Ram Navami is one of the auspicious Hindu festivals celebrated to commemorate the birth of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar (incarnation) of God Vishnu, by Hindus of all castes. The festival falls on the ninth day of Chaitra Navratri on April 21. The festival celebrates the descent of Vishnu as Rama, after his birth, to Ayodhya king and queen, Dasharath and Kaushalya.
Rama means ‘bliss’ and hence, it signifies the happiness that Lord Rama bestows on all those who remember and worship him. The God Rama has incarnated to eradicate Adharma and maintain dharma, to install the lost glory in humanity, and to annihilate evil, and protect the innocent. It is believed that observing a fast on this day can lead to the attainment of salvation.
With regards to Rama’s place of birth, many believe that he was born in Ayodhya to King Dasharath and Queen Kaushalya. As per the epic Ramayana, emperor Dasharath had three wives, Kaushalya, Sumitra, and Kaikeyi but no children, and he was worried for the future of Ayodhya.
The great sage Vasistha suggested to him to perform the Putra Kamesti Yagna to fulfil his desire for a child, and also to invite Maharshi Rishyasringa to perform a yajna (sacrifice). After the yajna, Yagneshwara gave the emperor a bowl of the divine kheer (rice pudding) which was to be given to all his three wives. It is said that later, all his wives conceived. On the ninth day of the Chaitra month, at noon, Kausalya gave birth to Rama who was the 7th incarnation of the Lord Vishnu.
CELEBRATIONS IN GOA
In Goa a number of temples are dedicated to Shri Rama, such as in Pilgao (Bicholim), in Cuncolim (Salcete), Colvale (Bardez), Divar (Tiswadi), Gimone (Bicholim), Ramnathi (Ponda), Partagal (Canacona), Varunapuri (Vasco) and the Bhumika Vetal temple of Paliem. At these temples, the festival is celebrated with religious fervour and cultural activities.
The day begins with the traditional Arti and the Puja. Devotees visit the Shri Ram temples at noon to seek his blessings. After the Puja, the Yajaman removes the cloth from the statue and places it in the Palana. A special type of prasad called Suntha (a powder prepared from dry ginger) is distributed during Ram Navami at Paliem.
It is believed that the chanting of the ‘Ram mantra’ has great power, and so, many devotees sing them on the occasion of Ram Navami. During the Ram Navami celebrations, musical discourse on mythological stories, and programmes of devotional songs are quite common, as also are the Nataks (dramas), which are quite popular with the people.
Ranmale, a folk drama is performed to the tunes of folk music and local and Goan musical instruments, be it in song, drama or dance, depicting scenes from the life of Ram, Sita, Laxman, and the demon Ravana.
At the temple premises, a Pavani (auction of fruits and other things offered by devotees) also takes place during the Ram Navami celebrations, and devotees and other people also participate in the auction enthusiastically. The items offered at the auction include the Devacho nall (coconut of the god), laddoos, jackfruits, watermelon. On Ram Navami, a Palkhi is also taken in a procession through the village.
On the occasion of the Ram Navami, several vendors usually selling various items outside the Bhumika Vetal Temple. The Churna (a type of wild fruit) is very popular here, and the children, as well as adults, flock to buy these fruits which taste sweet.
(The writer is former director of Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr at Porvorim)