Festivals and holidays are a part of our lives. Almost every week we have a major or minor festival. Festivals are so woven in the fabric of our lives that their celebration and ritual are what contribute to our vivid culture. On the 28th of March this year we celebrate Ram Naumi or Ram’s birthday. The fasting, praying, and eating of sumptuous food apart, the story of his birth is very interesting. Rama is a very important God of the Hindus and it is believed that he was the King of Ayodhya.
Rama is worshiped as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This is the story of how he was born as a human on earth.
Long long ago there was a great King named Dasharath, who ruled the kingdom of Ayodhya. Today Ayodhya is in the State of Uttar Pradesh, in India. King Dasharath was a brave and powerful King. He was a just ruler. The King was loved by his subjects and nobles. He had three beautiful wives, Kaushalya, Sumitra, and Kaikaye. In spite of their prosperity and riches the King and Queens of Ayodhya were very sad. They had no children and this caused them a lot of anxiety. On the advice of his councilors the King called and consulted a number of astrologers and saints to find a way out of the problem.
King Dasharath was actually unaware that he was cursed. It so happened that there was another great King called Ravana who ruled over the Kingdom of Lanka. Today it is an independent country called Sri Lanka. King Ravana was a Scholar, well versed in the Vedas and all Scriptures. He was adept at the veena, a capable ruler of great merit. His having ten heads are symbolic of his knowledge as six of his heads represent the Shastras and four heads represent the Vedas. Ravana is said to be the author of Ravana Sanhita, a book on Hindu astrology. He had a thorough knowledge of Ayurveda and Political Science. His only problem was that he wanted to rule over the whole world including the Devtas. Ravana, a devotee of Lord Shiva, had the nectar of immortality in his belly.
Ravana had heard about the greatness, prosperity, and riches of Ayodhya. As Ravana was also very powerful, he was very full of himself. He had a boon that he could not be killed by Gods, Demons, or lesser Gods. The boon did not mention humans as Ravana was sure no man could defeat him. So he did not fear mortals as he himself was very powerful. On hearing about Ayodhya he felt jealous and sent emissaries to Ayodhya to advise King Dasharath to accept his superiority or face war.
His emissaries on reaching Dasharath’s court told him
“ O King Dasharath, we come from the land of King Ravana of Lanka. He is a great King, very powerful and rich. In fact, his Palace is made of gold. All the Kings of South India, the Devta’s i.e the Gods and the Daitya’s i.e Demons are scared of him. King Ravana has been blessed by the boon of invincibility. It is now his wish that you acknowledge his superiority. If you do not agree then he will attack your kingdom and defeat you. King Ravana will then take your Kingdom forcefully.”
On hearing this King Dasharath was enraged that these men had come to his court and in front of his courtiers they dared to talk like this. Dasharath took out his bow and arrow and sent a volley of arrows towards Lanka. He told the Ravan’s messengers:
“Enough of this discourtesy, you should return to Lanka, and when you reach your kingdom you will find the gates of Lanka locked with my arrows. This will tell you how strong and powerful I am. Your King will be better off staying in his own Kingdom and should stop threatening me”.
When Ravana saw the gates of his kingdom locked by King Dasharath’s arrows he felt humiliated and went on a severe penance to worship Lord Brahma. When Brahma appeared Ravana asked that Dasharath should not be blessed by children. His wish was granted.
Ravana because of his might was terrorizing everybody and the Gods wanted relief. So they went to Vishnu and asked him to take birth at King Dasharath palace as his son, so as to kill Ravana. Meanwhile, Dasharath was advised by sage Vashishta to perform a powerful Yagna to be blessed with children. Dasharath invited Sage Rishyaringa to perform the Yagna, and as the Yagna ended Agni the god of fire appeared with a pot of Kheer called Payasam and asked the King to feed the payasam to his three Queens. Because of the blessings of God, Dasharath had four sons. The eldest was Rama born to Kaushalya, the second was Bharat born to Kaikaye and the other two were Lakshman and Shatrughan born to Sumitra. This is the story of Lord Ram’s birth and why we celebrate Ram Naumi.