Rama Navami is a Hindu festival, celebrating the birth of the god Rama to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya in Ayodhya. The holy day usually falls in the Shukla Paksha on the Navami, the ninth day of the month of Chaitra in the B.S. Hindu calendar. Thus it is also known as Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami.
The story of Shri Rama’s life was first narrated by Maharishi Valmiki in the ‘Ramayan’ which was written after Shri Rama was crowned as the king of Ayodhya. In the epic Ramayana, Dasharatha, the Emperor from Ayodhya, had three wives named Kausalya, Sumitra and Kakikeyi in the Treta Yuga (which follows the Satya Yuga and succeeded by the Dwapara Yuga). Rama is born to Kaushalya, Lakshmana & Shatrughna to Sumitra and Bharata to Kakikeyi. Rama is known as ‘Maryada Purushottam‘ which means an ideal, righteous and a great or a perfect human being, being the best son, brother, husband, and father.
Rama who takes birth by his own will, on Bhuloka (Earth) when Adharma rules over Dharma. He protects all his devotees by vanquishing the roots of Adharma. Vishnu decided to incarnate, as Rama, to destroy the Asura (person with demonic and evil designs) called Ravana who is a Brahmin king of Lanka. Lord Rama & Lord Krishna are two gods in Hinduism or Aryan Vedic context that were born and then departed from earth.
Devotees fast or eat only fruit or special food offerings prepared for the day. They participate in non-stop reading of the 24,000-verse epic Ramayana, at home or in a temple. Images or statues of baby Rama are placed in cradles and rocked by devotees. Homes resound with singing. In the evening, crowds attend Ramalila, in which storytellers and dance-drama troupes depict the Ramayana. It is common to remain awake the whole night, engaged in devotional practices. Devotees contribute generously to temples and charitable organizations. They make buttermilk and a lime drink called panaka, serving them to the public without charge. Some temples make khoa, a sweet made from thickened milk. This festival is especially popular in Uttar Pradesh, where Rama’s kingdom of Ayodhya is located.
Main events of the day include – Kalyanam, a ceremonial wedding performed by temple priests. Panakam, a sweet drink prepared on this day with jaggery and pepper. Procession of murtis in the evening, accompanied by playing with water and colors.
A number of ISKCON temples introduced a more prominent celebration of the occasion of the holiday. This day also marks the end of the nine-day utsava called Chaitra Navaratri (Maharashtra) or Vasanthothsava (Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka & Tamil Nadu) (festival of Spring), which starts with Gudi Padwa (Maharashtra).