What is Rama Navami? The Illustrious Prince of Ayodhya
What is Rama Navami?
Rama Navami is a Hindu festival that celebrates the birthday of Rama, the 7th avatar of Vishnu. Mythology says that Vishnu incarnates periodically whenever the moral order is under threat due to the rise of evil forces. The purpose of his incarnation is to restore order in the Universe by destroying evil forces. Many people have heard of Vishnu’s Dasavatars or 10 avatars. Rama is one of them, and in this incarnation, he was born as a human.
The Illustrious Prince of Ayodhya
Rama was born in Ayodhya, which Hindus call Ram Janmabhoomi. His father was King Dasharatha of the Ikshvaku or Raghuvanshi dynasty. Dasharatha had 3 wives, Kausalya, Kaikeyi, and Sumitra. But none of them were able to conceive. This was a cause of great sorrow for the king, as he had no heir to take care of the kingdom when he died. Under him, Ayodhya flourished, but he needed a son to rule Ayodhya when he was gone.
After much deliberation and consultation with renowned sages, the king decided to perform an Ashwamedha sacrifice to please the gods and invoke their blessings for progeny. Accordingly, the sacrifice was performed under the supervision of Sage Rishyashringa. He made an offering to Agni during the Yagna and received a pot of divine kheer from a divine being who emerged from the fire. He told the king to give the kheer to the 3 queens.
After consuming the kheer, all the 3 queens conceived and gave birth to sons in due course of time. Rama was the son of Queen Kausalya. He was born in the month of Chaitra (March-April). Kaikeyi also had a son, Bharata, while Sumitra had 2 sons, Lakshmana and Shatrughna.
Why was Rama Born?
Rama was born towards the end of Treta Yuga. At this time, the demon, Ravana, was causing a lot of havoc. He had obtained a boon from Brahma, which made him invincible. No god, demon, or yaksha could kill him. However, he did not bother to mention human beings to Brahma, as he felt that he was too powerful to be killed by any human being. As his actions became more and more intolerable, the gods got into a huddle and discussed how to end the menace. Finally, they went to Brahma and asked for a solution. Brahma pointed out that Ravana was not completely invincible. He could be killed by a man.
The gods next approached Vishnu. After all, he was the preserver of the Universe. Vishnu gave them a patient hearing. Finally, it was decided that he would be born on earth as the son of King Dasharatha. Thus, Rama was born with a divine purpose – to kill the evil demon, Ravana, and restore Dharma or righteousness.
Those who read the Ramayana may rail against Queen Kaikeyi, who was responsible for Rama’s exile, as she wanted her own son to be the crown prince. But Kaikeyi was just a pawn in the hands of destiny. If she hadn’t made her move, Rama would not have gone to the forest or met Shoorpanaka, the sister of Ravana, whose humiliation at the hands of Lakshmana set in motion the chain of events that led to Ravana’s abduction of Sita. It was destined that Rama would go into exile and Sita would be abducted by Ravana, who would then encounter Rama in battle and be killed.
Ram Navami Fast
The Ram Navami fast, or Vrat, is compulsory for Rama devotees and voluntary for others. It is believed to wash away one’s sins and grant Mukti or liberation.
The fast begins on the previous night and continues on the day of Rama Navami. Devotees perform Homa and worship to Rama and recite Rama Mantras. They also maintain vigil during the night. After completing the fast, they donate the image of Rama used for the worship to an acharya and also other gifts.
One can observe the fast in 3 different ways:
· Fasting until noon
· Eating only one meal during the day
· Fasting till midnight
· Fasting for 9 days starting on the first day of Chaitra month
If one eats only one meal during the fast, one can eat fruits and fruit extracts. But if one eats a full meal, one can include potatoes in any form without turmeric, garlic, ginger, onion, etc. One can have tea, coffee, milk, curd, and water.
Although a complete fast (avoiding even water) is not necessary, many devotees observe it. They don’t drink even a drop of water until midnight when the fast ends. Sendha namak (rock salt) is used to prepare the food for Rama Navami fast.
Significance of the Rama Navami Fast
The belief is that when one observes fast on Ram Navami, with true devotion, one will be blessed with health, wealth, and prosperity. The scriptures also claim that fasting pleases God, attracts divine blessings for wish fulfillment, and helps one achieve salvation. Ram Navami vrat is one of the five most important fasts since ancient times.