RAMA NAVAMI----BIRTHDAY OF LORD RAMA
Tomorrow (12 April, 20011) is the Ram Navami day — the birthday of Lord Ram. Sri Ramnavami is dedicated to the memory of Lord Ram. The festival commemorates the birth of Ram who is remembered for his prosperous and righteous reign.
Lord Rama’s birthday is celebrated with great fanfare, gusto and enthusiasm by all the Hindus of the world. Lord Ram is the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who takes birth on earth whenever Adharma overrules Dharma. For countless centuries in India, Hindus have believed that Lord Ram protects all his devotees by totally uprooting the roots of Adharma. Lord Ram was born on earth to destroy the demon named Ravana. Ram Navami falls on the ninth day of the Hindu lunar year (or Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami).
In his famous Lectures on the Ramyana, Right Honourable Srinivasa Sastri(1869– 1946) observed “The Ramyana, the great story of Lord Ram, has been told to us times without number. Every line of it has been scanned and commented upon minutely, not hundreds, not thousands but millions of times over. We have all conned every little thing in it. Nevertheless, somehow or the other, in our mixed human nature, there is a tendency which we nourish to come again and yet again to the story, whether before breakfast or after siesta in the afternoon or midnight and it is time to be sleeping. At whatever time we go, to whatever place, whoever the expounder may be, somehow or other there is that in us which helps us to put aside all disturbing illusions, all the things that are calculated to take us away from the environment of the story itself even while our circumstances are such as to cause distraction for the time. A child crying or somebody falling asleep on you and all the other things may be calling attention to the wretched world around you ; but even so, somehow there is in all of us, provided we are Hindus by training and in spirit, an ability, what shall I call it, an almost non-human ability to put aside those distractions and to remain under the influence of that illusion as though the whole thing were being enacted on the stage by men fully trained for the purpose amidst appointments of a first-class character, which will produce and maintain the illusion at its greatest. We have that amongst us. Everyone of us has it and it a marvel how we retain it. I should ask you always to put yourselves in that condition and remain in it whenever you read this great epic of Ramyana. The whole thing is done before you with a set purpose and unless you help that purpose to fulfill itself in you, you read it for nothing. Everything, therefore, depends on the way in which you open the book and read it. I take up the book anywhere and read it.....I can throw myself heart and soul into the very essence of the story. When I read that book I read that book and do nothing else; my whole mind is devoted to it. A hard-hearted man like me, I read it, and, strange to say, there is not a page which does not bring tears into my eyes. Any fine sentiment, any tender feeling, any affection between brother and brother, and re-union of beings that have been separated for a time, aye, any homage paid to friendship, to gratitude or to any of those eternal abiding virtues of human character, brings tears into my eyes! I stop; I cannot go on, I have to wait and wipe my eyes and then go on. Why do I do that ? Why has it that effect on me ? I suppose it is because deep down in my nature going to strata which perhaps in my waking life I shall never touch, there is a spirit of the utmost reverence and affection for those great characters in the Valmiki Ramyana — Ram and Seetha, Bharatha and Hanuman etc”
WEDDING OF LORD RAMA AND SITA
On Ram Navami Day, Hindus normally perform Kalyanotsavam (marriage celebration) with small murtis of Ram and Sita in their houses, and at the end of the day the deity is taken out to a procession on the streets. This day also marks the end of the nine-day utsavam called Chaitra Navaratri (in Maharashtra) or Vasanthothsavam ((festival of Spring in Andhra Pradesh), which starts with Gudi Padwa (in Maharashtra) or Ugadi (in Andhra Pradesh). According to recent astrological studies, Lord Ram’s year of birth has been reckoned as January 10, 5114 B.C .
Some important highlights of this day are-
Celebration of Kalyanam (Ceremonial wedding performed by temple priests) at Bhadrachalam on the banks of the river Godavari in Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh.
Preparation of Panakam, a sweet drink prepared on this day with jaggery and pepper, for large scale distribution among the devotees of Lord Ram.
Organisation of Procession of idols in the evening, accompanied with play of water and colours, and devotional music.
Ramnavami Mela, Ayodhya marks the birth anniversary of Lord Rama. It is usually celebrated in the month of Chaitra according to the Indian calendar which generally corresponds to the March or April of the English calendar. In many regions of India, on the day of Ramnavami Mela especially Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, public gatherings called sat-sangs are organized.
Ramnavami Mela at Ayodhya
To the people of India, the Ramyana Epic has been an unfailing and perennial source of spiritual strength from times immemorial. Learnt at the mother’s feet with reverence and love, it has inspired great men to heroic deeds as well as enabled the humble to face their trials with fortitude and faith. Valmiki Ramyana is a noble poem possessing in a supreme degree the characteristics of a true epic, great and fateful movement, heroic characters and stately diction. The characters in the epic move with the vitality of real life. It is difficult to find anywhere in the world such vivid portraiture on such an ample canvas. It gives us an unforgettable picture of life as lived by people when ancient India reached the zenith of its culture and civilisation.
As Rajaji puts it beautifully “ In it we see the soul of man soar, going up into the empyrean in quest of the eternal, the majestic sweep of his mind as he scans the universe for an answer to the mystery of life and death. Therein we get a glimpse of God-like men and gracious women whose glory was their conquest of their baser desires, transmuting them into the dreamland of truth, beauty, serenity. Where shall we find such philosophic flights of the spirit of man into the Unknown, unbaffled by failure, undismayed by disaster, unruffled by defeat ?”
Any good exposition of the Ramyana can be only with reference to the Vedas. One who ventures to speak on the epic should have the three important qualifications —— purity of the tongue, an intense longing to tell the story and a thorough grounding in the subject. The epic should be heard with sincerity and the clear understanding that Sri Ram is none but the Vedic Mahapurush and therefore immune to afflictions of ignorance and grief.
As Professor Raghavan, an eminent Professor of Sanskrit in Madras University summed it up; “This is the Epic Ramyana, adored by God Brahmma himself, in which is established Lord Vishnu, whose personality pervades the static and mobile Universe, the Epic, which destroys all sins, confers all fortunes and is indeed equal to the Vedas. Even a quarter of a verse of it, nay even a word, brings salvation”.
Just as Indian culture was not confined to India alone, even so the story of Ram and Sita travelled through out South-East Asia as well. As it travelled and spread, the Ramyana story became popular because of its adaptability to dance, Ram and popular depiction, quite apart from its ethical or theological or religious connotations. Ramyana has become the warp and woof of the culture of Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, North and South Vietnam.
Here are a few Literary / Spiritual flashes of light and wisdom from the Valmiki Rmayana;
Sugreeva advises Ram not to accept the surrender of Vibhishana. RAM replies:
“aanaya enam hari shreSTha dattam asya abhayam mayaa ||6-18-33
vibhiiSaNo vaa sugriiva yadi vaa raavaNaH svayam”
“He who surrenders to me saying “Ram I surrender to you, save me”- it becomes my duty to save him. This is my promise. I cannot take back this promise.”
About moksha to Jataayu, Valmiki says:
yaa gatiH yaj~na shiilaanaam aahita agneH ca yaa gatiH |
a para aavartinaam yaa ca yaa ca bhuumi pradaayinaam ||
mayaa tvam samanuj~naato gacCha lokaan anuttamaan |
gR^idhra raaja mahaa sattva sa.nskR^itaH ca mayaa vraja
“Hey, greatly king Jatayu, through me you depart to the unexcelled Moksha... you depart to those worlds that are destined for the noblest of Jnanis...”
LORD RAMA EMBRACES HANUMAN
From the above verses we can see that, Lord Ram was indeed a mighty Mahapurush. Soon after the Coronation was over, Lord Ram embraced Hanuman and spoke to him with great affection, tinged with unsurpassed humility and reverence: “Oh Hanuman! To me and others of my family you are indeed my father, like King Dasaratha”. Hanuman replied, “How can I be equated with your venerable and great father who gave birth to you so that you can redeem the universe?” Ram replied, “Dasaratha’s sons in fact died in the battle field in Sri Lanka, fighting against Indhrajith’s Brahmmasthra. You only brought them back to life by bringing the Sanjeevini Parvatham to the battle field and saved us all by giving a second lease of life. Since Dasaratha is no more, you have indeed become our father at this moment”.
From the above verses and the timeless dialogue between Lord Ram and Veer Hanuman, we can clearly see that Lord Ram was indeed a mighty Mahapurush – a personification of Dharma, speaking to us all in a grand manner that mocks at Time, remaining for ever,
unaltered and imperishable.
Let me conclude this story by offering my fervent salutations to Lord Rama who has held the hearts of millions and millions of Hindus captive for countless centuries:
You are the life of my life
Oh Rama! The heart of my heart.
There is none in all the three worlds
Whom I call my own but YOU.
YOU are the peace of my mind;
YOU are the joy of my heart;
YOU are my beauty and wealth.
YOU are my wisdom and my strength;
I call YOU my home, my friend, my king
My present and future are in YOUR hands;
My scriptures and commands come from YOU.
Supreme teacher, fountain of wisdom,
YOU are the path and the goal,
Tender mother and stern father too.
YOU are the Creator and Protector,
And the pilot who takes me across
The stormy ocean of life
Dear Lord Rama!
Please fill my heart
With love and devotion for YOU
And burn out all seeds of selfish desire
And sense craving in my mind.
Grant that I may be carried by YOU
From this life to the next without suffering
And be born in a Holy Family
With my heart overflowing
With love and devotion for you
From earliest childhood onwards.
This is my humble prayer to YOU
Oh Lord Rama!