasion take place at Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh) Sita Samahit Sthal (Sitamarhi in Bihar), Bhadrachalam (Andhra Pradesh) and Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu). Thousands of devotees across the country throng to these places to take part in the celebration. Rathayatras, the chariot processions, also known as Shobha yatras of Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman, are taken out at several places, including Ayodhya where thousands of people take a dip in the sacred Sarayu river.
Lord Rama exemplified the perfect person (maryada purushottam). He was the epitome of compassion, gentleness, kindness, righteousness and integrity. Although he had all the power in the world, he still was peaceful and gentle.
The legend has it that there was Ramarajya in the reign of Ram in Ayodha. The rule of Lord Ram is the epitome of perfect governance. Ayodhya was the capital founded by the king-rishi Manu. During the reign of king Dasharath, Ayodhya reached a period of great prosperity. But Dasharath had one problem --- he had no children. Therefore, he decided to perform the ashvamedh sacrifice. Elaborate and difficult rituals had to be observed. Saint Rishyasringa presided over the yagya. The performance of this sacrifice was a great event in Ayodhya. At the end, Rishyasringa recited a mantra and made an offering to the fire. Then the gods, gandharvas, siddhas, and rishis present around began to pray to Brahma, the creator. During that time Ravana, the king of Lanka, was terrorising the people, and they were longing for liberation from his menace.
Ravana had acquired great power because he had obtained from god Brahma the boon that he would never die at the hands of gods, or gandharvas, or yakshas or demons. As he was not afraid of men, he did not care to include men in the list of his potential slayers. So Brahmadev declared that Ravana would die at the hands of a man. Then the gods went to Vishnu for help and requested him to take birth in the wombs of his three queens in four different incarnations of his divinity. When Dasharath’s sacrifice came to an end, a shining figure appeared over the sacrificial kund, and offered the king a divine beverage called ‘payasam’, which was to be given to his queens Kausalya, Kaikayi, and Sumitra. In due time, Kausalya gave birth to Rama, Kaikayi to Bharat and Sumitra to Laxman and Shatrugna.
The Sun is considered to be the progenitor of Rama’s dynasty, which is called the Solar Dynasty (Raghukula or Raghuvamsa – Raghu means Sun and Kula or Vamsa mean familial descendant). Rama is also known as Raghunatha, Raghupati, Raghavendra etc. That all these names begin with the prefix Raghu is also suggestive of some link with Sun-worship. The hour chosen for the observance of the lord’s birth is that when the Sun is overhead and is at its maximum brilliance. In some Hindu sects, prayers on Ram Navami day start not with an invocation to Rama but to Surya (Sun).
The story of the Ramayan is a classic, eternal, universal message of dharma versus adharma, of deva versus demon, of good versus evil, as represented in the battle between Rama and Ravana.
Ravana was a brahmin; he was a great scholar who wrote numerous works on scriptural philosophy. He was powerful, dynamic, and beautiful in appearance. As the brilliant, handsome king of Lanka, he had everything one would need to be happy and peaceful. Yet, he was arrogant, egoistic, greedy and lustful. His insatiable desires led him to crave more and more power, more and more money, and more and more ladies to fulfill his every whim.