Friday, July 10, 2020

The Great Festival of Rama Navami

Kannada Article by: Mythili Raghavan
EnglishRendering by: M R Bhashyam
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The festival of Rama Navami is celebrated by all people all over India. The practice of worshipping Sri Rama as the supreme Lord is in vogue.  It is seen that Indians living all over the world celebrate Sri Rama Navami with enthusiasm. It is also a practice to start the celebrations from the day of Ugaadi (Indian New year Day as per solar calendar) and end on the Ram Navami day.  There are two types of practices for worshipping Sri Rama on the Rama Navami day. Some people do not consume any food during the day and some others worship Sri Rama, offer the preparations and take the offerings as Prasada (blessed food) with Sri Rama in their hearts.

Is Rama a God or Human 
People praise Sri Rama as an exemplary human being with great qualities who undertook the destruction of the evil and protected the noble. Some others say that he has been elevated to the status of God because of his great qualities and accomplishments.  In this article, we consider the view point of Jananis (realized souls) that Rama was God incarnate.  Sage Valmiki who composed Ramaayana has clearly stated that Rama is the Lord both in the beginning and at the end. However, in the middle this is only indicated.  He   had intended to see Sri Rama as an ideal human being and feel blessed and hence he has also considered him a human.  The word Rama means the one who delights the heart of Yogis. Since He is the subject for play in the heart of Yogis, it becomes clear that in reality, he is none other than the true form of the Lord, soul of souls - Paramaatma, the effulgent one - Bhagavaan.  Here we can recall the words of Shri Ranga Mahaguru who had realized Sri Rama in his heart and said "Rama described by sage Valmiki is a human for the gross sight, a God for the subtle and the Lord for the vision beyond". 

Ramanavami - The Spiritual Explanation: 
Ramanavami is celebrated on the day of Sri Rama's incarnation. However, we would like to quote from Shri Ranga Mahaguru's words that "Sri Rama is the effulgent light resident in the innermost recess of one's own heart. The pure nature, Prakriti, is his mother Kausalya. The day when Sri Rama emerges in once own nature is in reality the day of Rama's birth". 

The Appropriate Time for Celebration: 
Our sages have researched and established that the most appropriate time in mother nature's time cycle for worshipping Rama is the ninth day of the waxing moon in the month of Chaitra (April-May).  If the star on the day happens to be Punarvasu that is most auspicious since Rama's birth star is Punarvasu (the brightest star in the constellation of Gemini). 

The way to celebrate: 
There is a practice of performing special pujas and recital of Raamaayana. The story is also enacted with dance and music accompanied by other musical instruments. Whatever may be the mode of celebration, it is necessary to have devotion and dedication and a proper mind set.  Only then the outcomes described in the verse describing the results like casting away unwanted spells, anishta nivaarane, and the four-fold Purusharthas will be attained. Jnanis insist that the people who sing his glory (Hari Katha) must do so totally engrossed in the idea of Rama so that the audience may also experience the same. 

Why do we make offerings?
While performing a pooja, shastras dictate that one should make offerings. Some say offerings must be to the liking of the particular God who is being worshipped.  One may raise a question as to whether gods also have desire to satisfy their taste buds as we do. The explanation given by ShriRanga Mahaaguru is "the reason we offer is not to satiate the tongues of Gods.   Offering with devotion and then consuming will have sublimating influence on our minds". Then a question arises as to why we offer different preparations for different gods. For example, coconut rice pudding (Kadubu) to Lord Ganesha.  Is it because he has the face of an elephant?  And elephants like coconuts. If that were to be so, then what should be offered to Lord Narasimha?!  "The secret of this practice is that the particular offerings for different gods help to open the gateways to the centers for that particular deity and help us to realize him, provided we offer with devotion and partake with a proper attitude. It enables to elevate ourselves to that state and help us meditate better". This is the explanation given by SriRanga Mahaguru. 

The Materials used for offerings: 
People who are in the know of preparing appropriate offerings specify that the vegetable salad mixed with Bengal gram, green gram, and also ginger and jaggery-mixed drink. Those accomplished practitioners with a very sensitive and refined sense of perception can discern the spiritual effect of these on themselves.  Also, these preparations are favorable to the season in which Rama Navami is celebrated. In the scorching summer these preparations have cooling effect on the body besides giving energy. 

The current scenario of celebrating Shri Rama navami: 
It is clear to all that in the present-day Rama Navami is celebrated mostly mechanically and with pomp. This state should change and the celebrations must be in tune with the ways laid down by jnaanis with dedication and devotion. Poverty and non-availability of time need not be constraints for worship. Let us remember the guidance of the greats and celebrate upcoming Rama Navami with meditation and worship of the Lord of our hearts within the time constraints and available resources and become eligible for his grace.

Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at AYVM blogs.