SATURDAY, APRIL 20: Nine days of reading and performing the epic Ramayana—to so-called Ramayana Week—has culminated in India today, for the widely celebrated festival of Ram Nami. In reverence of the peaceful emperor and admired hero, Lord Rama, many Hindus attend dramatic reenactments of events from his life today. While undertaking a daylong fast, devotees chant Vedic mantras at temples, offer fruits and flowers and rejoice for Lord Rama’s life. For millions, Ram Navami ends with a feast shared by family and friends, followed by spectacular fireworks displays.
Did you know? Mahatma Gandhi used the term Ramrajya, the reign of Rama, to describe how India should be after independence. Hindus believe that listening to the story of Rama cleanses the soul; that chanting his name eases the pains of life. It’s common to chant the name of Rama to rock babies to sleep.
Festivities begin at sunrise with ritual baths and prayers, but the most celebrated events of Ram Navami begin after noon, his alleged time of birth. Inside elaborately decorated temples, special prayers are recited for the unique reign of Lord Rama, which was filled with peace and prosperity. In North India, towering effigies of a ten-headed Ravana, Rama’s nemesis, are paraded through the streets, followed by shouting crowds that rejoice when Rama “makes an appearance” and pierces Ravana with an arrow, setting alight the fireworks inside the effigy. (Wikipedia has details.) In some regions, a Ram Navami procession called Ratha Yatra sends decorated chariots through the streets, with costumed actors aboard to represent Rama, his brother Lakshmana, his queen Sita and his devotee, Hanuman. Hindus in South India perform the ceremonial wedding of Rama and his consort, Sita.
A PEACEFUL RAM NAVAMI
District leaders have taken measures to plan a peaceful Ram Navami this year, with some events having started as early as Thursday. (The Times of India reported.) Leaders decreed that only religious songs be played and that “communal harmony should be maintained at any cost.”