Friends we celebrated Sri Rama Navami on 24th of March. Its celebrated with much fervor and widely by many in various regions of India more so in my State of Andhra Pradesh. This year I happened to be in Andhra and was fortunate enough to attend one of the celebrations.
Lord Rama is considered as Avtar of Lord Vishnu and Sita, his wife, is considered as Avtar of Goddeess Lakshmi.
Lord Rama is known as Maryada Purushotamma- that is the most exemplary and best human. He personified an ideal man and most popular figure in India. To this day people consider him a role model. As a son, as a husband, as a brother, as a king, as a friend and even as an enemy he set an example to others. He adhered to and followed Dharma- the right path, no matter how many hardships he had to face. His story is known as The Ramayana and is one of the most revered epics.He sacrificed his right to the throne and was in exile for 14 years. His wife Sita also is considered role model for Indian women.I am giving the link here for those who are interested in reading his story.
Rama was Prince Of Ayodhya, born to King Dasratha of Ayodhya and Kausalya (eldest of three wives). He was the most beautiful, brave intelligent, gentle and dutiful person. he marries Sita Princess of Mithila after breaking the Shiva's bow. Just when he was 17 years old and was going to be coronated as King, he went into exile for 14 years to honor his father King Dasharatha's promise to his most beloved wife Kaikeyi. Sita follows him as an obedient wife and so does his brother Lakshmana. There Sita being very beautiful is abducted by the Demon King Ravana. Rama kills Ravana and brings back his wife. After exile returns to his kingdom and rules his people as an ideal King should.
The relationship between Rama and Dasharatha is considered as the ideal one between a father and a son. The love between Rama and Sita is even today considered as an example that shoul be followed by a husband and a wife. Rama and Lakshmana-the brothers have set an example as to how the relationship between two brothers should be.
His birthday is celebrated on Navami or the 9th day after the New Moon of the lunar calendar (followed by us) in the month of Chaitra. In Andhra there is a unique custom of performing his marriage to Sita as well. This is celebrated for 9 days starting from the Navami. All the temples of Rama celebrate this. We have one of the oldest and famous temple at Bhadra Chalam. For those who are interested please read about it here:
At homes we worship the Lord with various seasonal flowers, like jasmine etc and a feast is offered and then enjoyed with family and friends. The special offerings are Vadapappu- a dish made out of split green lentils, raw mangoes, fresh coconut etc, and a sweet drink Paankam made of jaggery and water with a dash of black pepper and cardamom.
One can find the Pandals or canopy in almost most of the important areas where the marriage of Lord Rama and Sita is celebrated. All the nine days there will be cultural and religious events in these pandals. A pandal is a temporary structure erected by using locally available materials like wooden poles, bamboo poles, mats made of bamboo, and cover it with palm leaves or coconut leaves. These days they are being decorated with cloth and other materials apart from, flowers, fancy decorating materials, electric lights etc. Everyone vies to errect the best and attractive one to attract the devotees.
Here are some pictures of the celebrations I could click...
Here you see the Lord Rama with his wife Sita , his brother Lakshmana. and his most beloved devotee Hanuman (the monkey God) in all the splendor. The temple like structure has been erected specially for this purpose. It looks like a permanent one. There are ladies having a Darshan. This has been sponsored by the merchant association in the business street and is quite popular.
Here is a closer view. See the garlands made from jasmine and other flowers.
One more view. the idols are made of silver and you can see the Umbrella the ones used for kings as Lord Rama was an emperor.
Here you can see the floral decorations. Now a days we are using flowers which are not native to us, but are now being cultivated in some cooler parts of the country.
Below you can see the structure. It looks like stone but is temporary structure with some figures of the Gods.
A closer view. These are also not the native flowers but now being cultivated in green houses and under controlled conditions.
Here You can see the entire Banana bunch along with the plant used for decoration. This is how our Pandals are decorated traditionally even for marriages
Below is the Pandal I was talking about. Underneath the white cloth, the top is covered by dried palm leaves, which was the most popular one for all ceremonies like marriages etc to protect and provide shade .
You can see the lighting in the night and the crowd enjoying the holiday.