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Rama Navami
Birthday of Rama, the Ideal Man
n incarnation of God, an ideal man, dutiful son exotic beings who were steadfast in their loyalty and

A and just king: these are just a few ways to de-


scribe Lord Rama, an exemplar of honor, rever-
ence, self-control and duty. He fought battles, became
courage. Rama Navami is the celebration of His birth-
day, when Hindus honor and remember Him with de-
votional singing, dramatic performance and non-stop
king, married a Goddess, traveled far and befriended recitation of His remarkable life story, the Ramayana.

When is Rama’s birth celebrated? Devotees contribute generously to tem-


Rama was born on navami, the ninth ples and charitable organizations. They
day of the waxing moon, in the In- make buttermilk and a lime drink called
dian month of Chaitra (late March or panaka, serving them to the public
early April). Sometimes the festival is without charge. Some temples make
observed for nine days before or after khoa, a sweet made from thickened milk.
navami. This festival is especially popular in Ut-
tar Pradesh, where Rama’s kingdom of
How do Hindus observe Ayodhya is located.
Rama Navami?
Devotees fast or eat only fruit or spe- Is the festival observed at temples?
cial food offerings prepared for the Many temples hold grand celebrations
day. They participate in non-stop on this day, especially those with shrines
reading of the 24,000-verse epic for Lord Rama, His wife Sita, His brother
Ramayana, at home or in a temple. Lakshmana and His loyal friend Hanu-
Images or statues of baby Rama are man, Lord of Monkeys. Panaka and gar-
placed in cradles and rocked by devo- lands of the sacred tulsi plant are offered
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tees. Homes resound with singing. In as families pray for “Rama-Rajya,” a time
the evening, crowds attend Ramalila, when dharma will once again be upheld
in which storytellers and dance-dra- in the world. In South India, the day is
ma troupes depict the Ramayana. It is celebrated as the marriage anniversary of
common to remain awake the whole Rama and Sita. A ceremonial wedding is
night, engaged in devotional practices. held at temples with great fanfare.

70 h i n d u i s m t o day a p r i l / m ay / j u n e , 2 0 1 0
Why is Rama so popular? has moved the hearts of millions of Hin-
Rama is one of the ten avatars or incarna- dus over the ages. To honor a promise made
tions of Lord Vishnu. He is revered as the by his father, King Dasaratha, prince Rama
perfect husband and ruler, who held duty abandons His claim to the throne and
to king and country above all else. He held spends 14 years in exile. Wife Sita and
strong to his ideals in the face of tremen- brother Lakshmana join him in exile, a time
dous trials, including exile from His king- of perils and tribulations. Sita is abducted by
dom and separation from His beloved wife, Ravana, the monarch of Lanka. After a long
Sita, herself an embodiment of virtue and and arduous search, Rama discovers Sita’s
truth. He is honored and glorified for His whereabouts, with the help of Hanuman. A

redchillies.com
unshakable adherence to dharma, righteous- colossal war ensues against Ravana’s armies.
ness. The story of Rama is deeply influential In a duel of majestic proportions, powerful
and popular in the societies of the Indian and magical beings wield mighty weaponry
subcontinent and across Southeast Asia. in formidable battles. Rama slays Ravana and
liberates Sita. Having completed His exile,
What is the story of Rama? Rama returns to be crowned king, loved by
A tale of love and separation, the Ramayana one and all. Panaka
Sweet Indian Limeaide

Tidbits About Rama Ingredients


½ cup of jaggery or brown sugar,
4 cups water, juice of one lime,
 Who wrote the epic? Some 25 centuries immortalized Rama by composing the Ra-
1½ tsp of grated fresh ginger, 1 tsp ghee
ago, a sage ordered a thief to sit under a tree mayana, a work unmatched in poetic excel-
or oil, a pinch of cardamom powder
and chant “ma-ra” until he returned. Years lence and longevity. Shri Ramcharitmanas
passed, and an ant-hill covered the man, by Tulsidas in Hindi and the Kamba Rama- Method
who had lost himself to the chant. The sage yanam by the poet Kambar in Tamil stand Mix ingredients and serve cold.
returned and broke the anthill, naming the alongside Valmiki’s epic in Sanskrit.
thief Valmiki, meaning “from an anthill.” In-
spired by his expanded awareness, Valmiki  Who was Sita? Sita was a powerful, gifted, Spicy Buttermilk
beautiful woman, utterly devoted to
her husband. Found in the fields as a Ingredients
babe by King Janaka, Sita was raised a 2 cups buttermilk (or yoghurt),
princess. She walked alongside Rama 2 cups water, 3 curry leaves, chopped
in exile. When abducted by Ravana, coriander leaves (cilantro), 1 finely
she was unshakable in her faith that chopped green chilli, 1½ tsp ginger
her husband would rescue her. She powder, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 pinch
walked through fire to prove her purity. asafoetida, salt to taste
To prevent further slander, Rama sent Method
her away to the forest. She patiently Heat oil in saucepan and add
bore separation from her husband a mustard seeds; allow it to splutter,
second time and bore twins named Lav then add curry leaves, ginger, green
and Kush. When they were reunited chilies and asafoetida, stirring
with their father, she commanded vigorously. Mix with remaining
Mother Earth to swallow her. The ingredients and beat until smooth.
Earth split open and Sita disappeared.

Hinduism: Fact & Fiction


FACT: Hinduism has more than one sacred scripture, with several books consid-
ered revered or holy. While all Hindus revere the sanctity of the primordial Vedas,
distinct sects recognize scripture that is most aligned with their theological beliefs,
but not universal to all Hindus. Examples are the Agamas, Ramayana, Puranas and
Mahabharata.
FICTION: Some deride Hinduism as primitive because certain of its Deities have
animal features. Actually, most religions share this characteristic. The Greek God
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Pan and the Egyptian Deities Anubis and Horus are examples. In Christianity and
Judaism, the biblical prophet Ezekiel describes the angels known as cherubim as
having the faces of a lion, an ox, an eagle and a man, with the feet of a calf and
four wings.

a p r i l / m ay / j u n e , 2 0 1 0 h i n d u i s m t o d ay 71