TUESDAY, APRIL 8: For more than a week, starting with the Hindu new year Ugadi, families across India celebrate the April 8 birthday of Lord Rama. Hindu descriptions of Rama vary, but he generally is described as a divine of Vishnu, the supreme deity in Hinduism. Lord Rama certainly is one of the most popular deities in India and his annual festival is a time for recalling ancient Indian stories about him.
The Ramayana, or Rama’s Journey, is one of the greatest masterpieces in world literature—and a great epic in India’s sacred traditions. Written down in sanskrit about 2,500 years ago, the Ramayana is made up of 24,000 verses. Lengthy readings and recitations from the epic are a beloved part of this season each year.
Inspiring readings, decorations and fasting are traditional preparations for the birthday on April 8, this year. While Rama’s story is not widely known in the U.S., his image is echoed in other Asian cultures and also reportedly was an inspiration for the blue figures in James Cameron’s 2009 movie, Avatar.
Care to dig further into the vast riches of the Ramayana? Wikipedia has a fairly extensive introduction to the epic.
Observances vary widely by region. This year, The Hindu newspaper reported on one center in Coimbatore, a city in southern India, where an 18-day celebration of Rama Navmi is underway! If you live near an Indian temple in the West, you are likely to see local Hindu communities planning all-day services for this special period of the year.