Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sri Rama Navami

This year Sri Rama Navami is being celebrated on April 12.  Every Indian of whichever religious faith, is aware that among the two great Epics or Itihasas, the Ramayana takes the pride of place when compared with the Mahabharata.  Epic or Kavya, it is attributed to the Adi Kavi, Valmiki and there are very many regional recensions to it.  


Sri Rama Navami falls on the ninth day of Hindu lunar year. Navami means the ninth day in the hindu calendar. This day is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Rama. This day also marks the end of the nine day festival called Vasanthothsavam. Vasantham means Spring, Vasanthothsavam means festival of spring. This day starts with Ugadi (Telugu new year). On the 9th day, it is celebrated as Rama Navami. The prasadam made on the day are normally those that are coolant in nature.


Neer Moor :- 
 Ingredients:
Buttermilk
Salt
Coriander leaves
Curry leaves
Hing powder
Method:
Add salt, curryleaves, coriander leaves and hing to buttermilk. Mix well and offer it to Lord.


Panagam :-
Ingredients:
Jaggery
Dried ginger powder
Cardamom powder
Water
Method:
Powder the jaggery. Mix it in water till it dissolves. Strain it. Add the powders, stir well and offer to Lord.

Kosumari:-
Ingredients:
Moong dal – ½ cup
Grated mango – ½ cup
Carrots -  ½ cup
Coriander leaves – 2 tsp.
Curry leaves – 4-5
Salt – as required
Mustard seeds
Oil
Method:
Soak dal for 1 an hour. Drain the water. Add grated mango and salt and mix well. Heat oil, add mustard seeds and when they splutter add hing and curry leaves. Mix well and offer it to Lord.

All these recipes are summer coolers. 

I remember this day more clearly because of the wonderful Panakam we get to drink on this day. It is made only on this day and never after that. I really think we should include it as a regular one as Panakam is an excellent drink. My dear amma always celebrated this festival in a grand way.  Ofcourse myself and my sissy will always listen to many of those stories about Rama as usual :-)
 
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 dasaratha's sacrifice came to an end a shining figure appeared over the sacrificial kund, and offered the king  a devine beverage called the payasam to be givne 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).

Legend:-
Four storeys - even the original Ravana may not have been so tall. But this is the Kali Yuga, when evil is supposed to assume an even more terrifying form. Ravana has his moments of glory, and that too, on Rama Navami, the birthday of Rama.

The effigy of the ten-headed Ravana swaggers through the town, wearing a gaudy crown and exaggerated moustache, with shouting hordes following. But once Ravana reaches the open ground that is his final destination, he is suddenly deserted by most of his “followers” - because the noble Rama has made his appearance.

In the end, righteousness does triumph, even in Kali Yuga. Rama engages him in battle, and finally pierces him with a potent arrow. And the huge effigy of Ravana, filled to bursting with firecrackers, is set alight, and explodes into a thousand bits amid loud cheers from the crowd and shouts of Jai Shri Ram. This ritual is an important part of the Rama Navami celebrations in most parts of North India.

Rama Navami falls on the ninth day of the shukla paksha, or bright phase of the moon, in the lunar month of Chaitra (April-May). The first day of Chaitra , or Ugadi, also marks the beginning of the Indian year.

Rama is one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu, and one of the two most popular, along with Krishna. Consequently, Rama Navami is widely celebrated, though not on the scale of festivals like Diwali or Dussehra.

According to legend, Rama was born at noon. Rama is the epitome of perfection, the uttama purusha, fulfilling all his duties towards both family and subjects.

Rama was the first of the four sons of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. When it was time for Rama to be made crown-prince, his stepmother, Kaikeyi, got Dasharatha to send him to the forest for 14 years. His wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana also accompanied him. In the forest, Sita was kidnapped by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Rama, together with Hanuman and the monkey army, built a bridge to Lanka, killed Ravana, and brought Sita back.

It is believed that listening to the story of Rama cleanses the soul. Meditating on the noble Rama and chanting his name is believed to ease the pains of life and lead one to moksha, or liberation. It is also common practice to chant the name of Rama while rocking babies to sleep.

Significance:-

Though Rama Navami is a major festival for Vaishnavites, it is widely celebrated by worshippers of Shiva, too. It is considered auspicious to undertake a fast on the day in the name of Rama. The more devout fast for nine days, from Ugadi to Rama Navami. The objective of the fast is not to ask for special favours of the deity but to seek perfection as a human being. Devotees perform elaborate pujas and chant the name of Rama. Temples of Rama have special services and bhajan sessions through the day.

One significant and popular element of the celebration is the Ramayana parayana, a discourse on the Ramayana, by a pundit or a professional story-teller. It usually lasts nine days, beginning on Ugadi and ending on Rama Navami. A skilled story-teller who can liven up the event by weaving in contemporary events attracts massive crowds.

Since Rama is also one of the most sung-about deities in Indian classical music and literature, week-long (and sometimes, month-long) musical programmes are organised.

Sacred places associated with Rama, like Ayodhya, Ujjain and Rameshwaram, draw tens of thousands of devotees. In Rameshwaram, thousands take a ritual bath in the sea before worshipping at the Ramanathaswamy temple.

Many places in North India host fairs in connection with the festival, culminating in spectacular fireworks on Rama Navami.

Unlike the Mahabharatha it is not a running commentary of the happenings of the day.  The Ramayana is a retelling of the story of the Ramavatara of Mahavishnu and the poet Valmiki causes it to be recited  by Lava and Kusa, after the coronation of Sri Rama.  Even after several thousands of years, the claim of Valmiki and the Ramayana to the exalted rank of the Adi Kavi and the Adi Kavya has not been challenged by any other poet or poetical work. 

Valmiki Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses and is divided into six kandas or cantos which deal chronologically with the major events in the life of Sri Rama— 

Bala Kanda.
Ayodhya Kanda.
Aranya Kanda.
Kishkindha Kanda.
Sundara Kanda  & 
Yudhdha Kanda. 

There is a seventh kanda the Uttara Kanda which stands apart from the main epic.  To most, it is an after thought or an add on, an appendage. 

Of the six kandas, Sundara Kanda with 2885 verses has been considered by the lovers of literature, as the acme of the six sections of the Ramayana.  Most of us can appreciate the nominative effect of the names of the other five sections of Ramayana, excluding the Sundara Kanda.  They are identified by names which are specific to the actions that are taking place in each section.  For example Bala Kanda deals with the childhood exploits of the four children of King Dasaratha and the other kandas specifically relate to events that took place or the occasions to which the subject matter refers.

In all fairness, Sundara Kanda, if one is to follow the naming of the other five kandas should have been called Hanumat Kanda, because it deals with the exploits of Sri Hanuman, exclusively.  But the poet Valmiki in spite of the validity of the above argument, called it Sundara Kanda.  Why? 

Sundara primarily means beautiful.  Is Sri Hanuman beautiful?  I have never seen a beautiful monkey in my life time.  The very naming of the fifth section of Ramayana thus seems to be fanciful.   Perhaps, the poet wanted everybody to think that the Son of Anjana was indeed beautiful?

There is a school of thought which believes that the poet Valmiki called the fifth canto of Ramayana as Sundara Kanda, because  it refers to literary excellence and it marks the acme of the poetical and literary virtuosity of the poet and hence it is Sundara or beautiful. In spite of so many versions in the naming of this kanda as Sundara Kanda, the underlying fact is  during the time of Valmiki there was a monkey who was known as Sundara and the poet, without any hesitation named this kanda after him, even though the hero of this section of Ramayana is Hanuman, the Vayu Putran. 

True to its name, among all the six sections of the Ramayana, most Indian households do have a copy of this Sundara Kandam and during times of stress, or mental agony it is recited either in the morning, or in the evening, after the deepam has been lit.  The faith and belief is, a lot of spiritual importance has been attached to this section in the Ramayana and a reading of this kanda is equivalent to reading the entire Ramayana.  “Just as the Upanishads are considered to contain the supreme purport of the Vedas, this kanda is supposed to be the heart of Ramayana and is regarded as equal to the Vedas in its holiness.”

How many of us can contradict this assertion of Swami Tapasyananda? 

Anjaneya, is also known as Hanuman, Vaayuputran, Pavana Putran, Maruthi, Mahavir, and Bajrangbali among other names.   The Vaishnavites fondly call him  ‘Siriya Tiruvadi’, the appellation ‘Periya’ denoting Garuda.

But most would not know that he has another name given to him by his mother Anjana when he was born.  

The following story is taken from the Vaishnava Sampradaya. 

After the coronation of Sri Rama, at Ayodhya, Sage Valmiki wrote the epic Ramayana.  He had completed the first four kandas and was writing the fifth section and wanted to name it after Anjaneya.

With folded hands Hanuman replied to the poet: “Sire, I am only a messenger to Lord Rama and it does not behove my status in life, to have a kanda in the history of Sri Rama, to be remembered after me.” 

 “I would rather not have this importance attached to my name, because in spite of all my exploits I am still a Rama Dasan, a servant to the mighty Sri Rama and his divine consort, Sita Devi”. 

At this point, poet Valmiki was reminded of a monkey who was known as Sundara.  So, he took the assent from Sri Hanuman to call the fifth canto of the Ramayana as Sundara Kandam.  Soon after, Anjaneya left the poet Valmiki and went to his mother to inform her that the fifth canto of Srimad Ramayanam would be called Sundara Kandam.  Even as he was approaching his mother, Anjana greeted him with his pet name :  “Sundara” for that was the name she had given him at his  birth! 

No sooner he heard this story from his mother, Anjaneya rushed to the poet to request him to drop this title also.  But the sage regretfully had to decline the request of Anjaneya, because in the intervening time he had completed the section, with “Sundaran” as the hero. 

With all the improbabilities I still like this story from the Vaishnava Sampradaya.  At least for those who question about the naming of the cantos, this is very much plausible?

From my very early child hood, whenever I have visited the temples I have been taught by my mother to recite two slokas extolling the virtues of Anjaneya.

Manojavam Maaruta Tulya Vegam
Jitendriyam Buddhimataam Varishtam |
Vaataatmajam Vaanara Yutha Mukhyam
Sri Rama Dhootham Sirasaa Namaami ||

I surrender to Hanuman, the messenger of Lord Rama, whose speed is as swift as the mind and as swift as the wind.  Who has controlled his sense organs and is the most intelligent among the intelligent ones; who is the son of Vayu and the chief of the Vanaras. (Va –Other than, Nara –Human)

Asaadhya Saadhaka Swaamin |
Asaadhyam Thava Kim Vadha ||
Raama Dhootha Krupaa Sindhoh |
Math Kaaryam Saadhaya Prabhoh ||

By praying to Sri Hanuman, with absolute faith in his invincibility, one is blessed with the following qualities:

Buddhir Bhalam Yaso Dhairyam
Nirbhayatvam Arogathaam |
Ajaatyam Vaak Padutvam Cha
Hanumat Smaranaath Bhavet||

Wisdom, Strength, Fame, Valor, Fearlessness, Health, Determination, Gift of the gab - in short, all that one can wish for in this material world can be achieved by anyone meditating on  Sri Hanuman.

“If ever there is one who is unsurpassed in Jnanam, Balam, Bhakti, Buddi, Valour, Fame, Service, Modesty etc- it is the Swarupa of Sri Anjaneya.”
  
Source: My amma and hindublog

1 comment:

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