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Ram Navami also known as Sri Rama Navami is a Hindu festival, celebrating the birth of Lord Rama to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya of Ayodhya. Ram is the 7th incarnation of the Dashavatara of Vishnu. The Sri Rama Navami festival falls in the Shukla Paksha on the Navami, the ninth day of the month of Chaitra in the Hindu calendar. Thus it is also known as Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami, and marks the end of the nine-day Chaitra-Navratri celebrations.

This year Ram Navami falls on 1st April 2012.
At some places the festival lasts the whole nine days of the Navratras, thus the period is called 'Sri Rama Navratra'. It is marked by continuous recitals, Akhand Paath, mostly of the Ramacharitamanas, organized several days in advance to culminate on this day, with elaborate bhajan, kirtan and distribution of prasad after the puja and aarti. Images of infant form of Sri Rama are placed on cradles and rocked by devotees. Since Rama is the 7th incarnation of Vishnu having born at noon, temples and family shrines are elaborately decorated and traditional prayers are chanted together by the family in the morning. Also, at temples special havans are organized, along with Vedic chanting of Vedic mantras and offerings of fruits and flowers. Many followers mark this day by Vrata (fasting) through the day followed by feasting in the evening, or at the culmination of celebrations.
The important celebrations on this day take place at Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh),  Bhadrachalam (Andhra Pradesh) and Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu), thronged by thousands of devotees. Rathayatras, the chariot processions, also known as Shobha yatras of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, are taken out at several places, including Ayodhya where thousands of people take a dip in the sacred river.

At that time Ravan, king of Lanka, was terrorizing the people, and all were longing for liberation from his menace. Ravan had acquired great power because he had obtained from god Brahma the boon that he would never die at the hands of gods, or gandharvas, or yakshas (demigods) or demons. As he was not afraid of men he did not care to include men in the list of his potential slayers. So Brahmadev declared that Ravan would die at the hands of a man. Then the gods went to Vishnu with the request, “Dasarath is a glorious king. Please, take birth in the wombs of his three queens in four different degrees of your divinity.”

Dasharatha, the Emperor of Ayodhya, had three wives named Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi in the Treta Yuga. Their greatest worry was that they had no children, and so they had no heir to the throne in the Ikshvaku Kula or royal lineage of great, pious, wonderful Emperors. Rishi Vasistha suggests him to perform Puthra Kamesti Yagna, through which he can have a desired child. He also tells him to invite Maharshi Rishyasringa to perform this yagna for him. Emperor Dasharatha consents and heads to Maharshi Rishyasringa's ashram, to invite him. Maharshi agrees and accompanies Emperor Dasharatha to Ayodhya (Capital of Avadha) and performs the yagna.

As the result of this yagna, Yagneshwara appears and provides Dasharatha a bowl of divine pudding (Kheer/Payasam) and requests him to give it to his wives. Dasharatha gives one half of the payasam to his elder wife Kausalya, and another half to his younger wife Kaikeyi. They both give half of their portions to Sumitra. After few days all three Queens conceive. On the ninth day (Navami) of Chaithra Masa (last month in Vedic Calendar), at noon Kausalya gives birth to Rama, Kaikeyi gives birth to Bharata, and Sumitra to twin boys, Lakshmana and Shatrughna.

Rama is the epitome of perfection, the uttama purusha, fulfilling all his duties towards both family and subjects.

Rama took birth by His own will, on Bhuloka (Earth) to protect all his devotees and vanquish the roots of Adharma. Rama decided to incarnate to destroy Ravana, an Asura [person with demonic and evil designs] ruled in Lanka.

Natal chart of Rama:
Sage Valmiki in his Sanskrit text Ramayan describes the natal or birth chart of young Rama, and this day is celebrated as Ramanavami festival throughout India and amongst Indian diaspora:
“On completion of the ritual six seasons have passed by and then in the twelfth month, on the ninth day of Chaitra month [March–April], when the presiding deity of ruling star of the day is Aditi, where the ruling star of day is Punarvasu (Nakshatra), the asterism is in the ascendant, and when five of the nine planets viz., Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus are at their highest position, when Jupiter with Moon is ascendant in Cancer, and when day is advancing, then Queen Kausalya gave birth to a son with all the divine attributes like lotus-red eyes, lengthy arms, roseate lips, voice like drumbeat, and who took birth to delight the Ikshwaku dynasty, who is adored by all the worlds, and who is the greatly blessed epitome of Vishnu, namely Rama.”

According to recent astrological studies, some consider his date of birth to be January 10, 5114 B.C.

On this occasion, followers of Hinduism fast or restrict themselves to a specific diet in accordance to Veda-Dharma. Vedic temples are decorated and readings of the Ramayana take place. Along with Sri Rama, people also worship Sita, Rama's wife; Lakshmana, Rama's brother; and Hanuman, an ardent devotee of Rama and the leader of his army in the battle against the asura Ravana.

It is believed that listening to the story of Rama cleanses the soul. Meditating on the noble Rama and chanting his name is believed to ease the pains of life and lead one to moksha, or liberation. It is also common practice to chant the name of Rama while rocking babies to sleep.

The birthday of Lord Rama, the celebrated hero of the famous epic, 'Ramayana', is enthusiastically celebrated on the ninth day of the waxing moon in the month of Chiatra, all over India. Lord Vishnu is worshipped in his human incarnation as Rama, the divine ruler of Ayodhya. Celebrations begin with a prayer to the Sun early in the morning. At midday, when Lord Rama is supposed to have been born, a special prayer is performed. People sing devotional songs in praise of Rama and rock, images of him in a cradle to celebrate his birth. Rathyatras or chariot processions of Ram, his wife Seeta, brother Lakshman and devotee Hanuman are held from many temples. People gather in thousands on the banks of the sacred river Sarayu for a dip.

Some observe a strict fast on this day.Ayodhya is the focus of great celebrations. Devotees throng the temples of Ayodhya and Pondicherry, two places closely connected with the events of the Ramayana to participate in Ramnavami festivities.

Ramrajya (the reign of Rama) has become synonymous with a period of peace and prosperity. Mahatma Gandhi also used this term to describe how according to him, India should be after independence.

In northern India especially, an event that draws popular participation is the Ramnavami procession. The main attraction in this procession is a gaily-decorated chariot in which four persons are dressed up as Rama, his brother Laxman, his queen Sita and his disciple Hanuman. Several other persons dressed up in ancient costumes as work by Rama's solders accompany the chariot. The procession is a gusty affair with the participants shouting praises echoing the happy days of Rama's reign.

Surya - The Sun was recognised as the source of light and heat even in ancient times. The importance of the Sun was much more in the higher latitudes from where the Aryans are supposed to have migrated into India. Many royal dynasties portrayed symbols of virility like the Sun, Eagle, Lion etc. as their progenitor.

Sri Ramnavami occurs at the beginning of summer when the sun has started moving nearer to the northern hemisphere. The Sun is considered to be the progenitor of Rama's dynasty, which is called the Sun dynasty (Raghukula or Raghuvamsa, Raghu means Sun and Kula or Vamsa mean familial descendant). Rama is also known as Raghunatha, Raghupati, Raghavendra etc. That all these names begin with the prefix Raghu is also suggestive of some link with Sun worship. The hour chosen for the observance of the lord's birth is that when the sun is overhead and is at its maximum brilliance. In some Hindu sects, prayers on Ramnavami day start not with an invocation to Rama but to Surya (sun). Again the syllable Ra is used in the word to describe the sun and brilliance in many languages. In Sanskrit, Ravi and Ravindra mean Sun.

Significantly, the ancient Egyptians termed the sun as Amon Ra or simply as "Ra". In Latin the syllable Ra is used to connote light. For example, we have Radiance which emission of light, or Radium, which means any substance emitting light or brilliance. The common element is the syllable Ra that in many languages is used to derive words for describing Sun or light.

The occurrence of this syllable in most names used for Rama along with other clues is strongly suggestive that the festival Ramnavami antedates the R- ayana and it must have originated much before the Ramayana, as a 'Sun-festival' for invoking the Sun who was recognised as the source of light and heat even in ancient times.
Courtesy to: Wikipedia; www.festivalsofindia.in; festivals.iloveindia.com

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