Submitted by Padmini Natarajan
The birth of Sri Rama is celebrated every year by Hindus as a day of great joy. Hindu traditions celebrate a particular day for each important deity throughout the calendar year. The birth of Rama and Krishna are especially important. Both the deities are avatars or reincarnations of Lord Vishnu who as the protector of the world appears on earth assuming different forms to put down evil and adharma. (Photo right, taken by alan_adriana@flickr, used under creative commons.)
The three important functions of creation are represented by three Lords and their ladies. Creation of life is Brahma’s work and his wife Saraswathi looks after knowledge and learning. Lord Vishnu is the protector/manager and his wife is Lakshmi who is the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. Lord Siva is the destroyer and his wife is Shakthi who represents energy and life as well.
The Ramayan relates the story of King Dasaratha who was a just ruler of Ayodhya in the state of Kosala. He had no children. After performing a huge yagna or ceremonial prayer, he is blessed with four sons through his three queens. Rama was born to Kausalya, Baratha to Kaikeyi and twins—Lakshmana and Shatrugna to Sumitra. The boys grow up and Rama and Lakshmana are inseparable. Dasaratha decides to crown his eldest son Rama as Crown Prince. His wife Kaikeyi reminds him of the promise that Dasaratha gave her father that her son would be king. She also demands that Rama be sent off to the forest for fourteen years to prevent civil war from the people of the kingdom who adored him and a long enough period for her son Baratha to consolidate his reign.
Rama willingly accepts the dictates of his stepmother and accompanied by his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana goes away into exile and they have many adventures. King Dasaratha dies and Baratha refuses the throne and acts as Regent in his brother’s absence.
In the last year of the exile, Sita is kidnapped by the demon Lankan King Ravana who has the boon that he cannot be killed by anyone other than a mortal. Hanuman a brave and powerful monkey finds her place of captivity. A bridge is built and Rama with an army made up of monkeys and bears attacks Lanka and wipes out the demon Rakshasa clan who had been creating havoc in the lives of people. Rama returns to Ayodhya, is crowned King and that is the beginning of an ideal reign of peace and prosperity.
The Ramayana is a social commentary on people, places, society and governance. Rama even today embodies fidelity as he was committed to his wife monogamously. He is also the epitome of a man who lives by his promises given to different people at different times like his father, step mother, wife, friends and allies.
The story is relevant even today as the values given and observed in it are timeless. The conflict between Rama and Ravana is between two civilizations, between two ways of life. It demonstrates that humanity can be sustained and society developed through moral and spiritual evolution and not merely in its material development.
The interaction of man and animal to facilitate mutually supportive life systems are demonstrated through the various characters. Ecology and environment too play a major role—the cities and jungles, man and animals, water and air, preservation and destruction of natural resources are beautifully expressed in glorious poetry.
The festival of Rama's birth is celebrated on the day of the star Punar Poosam in the bright fortnight of the month of Chithirai or Panguni (March-April-May). Poosam is Lord Rama’s star. On this day the holy epic Ramayana is read and Rama’s virtues are extolled.
As the festival occurs in the hot summer season, the offerings to the divine are cooling and refreshing dishes. Paanagam and neer mor are the festive dishes of this day. Paanagam is a cold drink made up of diluted jaggery (molasses) flavoured with cardamom powder and ginger powder. these dishes are made in huge quantities and distributed to the public in temple towns.
Neer mor is a dilute buttermilk flavoured with asafoetida, curry leaves, fresh ginger and salt. Sakkarai Pongal or sweet rice made with rice, moong dhal and jaggery and flavoured with cardamom powder is cooked as prasadam--the sacred offering.
In Rama temples a ten day festival of music, religious discourses, processions and fun fairs are organized to celebrate the event.
Read More of Padmini's Articles here.
Notes by Jayanthi:
In some parts of India, Lord Rama's birthday also coincides with the last day of the spring Navarathri or Vasanta Navarathri more commonly celebrated in North India. In 2009, Vasantha Navarathri and Lord Rama's birthday, or Ramanavami have already passed. I have thought one way of relating Spring Navarathri with other calendars is that generally spring Navarathri starts on or around the same day as Ugadi (Telugu New Year) and coincides with Ramanavami. More on this, and other information about Ramanavami at webonautics.com.
When is Ramanavami, Ugadi, Spring Navarathri in 2010, 2011, 2012 and onwards? To follow this and other Hindu and Interfaith holidays, see and subscribe for free e-mail updates to the India America Interfaith and Social Calendar
Learn more about Indian calendars on the Vedic and Western Calendar page.
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