Hindu Festivals - Sri Rama Navami
Sri Rama Navami is the birth anniversary of Sri Rama celebrated by the Hindu devotees in the month of Chaitra (March-April).
It falls on the ninth day of the bright fortnight when the asterism Punavasu(Geminorum) is in the ascendancy. The observance of this Vrata is said to absolve one from all sins. Men of all grades and ranks observe this Vrata for obtaining prosperity, longevity, happiness and wisdom.
The Lord Mahavishnu, one of the Hindu Trinity, representing the preservative aspect of the universe as in his previous incarnations (avatars), descended into the world to kill the ten-headed Asura named Ravana who was an epitome of the ten ahamkaras (egoism) of men. When one is under the sway of the ahamkaras, his the power of discrimination between right and wrong is destroyed. Consequently the Lord's light has to descend on him to destroy these ahamkaras.
Sri Rama was a brilliant star of the dynasty of Raghu. The history of his glorious reign is a description of his virtues such as faith in God and guru (the preceptor), devotion to parents, scrupulous regard for truth, patience in the midst of difficulties and troubles, mercy for the inferior animals, consideration and great regard for different varnas, fraternal love, regard for elders, popularity among his people, sound and tactful politics, generosity to and forgiveness for, repentant sinners and so on. Every one of the qualities and virtues enumerated above, is proved in his reign.
The famous story of Rama is known as the Ramayana. There is a stereotype proverb current in every house, wherein the women when they sing to make their babies sleep, the burden of the lullaby is - 'The utterance of Sri Rama's name washes away all sins and that of Sita's name kills grief'. The character of Rama in epic further fulfils the function of a moral preceptor to the world. It awakens in a son, a sense of duty to his parents. It creates in a wife sincere love for her husband. Brothers are roused to the sense of fraternal love and affection. Kings are made to realize the glory of a golden rule. Generally speaking, the benefits said to result from a perusal of this epic with great devotion and reverence for its hero Sri Ramachandra, are as detailed below:
The issue less are said to beget issues. The poor are said to become rich. The forlorn king becomes a king with a large retinue. The imprisoned get released from prison as proved in the story of Ramadas which is being sung throughout the length and breadth of the land in the form of a ballad. Further, it is also laid down that people disgusted with the temporal concerns obtain spiritual bliss from the devotional study of Ramayana.
The epic under reference is divided into six parts going by the names, Bala Kandam, Ayodhya Kandam, Aranya Kandam, Kishkindha Kandam, Sundara Kandam and I~ldha Kand, 7m. Let us take these parts or Kandams one by one and summarise the events detailed therein.
The Bala Kanda -- In this, DaSaratha, Rama's father, performs a sacrifice or Yajna for obtaining sons making his wives shake off their curse by the meril derived by the said action. Four sons are born to him through his wives. When they reached their youth, the sage Visvamitra obtains Dasaratha's consent to take two of his sons Rama and Lakshmana to the forest. On the way, Rama killed an Asura woman, named Tadaka. He thereafter bent Siva's bow and married Sila, daughter of Janaka, the king of Mithila. He subsequently got the better of Paragurama who challenged him to bend his bow, which feat he accomplished easily and won (he same from him. This portion of the epic is intended to throw light on his prowess, love of mankind, hatred for obstinate vice, love for truth and patience in learning archery and other arts of warfare.
The Ayodhya Kanda -- This depicts the story how king Dasaratha held a great council and also how he unwittingly killed the son of a rishi in a royal hunt. The rishi cursed him that he too should die of grief of separation from his sons. As a result of this curse, Rama, accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana, had to go to the forest abandoning his kingdom being exiled from it by Kaikeyi, one of Dasaratha's queens. There he got acquainted with a king of hunters named Guha, who was the ruler of Sringaberapura. With his assistance, Rama crossed the Ganges in a boat, in company with his brother and wife.
He subsequently reached the mountain called Chitrakoota and dwelt there with his wife and brother having erected a hermitage to live in. Bharata, in whose favour Rama had relinquished his kingdom of Ayodhya in order to enable his father to keep up his promise to his wife Kaikeyi, returned from his maternal grandfather's house and rebuked his mother for her conduct in having caused the exile of his dearly loved brothers Rama and Lakshmana and his sister-in-law Sita. DaSaratha died of grief in the meantime. Bharata then went in search of his brother in order to request him back to Ayodhya's throne as Dasaralha had wished.When Rama heard from his brother Bharata about the demise of his dear father, he was grief-stricken and performed his funeral ceremonies as laid down in the Smritis. He then consoled his brother Bharata and sent him back to look after the administration of Ayodhya till he returned. He also gave him his sandals at latter's request, to be placed on the throne, since Bharata insisted that he would only rule as Rama's representative and not as king of Ayodhya. In this section, his special virtues such as implicit obedience to his, father and deep fraternal love combined with great goodness Of heart, have been brought out.
The other glorious features depicted with great artistic skill here are, a father's grief at the Separation from his dearly loved sons and daughter-in-law which resulted in his death, the fearless devotion a wife who as ready and willing to brave anything to be in the company of her lord whom she deeply loved, the true spirit of a brother in Lakshmana bound to Sri Rama by deep fraternal affection. These are very rare and admirable virtues revealed to the world to be followed.
The Aranya Kanda - In this division of the epic, Sita requests her lord Sri Rama and brother-in-law Lakshmana not to kill asuras without sufficient reasons lest sin might result from hasty actions. Lakshmana disfigures Surpanakha, an asura woman, in order to put an end to her importunities begging Rama and him to marry her. Then the demons Kharadushanas are destroyed by the brothers. One day, Sita is carried off to Lanka (Ceylon) by Ravana. Jatayu, Dasaratha's friend, is mortally wounded by Ravana when he tries to rescue Sita from his clutches.Rama, wandering about in Search of his lost Sita, discovers the bird Jatayu who expires after showing him the direction in which Sita was carried off. Having performed the obsequies of his father's departed friend, Rama proceeds southwards towards Lanka as it was the direction indicated by Jatayu. This division is intended to show Sri Rama's love of penance, his great regard for great men and his determination to kill lust and extirpate vice. The Kishkindha Kanda -- In this division Rama's stay at Pampa Saras (Humpi) and the destruction of the monkey chief Bali are graphically described, subsequent to his meeting with Hanuman and the resultant compact of friendship with Sugriva, Bali's brother.
Hanuman is sent in search of the whereabouts of Sita with the signet ring of Sri Rama, to be shown to her in order to convince her of his identity. He is successful in finding her and has a personal conversation with her. In this part the spirit of devotion with which Hanuman fulfils the functions of a true and trustworthy messenger is depicted. Further, Sita's feeling of intense grief and sorrow, her trust in God and her love for her husband are also described beautifully.
The Sundara Kanda -- Herein is narrated the crossing of the ocean by Hanuman, the coming out of the mountain Mainaka from the bosom of the sea to afford a resting place for Hanuman, in return for the help rendered by Hanuman's father, Vayu, in escaping from Indra who was clipping the wings of mountains, to prevent them from flying from place to place and crushing cities and towns. Then Hanuman enters the island of Lanka and meets Sita Devi in Ravana's pleasure garden, going by the name 'Asokavatica. ' He consoles her after having given Rama's signet ring to her and after having taken from her some of her hair ornaments to be shown to Rama.After having shown to Ravana that he treated him and his powers with contempt by destroying his favourite resort Asokavatica and his capital city Lanka, he returns to Sri Rama, tells him of the discovery of Sita, giving him her hair ornament. The Yudha Kanda -- In this part is described the construction of the bridge to reach the island of Lanka from the mainland, Rama's meeting with Vibhishana, Ravana's brother, and the compact of friendship with him, and the final destruction of Ravana and his mighty army of Rakshasas. Rama then returns to Ayodhya in an aerial vehicle called Pushpaka Vimanam after having placed Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka. He is welcomed there by one and all and crowned the king Of Ayodhya amidst great rejoicings. A perusal of this portion of the epic gives an insight into the military arrangements of the period.
The hero of this epic Sri Ramachandra of the solar line of kings is said to have installed in Rameswaram a Sivalingam as an expiation for the sin committed in having slain a large number of rakshasas in Lanka and elsewhere.
Near the bottom portion of the eastern wall on the west side of two prakaras of the Ranganatha temple at Srirangam is an inscription recording that in Saka 1400 Manmatha, Balayyadeva Maharaja gave a village as an offering to god or the celebration of Sri Rama Navami in the reign of Virapratapa Raya. On the north base of the Kothandaramaswami temple at Oragadam, Chengalpattu district, there is a record relating to the gift of land in Srimukha, Vaigasi, on 28th day to Raghunatha Perumal at the same village for conducting the Sri Rama Navami festival.