Festivals of India
Sri-Ramnavami, dedicated to the memory of Lord Rama, occurs on the ninth day (navami). The festival commemorates the birth of Rama who is remembered for his prosperous and righteous reign known as Ramrajya, associated with a period of peace and prosperity.
Festivals Of India|
Passage to India
Ramnavami occurs in the month of March. 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. 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 as Rama, his brother Laxman, his queen Sita and his disciple, Hanuman. The chariot is accompanied by several other persons dressed in ancient costumes as Rama's soldiers. 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 felt 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 considered themselves to have descended from the Sun. This could have led to the association of Rama's birthday to a festival devoted to the sun.
On the face of it Sri-Ramnavmi appears to be just a festival commemorating the reign of a king who was later deified. But even behind present-day traditions there are clues which unmistakably point to the origin of Ramnavmi as lying beyond the Ramayana story.
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 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.
Ra or Amon Ra - the Sun God of the Egyptians
The occurrence of this syllable in most names used for Rama along with other clues is strongly suggestive that the festival Ramnavami antedates the Ramayana and it must have originated much before the Ramayana, as a 'Sun-festival' for invoking the Sun which was recognised as the source of light and heat even in ancient times.
A look at the Hindu calendar (Panchanga i.e. five sided) would prove that every other day in the calendar has some religious significance. The reason for this plethora of festivals is the pantheonic and assimilative character of Hinduism due to which the festivals devoted to the countless number of deities normally find general acceptance among Hindus from all parts of the country.
But the emphasis laid on the different festivals differs in different parts of the country. For instance Navaratri (the four days of Pooja starting with Shasti Pooja on the sixth day) is celebrated with maximum fervour in West Bengal as compared to that in other parts of the country. Holi is celebrated with gusto in the north, and although it is also observed in the western and eastern parts of India, in the south it is almost unknown. There are also a few regional festivals like Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Onam in Kerala and the various other temple festivals devoted to the specific patron gods and goddesses of the temples, which are celebrated exclusively in those areas which may be limited to one or a few villages. Thus due to the proliferating nature of Hinduism, all it's festivals cannot find a uniform general acceptance. But even so, the galaxy of festivals that exist do contribute to inter-spicing Indian life with gaiety and colour as also in giving the country the distinction of having the maximum number of red letter days on it's calendar.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.