As the nine days of Chaitra Navratri comes to an end, the last day is celebrated as Ram Navami, the auspicious day considered as Lord Ram’s birthday. Lord Ram, the seventh avatar among the Dashavatar of Lord Vishnu was born in the Shukla Paksha on the ninth day in the month of Chaitra. Ram Navami is also called as ‘Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami’ marking the end of the spring Navratri. This year the festival will be celebrated on two days, April 4 and 5, since different people regard the observance depending on whether they follow the festival based on the time the lunar calendar shifts into the ninth day or when the sun rises on the ninth day.
The festival is celebrated with much fanfare mostly across north India, particularly in Ayodhya, Lord Ram’s birthplace according to the epic Ramayana. Every year on Ram Navami, a special chariot procession (Rath Yatra) is hosted. In the procession, four people dress up as Ram, Laxman, Sita and Hanuman and adorn the chariot, while hundreds dance and sing hymns in the Lord’s name. Apart from Ayodhya, the festival is widely celebrated in Sitamarhi (Bihar) — Sita’s birthplace and Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu) — a place from where Ram began his journey to Lanka, to rescue Sita after being abducted by Ravan.
Devotees from various places visit Ayodhya on this day. After taking a holy dip in the river Sarayu, people visit the Ram temple to participate in the birthday celebrations. Mostly, people practice ‘Attho Prahar’ fasting on this day, meaning devotees fast from the sunrise to sunrise.
Though the prayers begin early morning from dawn, it is believed that Lord Ram was born in the afternoon, when the religious rituals reach their culmination. It is believed that he was born during Madhyahna period which is middle of Hindu day. Madhyahna which prevails for six ghatis (approximately 2 hours and 24 minutes) is the holiest time to perform Rama Navami Puja. On this day, couplets from the Ramayana and Ramscharit Manas are narrated in the temples and devotees chant Lord Ram’s name throughout the day.