Ram Navami is a festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Rama. Rama Navami falls on the ninth day of a Hindu lunar year or Chaitra Masa Sukla paksha Navami, which usually falls in March or April. Lord Rama is an avatar of Lord Vishnu who came down to earth to battle the invincible Ravana in human form.The story of Rama was first written by Vaalmeeki in about the 4th century B.C. Rama is supposed to have lived during the 8th or 7th century B.C. The epic known as the Ramayana.
Birth story of Lord Rama:
The country of Kosal was situated on the banks of the river Sharayu. Ayodhya was the capital founded by the king rishi Manu. During the reign of king Dasarath, Ayodhya reached a period of great prosperity. But Dasarath faced a big problem: he had no children. Therefore he decided to perform a sacrifice known as “ashvamedh”, or horse-sacrifice. Elaborate and difficult rituals had to be observed. A very holy man, rishi Rishyashring, was chosen to conduct the sacrifice with the utmost accuracy. The performance of this sacrifice was a great event in Ayodhya.
At the end Rishyashring recited a mantra and made an offering to the fire. Then the gods, gandharvas, siddhas, and rishis present arid began to pray to Brahma.
At that time Ravan, king of Lanka, was terrorizing the people, and all were longing for liberation from his menace. Ravan had acquired great power because he had obtained from god Brahma the boon that he would never die at the hands of gods, or gandharvas, or yakshas (demigods) or demons. As he was not afraid of men he did not care to include men in the list of his potential slayers. So Brahmadev declared that Ravan would die at the hands of a man. Then the gods went to Vishnu with the request, “Dasarath is a glorious king. Please, take birth in the wombs of his three queens in four different degrees of your divinity.”
When Dasarath’s sacrifice came to an end a shining figure appeared over the sacrificial kund, and offered the king a divine beverage called “payasam” to be given to his queens Kausalya, Kaikayi, and Sumitra. In due time Kausalya gave birth to Rama, Kaikayi to Bharat and Sumitra to Laxman and Shatrugna. Rama was born at noon of the bright ninth day of Chaitra. He was believed to be the embodiment of half degree of Vishnu’s divinity, (ardha ounsh).
The festival of Ramnavami is celebrated with great devotion across the nation and every region has its own regional significance behind the celebration. 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.
Excerpts from the Ramacharitamanas, extolling the glory of Rama, are recited. 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.
Ram Navami is a gazetted holiday in Bihar, Chattisgarah, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh.
In the south of India the "Sri Ramnavami Utsavam" is celebrated for nine days with great fervor and devotion.
Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh), Bhadrachalam (Andhra Pradesh) and Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu) are the main places where one can witness the grandest observances of the occassion. Thousands of devotees and tourists from different nations throng these places during Ram Navami to get a feel of the religious excitement.
The house is cleaned and decorated. Prashada (Offerings) of fruit and sweets are offered to God Rama at the temple.
The youngest female member of the household leads the puja by applying a red tilak to all the other members of the family. Whole family chants Rama Charit Manas Shaloka along with Jai Shree Rama.
Some people don't eat certain foods including meat, eggs, onions, garlic, some spices and wheat products. Yogurt, milk, tea, coffee and water are also permitted along with fruits and vegetables.
Today is the Birthday of Rama who is Dharma itself. He is Veda Dharma in Human Form. He is Anandaswarupa and Dharmaswarupa. On this holy day of Ramnavami you must immerse yourself in the Atma as Dharmaswarupa as the motivator of the moral life
- Sathya Sai Baba
Rama Nama should come from the heart. In that event, Rama Nama could become an effective remedy against all ailments. A man who believes in Rama Nama would not make a fetish of the body but would regard it as a means of serving God. And for making it into a fit instrument for that purpose, Rama Nama is the sovereign means. To install Rama Nama in the heart requires infinite patience. It might even take ages. But the effort is worthwhile. Rama Nama cannot come from the heart unless one has cultivated the virtues of truth, honesty and purity within and without.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Queen Kausalya gave birth to a son with all the divine attributes like lotus-red eyes, lengthy arms, roseate lips, voice like drumbeat, and who took birth to delight the Ikshwaku dynasty, who is adored by all the worlds, and who is the greatly blessed epitome of Vishnu, namely Rama.
- Book I : Bala Kanda, Ramayana by Valmiki