As India celebrates RamNavami the birth of Lord Rama today with love, faith and devotion for their great hero Ramchandra an avatar of Lord Vishnu, the central character of the famous Indian epic ‘Ramayana’, we take you on an epic journey in the life of this divine ruler of Ayodhya.

As depicted in the great epic Ramayana, it was Lord Rama the epitome of all that is good and true, who vanquished the demon king Ravana, after Lord Brahma received complaints from all the gods about the havoc that Ravana was wreaking on earth. According to epics, Ravana after being granted many boons by Lord Brahma became overconfident as he could not be killed by a god, and never expected to be attacked by a human being. So Lord Vishnu agreed to go to earth in the guise of Prince Ram, the son of King Dasharath and Queen Kaushalya.

Not just a hero, but given the status of a god by the Hindus, his birth is celebrated year after year with great pomp and enjoyment on the ninth day after the new moon in Sukul Paksh (the waxing moon), which falls sometime in the month of March or April.

Enthusiastically celebrated not only in Ayodhya and Pondicherry, two places closely connected with the events of the Ramayana, the Ramnavami festivities are celebrated all over India, on the ninth day of the waxing moon in the month of Chiatra. The festival centers on the birth of Rama or Ramchandra who is known for his values, justice and over all his love towards his brothers and his subjects and Ramrajya (the reign of Rama) was an era marked with great peace, prosperity and wealth.

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 with people singing devotional songs in praise of Rama, images of him in a cradle to celebrate his birth are seen everywhere. Rathyatras or chariot processions of Ram, his wife Seeta, brother Lakshman and devotee Hanuman are held from many temples while people gather in thousands on the banks of the sacred river Sarayu for a dip. A strict fast  is also observed and is broken only at midnight. In many parts of India, satsangs are organized by cultural committees to commemorate the birth of Lord Rama with the congregation of devotees singing bhajans, and chanting mantras in the praise of the God or listening to legendary stories. A thali used for the performance of the pooja would typically contain prasad and other items necessary for the ritual, including roli (sacred tilak), rice, lota (container filled with water), flowers, a bell, earthen lamp or deep and a conch, and everyone in a family takes part in the puja. After the puja is over, prasad is distributed among all the people gathered for the worship of Lord Rama.

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 worn by Rama’s soldiers accompany the chariot. The procession is a gusty affair with the participants shouting praises echoing the happy days of Rama’s reign.

While in the south in many temples, Kalyanam’ (a ceremonial wedding) is performed by the temple priests, a sweet drink prepared by mixing jaggery with ginger and pepper called Panakam is a specialty of Ram Navami in southern parts of India. The dish is prepared as a prasad. It is first offered to the deity, and then distributed amongst the devotees. When the idols of the deity are taken in a procession, the devotees often play with water and colors, to mark the birth of the God.

Even present-day traditions point out to clues which unmistakably point to the origin of Ramnavmi as lying beyond the Ramayana story. There is some link between Lord Rama and Sun Worship.

Many royal dynasties portrayed symbols of virility like the Sun, Eagle, Lion etc. as their progenitor. 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, and 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 when the sun is overhead and is at its maximum brilliance.

Another point to be noted is that Sri Ramnavami occurs at the beginning of summer when the sun has started moving nearer to the northern hemisphere

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 – 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.

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. Rama’s dynasty was considered to have descended from the Sun. This could have led to the tagging on, of Rama’s birthday to a festival devoted to the sun.