Ram Navami Celebrations in India

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. People sing devotional songs in praise of Rama and rock, images of him in a cradle to celebrate his birth. Rathyatras or chariot processions of Ram, his wife Seeta, brother Lakshman and devotee Hanuman are held from many temples. People gather in thousands on the banks of the sacred river Sarayu for a dip. Some observe a strict fast on this day. Ayodhya is the focus of great celebrations. Devotees throng the temples of Ayodhya and Pondicherry, two places closely connected with the events of the Ramayana to participate in Ramnavami festivities.

In some parts of India, especially in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, public gatherings called satsangs are organised to commemorate the birth of Rama. The pilgrims flock the temples of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, where Rama was born and Pondicherry to participate in Ramnavami festivities. Excerpts from the Ramacharitamanas are recited on the occasion. Rama Leela (the play depicting the major life events of Rama) are organized in different parts of the country. The highlights of the festival are these Ram Leela and colorful processions with brilliant floats of Rama, His consort Sita, brother Lakshmana and the great devotee and monkeygeneral Hanuman, which are taken out in the streets of different states. People visit sacred places associated with Lord Ram during this holy time. Places like Ayodhya, Ujjain and Rameshwaram, attracts thousands of devotees across the country.

North India
In northern India especially, an event that draws popular participation is the Ramnavami procession. It attracts people from all over the country. 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. Several other persons dressed in ancient costumes as 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.

This is an occasion for great rejoicing especially for the Vaishnavas who celebrate it with due solemnity allover the country. The ancient texts lays tress on fasting on this day, and it is believed that anyone who does not will go to the worst hell. It is also said that Rama fulfills the wishes of all those who pray to him on this day.

The public worship starts with morning ablutions, chanting Vedic mantras dedicated to Vishnu, and offering flowers and fruit to the god. People keep a fast throughout the day, breaking it only at midnight with fruit. In some parts of India, especially Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, public gatherings called satsangs are organised to commemorate the birth of Rama. Excerpts from the Ramacharitamanas, extolling the glory of Rama, are recited. People of all castes and creeds participate in these gatherings to listen to the stories and their explanations offered by the learned.

Ayodhya
Ayodhya is the focus of great celebrations. A huge fair is organized for two days. Ratha yatras or 'chariot processions' of Rama and his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana and devotee Hanuman, are taken out from many temples. Hanuman is worshipped for his unflinching devotion to Rama, and his worship forms an important part of the Ramanavami celebrations.

People keep awake the whole of the ninth night, in anticipation of Rama's birth. They sing devotional songs in praise of him and rock his image in cradles to celebrate his birth. There are also recitations from the Ramacharitamanas. A special puja is performed the next morning as thanksgiving. Though the public worship of Rama is of recent origin, his worship inside the home dates back to the pre-Christian era. Reference to keeping a strict fast on Ramanavami is found in the Kalika Purana. The vrata of Ramanavami was considered one of the five most important vratas of the ancient times. The Ramachandrika and Vratarka expressly state that everybody is obligated to observe this vrata, as it is the sole means of worldly happiness and salvation. This includes members of the lowest castes and outcastes.