Ram Navami is a famous Hindu festival, which celebrates the birth of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It falls on the ninth day of the shukla paksha, or bright phase of the moon, in the lunar month of Chaitra (April-May). Rama is amongst the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu and also one of the two most popular avatars, along with Lord Krishna. Lord Rama is considered to be the epitome of perfection, the ‘Maryadapurushottam‘, fulfilling all his duties towards both family and subjects.
The story of Rama was first written by Vaalmeeki in about the 4th century B.C. Rama is supposed to have lived during the 8th or 7th century B.C. the epic known as the Ramayana. In some parts of India, it is a nine-day festival, coinciding with the Vasanta Navaratri (see also Navaratri).
Rama was the first of the four sons of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. When it was time for Rama to be made crown-prince, his stepmother, Kaikeyi, got Dasharatha to send him to the forest for 14 years. His wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana also accompanied him. In the forest, Sita was kidnapped by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Rama, together with Hanuman and the monkey army, built a bridge to Lanka, killed Ravana, and brought Sita back.
Shriram‘s Name was prevalent even before His birth. After His victory at Lanka, that is, upon demonstrating His Godhood, everyone started addressing Him as Srirama (Shriram).
Shriram is an example of the ideal son, brother, husband, king, friend and enemy.
Shriram observed all decorum prescribed by Dharma; that is why He is referred to as ‘Maryadapurushottam‘. Also, honouring one’s word (Ekvachani) and needing just one arrow or shot to find the mark (Ekbani) and having only one wife (Ekpatni), when the norm was for Kings of that era to have many wives, are His well-known attributes.
It is considered auspicious to undertake a fast on the day in the name of Rama. The objective of the fast is not to ask for special favor of the deity but to seek perfection as a human being. Devotees perform elaborate pujas and chant the name of Rama. Temples of Rama have special services and bhajan sessions through the day.
One significant and popular element of the celebration is the Ramayana parayana, a discourse on the Ramayana, by a pundit or a professional story-teller. It usually lasts nine days, beginning on Ugadi and ending on Rama Navami. A skilled story-teller who can liven up the event by weaving in contemporary events attracts massive crowds.
Since Rama is also one of the most sung-about deities in Indian classical music and literature, week-long (and sometimes, month-long) musical programmes are organised.
Sacred places associated with Rama, like Ayodhya, Ujjain and Rameshwaram, draw tens of thousands of devotees. In Rameshwaram, thousands take a ritual bath in the sea before worshipping at the Ramanathaswamy temple.