Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rama Navami

Dear Readers,

Eons ago, on the ninth day of the month of Chaitra according to the Hindu Lunar calendar, the eldest son to King Dasaratha of Ayodhya was born. That child's name was Rama. It is said that he was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu himself.

As Rama grew up he became known as an ideal person. He was an ideal son to his father Dasaratha, an ideal student to his teachers, an ideal brother, an ideal husband and an ideal King. All in all he was a perfect person whose way of living is regarded as a standard and to this day he is remembered for the ideals he set.

Although all devout Hindus regard Rama as an incarnation of the Almighty Vishnu, he is remembered mainly for the ideals he practiced and the standards of living that he set.

Hence, Rama Navami, which falls on the ninth day of the month of Chaitra according to the Hindu Lunar calendar, is mainly celebrated as a day of contemplation and reflection on how to lead an ideal life.

In the northern parts of India the day is celebrated by conducting satsangs where the Ramcharitmanas and other versions of the Ramayana are recited interspersed with interpretations by the storyteller.

 The other ancient scriptures and philosophical texts of India are referred during the satsang to emphasise on the ideals of Rama. What is interesting about these affairs? Well, the story is enlivened and made interesting by the storyteller and is really an experience to listen to the age old epic in new light with ever newer interepretations by the storyteller.

According to the Hindu Lunar calendar, the new year starts from the month of Chaitra. The nine days starting from Ugadi, the first day of Chiatra until Rama Navami, are celebrated as Chaitra Navaratri in many places in India. All these nine days, the devouts fast. Satsangs are arranged for all the nine days covering the story of the Ramayana part by part and also Bhajan programmes are arranged in temples and relegious congregations.

In Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama, the day starts with the devotees taking a dip in the holy Sarayu river. Many devout Hindus observe a fast on this day. The temples all over the city arrange a special pooja in the Noon when Lord Rama was supposed to be born. 

People visit the famous Kanak bhavan temple in Ayodhya to offer special pooja on this occasion. The temple is famous for the statues of Rama and Sita with gold crowns. It is a good idea to visit Ayodhya during the nine days of Chaitra Navaratri and Rama Navami to experience the festivities for yourself. The nearest big city is Lucknow which has air, rail and road connectivity. From Lucknow you can travel to Ayodhya by road. 

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Following is the Google search result for a list of hotels in Ayodhya.

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In many places a Rath yatra or Shobha yatra is organised on the occasion of Ramanavami wherein actors (sometimes children) are dressed as Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman and a procession is held with them on a chariot along the city streets. Many people participate in the event and slogans are shouted praising Lord Rama.

Khushhalibad my home town:

In order to make my reporting of festivals more interesting I have decided to include reports about happenings in my home town of Khushhalibad. Khushhalibad is a virtual town on the web. More about my town later but now back to the festival of Rama Navami.

A Shobha yatra during Rama Navami was organised in Khushhalibad. It was a very wonderful affair and everybody enjoyed the event. 

As the procession was entering the city square the vehicle got stuck and no number of trials could start the chariot. The distraught organisers requested the help of Ballu Pahalwan, the city's renowned wrestler to get them out of the situation.

Ballu, himself a great devotee of Lord Rama and his disciple Hanuman (Ballu's role model and inspiration) readily agreed to help but under two conditions:

    First,That he gets to play the part of Hanuman in the Shobha Yatra.

    Well, I think it is better to see for yourself what the second condition was :

So, in the end, as is typical of Khushhalibad, the organisers were happy that the procession was a success, people were happy that they got to see a new kind of Shobha Yatra and as for Ballu, he was too happy to flex his muscles and exhibit some machismo.

Such is the town of Khushhalibad. Now back to the real world.

According to the Ramayana, the wedding of Lord Rama and Sita coincided with his birthday, i.e. Rama Navami. Hence, in the south, Seetarama Kalyanotsavam is arranged in various temples, wherein a ritualistic marriage is performed between the idols of Rama and Sita. This practice is especially prevalent in Andhra Pradesh and in the famous temple in the town of Bhadrachalam which is a place associated with events of the Ramayana.

Story of Raamadasu :-

Sri Raamadasu or Kancharla Gopanna was a great devotee of Lord Rama and composed many devotional songs praising his beloved Lord. He worked as the Tahsildar (Revenue Collector) under the Qutb Shahi sultan Abdul Hasan Taana Shah. He visited the temple of Bhadrachalam one day and was disappointed to see the sorry state of affair of the temple. He began rebuilding the temple. He used his revenue collections to this effect and rebuilt the temple.

When the matter came to the notice of the Taana Shah he considered the expenditure as a misuse of official funds. He ordered Sri Raamadasu to be imprisoned in the Golconda Fort in Hyderabad till such time the amount is not recovered from him.

Many years passed and Sri Raamadasu remained in prison. Deep in devotion to his Lord Rama, he neither felt greif nor regret at his situation. It was while remaining in prison that he composed many of his songs and also the famous 'Daasarathi Satakamu'.

Then one day in the dead of the night the Taana Shah was woken up by two very handsome young men in his own bedroom. Even as the Shah was trying to make sense about how the young men could enter his bedroom, they showered gold coins in front of him equal to the amount due to him. 

They obtained a written reciept from the Taana Shah then and there for the amount and secured the release of Sri Raamadasu.

The next day when the Shah related the event to Sri Raamadasu, both realised that the two young men were none other than the beloved Lord of Sri Raamadasu, Sri Rama and his brother Lakshmana. So humbled was the Taana Shah by the happenings that he ordered gifts on his behalf for the Seetarama Kalyanotsavam at the Bhadrachalam temple. He also passed edicts that every year the clothes and pearls to be used in the Kalyanotsavam should be sent on behalf of the Qutb Shahi government.

His dictum is followed to this day wherein the State government of Andhra Pradesh sends representatives (sometimes the Chief Minister of the state himself comes) with the gifts and participate in the Kalyanotsavam ceremonies.

The Kalyanotsavam is a very eloberate affair which is performed in exactly the same manner in which a grand marriage is performed between a couple. It is performed exactly at noon when Sri Rama is supposed to have wed Sita. It is a must see during Rama Navami. The nearest major city to Bhadrachalam is Khammam. from Khammam road transport is available to Bhadrachalam. Khammam is connected from the capital city Hyderabad by rail and road. A map showing the directions from Khammam to Bhadrachalam is as follows :

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Travellers can stay at Khammam and then plan a trip to Bhadrachalam from there. A search for hotels in Kammam is as follows :

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Many delicacies are cooked celebrating Rama Navami. The most delicious of which are Paanakamu (Juice made out of jaggery syrup) and Vada Pappu (made from Green gram dal). click here for recipes.

Hope you enjoy this Rama Navami. You can visit places related to the Ramayana like Ayodhya or participate in the Lord's marriage at the Kalyanotsavam in Bhadrachalam. Also you can see the Shobha Yatra if it is held in a place near you. There are other things you can do like participating in a Satsang listening to the story of Lord Rama.

Till we meet again, Enjoy!!
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