Friday, April 15, 2016

Hindu Festivals -Part VII Sri Ramanavami and the Epic of Ramayana

Sri Rama Navami Photos

Sri Ramanavami festival is being celebrated today (15.04.16). 

It is one of the  Hindu festivals, celebrating the birth of the  Rama who is  the seventh avatar of Vishnu. 

Several temples of Shriram celebrate this festival for nine days, beginning from Gudhipadva (the first day (pratipada) of the month of Chaitra). It is celebrated by periodic readings (parayans) of the Ramayan, organizing and attending spiritual discourses (kirtans) and beautifully embellishing Shriram;s statue. During these nine days, reciting the Ramaraksha prayer (stotra) eleven times daily with a resolve (sankalpa) brings the prayer to fruition, yielding benefits like reduction of speech impairment and other ailments, and gaining prosperity. On the ninth day, that is, on Sriram Navami a spiritual discourse on Shriram’s birth is held in the afternoon. At noon, a coconut, draped in a hooded cloak is placed in a cradle and rocked. The coconut signifies the baby Shriram. A red, fragrant powder (gulal) and flowers are showered onto it. Many places in North India host fairs in connection with the festival, culminating in spectacular fireworks on Rama Navami.

Epic of Ramayana:

The Ramayana is a Sanskrit epic poem ascribed to the Hindu sage and Sanskrit poet Valmiki. It is regarded as one of the two great works of Indian literature, along with the Mahabharata. The Ramayana also plays an important role in Hindu literature.

There are other versions of the Ramayana in Indian languages, besides Buddhist and Jain adaptations; and also Cambodian, Indonesian, Filipino, Thai, LaoBurmese, and Malaysian versions of the tale.

The Seven Kandas (Books)
The epic is traditionally divided into several major kāndās (books), which deal chronologically with the major events in the life of Rama. The division into seven kāndās is as follows:
1Bāla Kāṇḍa(Book of Childhood)The origins and childhood of Rama, born to king Dasharatha of Ayodhya and destined to fight asuras. Sita's swayamvara and subsequent wedding to Rama.
2Ayodhya Kāṇḍa (Book of Ayodhya)The preparations for Rama's coronation in the city of Ayodhya, his exile into the forest and the regency of Bharata.
3Araṇya Kāṇḍa (Book of the Forest)The forest life of Rama with Sita and Lakshmana, his brother. The kidnapping of Sita by the asura king Ravana.
4Kishkindha Kāṇḍa (Book of the Monkey Kingdom)Rama meets Hanuman and helps destroy the vanara king, Vali, making Vali's younger brother, Sugriva, king of Kishkindha instead.
5Sundara Kāṇḍa (Book of Beauty)Detailed accounts of Hanuman's adventures, including his meeting with Sita. Traditionally read first when reading the Ramayana, this book's name derives from the fond name given to Hanuman by his mother.
6Yuddha Kāṇḍa (Book of War, also known as Lanka Kanda)The battle in Lanka between the vanara and the asura armies of Rama and Ravana, respectively. After Ravana is defeated, Sita undergoes the test of fire, completes exile with Rama and they return to Ayodhya to reign over the ideal state. The test of fire or Agni Pareeksha is not part of the original Valmiki Ramayana, most scholars consider it to be a later addition as is the story of Sita's banishment below.
The movie sampoorna ramayanam(1971) shows a popular believe that Ram wanted to see Sita's devotion and her willingness to prove her purity. It is implied she is stopped before stepping into the fire by Ram himself.
7Uttara Kāṇḍa(Last Book)The detailed story of Ravana's life, his encounter with Lord Shiva, Vali, Sugreeva's brother and Kartha Veera Arjuna and many others until Shurpanakha's humiliation in the Aranya Khanda is retold by sage Vashishta to Rama and Sita. Rumours of impurity lead to Sita's banishment, during which she gives birth and raises Lava and Kusha. Later, in course of time Sita disappears into the earth. The twin boys of Sita later ascend the throne of Ayodhya, after which Rama reaches Vaikuntha upon requests from the gods. People of Ayodhya who followed Rama were offered santhanika lokas.

I am glad to share below the Story  of Ramayana narrated in brief as narrated in a Website.

Intrigues in the Royal Family

Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya, had three wives and four sons. Rama was the eldest and his mother was Kaushalya. Bharata was the son of his second and favorite wife, Kaikeyi.

The other two were twins, Lakshmana and Shatrughna from his third wife Sumitra. While Rama is all set for coronation, his step-mother, Dasharatha’s second wife, Kaikeyi, wants her son, Bharata, to become king. Before the aged king could hand over his crown to his eldest son Rama, Dasaratha is destined to die. And instead of being crowned king of Ayodhya, Rama is sent into exile in the forest for fourteen year by an intrigue in the palace and a quirk of fate.

Rama is Banished for Fourteen Years

Rama goes to the forest, accompanied by wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, and they live as recluses among the hermits that lead a life of meditative retreat in the deep woods. Bharata, whose mother's evil plot won him the throne, goes to meet Rama in the forest and pleads him to return to the capital. As Rama declines to break his vow given to his deceased father, Bharata is compelled to go back to Ayodhya with his sandals, which he places on the throne as the symbol of Rama’s continuing monarchy.

Rama Fights Ravana, Rescues Sita

While Rama, his wife and brother are living a simple yet happy life in the forest, tragedy strikes! Henceforth, the plot revolves around the abduction of Sita by the demon king Ravana, the ten-headed ruler of Lanka, and Rama’s pursuit to rescue her, aided by Lakshmana and the mighty monkey-general Hanuman. Sita is held captive in the island as Ravana tries to persuade her to marry him. Rama assembles an army of allies comprising mainly of monkeys under the brave Hanuman. They attack Ravana’s army, and after a fierce battle, succeed in killing the demon king and freeing Sita, reuniting her with Rama.

Rama Regains His Kingdom, Sita Returns to Mother Earth

After fourteen years, Rama and Sita return to Ayodhya and are warmly welcomed back by the citizens of the kingdom, where they rule for many years, and have two sons – Luv and Kush. Unfortunately, Sita’s chastity during her period of capture by Ravana comes under scrutiny, and she has to go through trial by fire to prove her purity. But queen, who emerged from the earth at her birth, invokes Mother Earth to take her back into the earth, and the saintly Sita returns to her Mother, never to reappear again.