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Rama Navami should ignite the inner spark of rediscovery

Hindus mark the Birth of Lord Rama today (April 10, 2022)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, April 10, 2022

‘Rama Navami,’ denoting the birth of Lord Rama, an Avatar of Lord Vishnu, the Protector of the Universe, renowned as the ‘Perfect Being,’ is being marked throughout the world today (April 10, 2022).

Temples around the world including are celebrating the day with special Poojas, Aartis and events, while in major cities of India, there will be special discourses on the life and achievements of Lord Rama.

This writer has witnessed 30 days of festivities every year in Bangalore in the 1950s and 1960s conducted by Sri Rama Seva Mandali (Chamrajpet) in praise of the Lord, with a Carnatic Music concert each night, culminating in a grand musical evening by Bharat Ratna Dr M S Subbulakshmi.

Similar concerts were arranged by the community and religious organisations even today.

A Complete Avatar

Ramayanam (‘Ramayan’ in North India) is one of the most prolific and interesting epics of India, highlighted in religious discourses, literature, textbooks and Indian films.

Lord Rama is also considered the first ‘Sampoorna’ (Complete) Avatar, going through a disciplined childhood, training in warfare, exile in the forest, anguish as his beloved wife is abducted by a demon king, waging a war to liberate her and the people of Sri Lanka and finally ruling Ayodhya as its benevolent King.

While people mark the occasion with prayers, entertainment and even sporting events, scholars say that the real significance of the Sri Rama Navami should be understood and emulated. Sri Rama epitomised obedience and duty towards parents, conjugal fidelity, patience, perseverance and love towards fellow beings.

But this reincarnation also taught not to subjugate oneself to tyranny, to discern the right from the wrong and rise against the latter. Diplomacy and fairness were also demonstrated, as Sri Rama tells demon king Ravana to release his wife held in captivity and mend his ways. It was only when peace efforts failed that he declared war on Sri Lanka and vanquished the evil monarch.

Rama Navami, marking His Birthday, is an event to rejoice.

Lord Rama with his Consort Goddess Sita

Rama Navami traditionally falls on the Ninth Day of Chaitra (the First Month in the Hindu calendar), the actual date of the festival can vary by one or two days.

Those following ‘Chandramana Ugadi’ (as opposed to those adopting ‘Souramana Ugadi’) will observe the following ‘Navami’ as the Birthday of Sri Rama. However, Sri Rama Navami, next year will be observed on March 30, 2022.

Establishing Righteousness

Philosophers and thinkers have often been questioned if Lord Rama had not strayed from the tenets of Dharma, especially in the way he killed Vali to allow his brother Sugriva to become the king of the vanaras (monkeys); if he was right in asking his wife Sita to step into fire to prove her chastity after being rescued from Ravana; and if he was not ‘inhuman’ in sending a pregnant Sita away.

The answers to these questions have always been, “Ends justify the means.”

Lord Rama was keen to restore peace and harmony in the monkey kingdom and hence had to kill Vali (although from behind). He asked Sita to enter the raging fire, and later asked her to lead a life of seclusion in the forest, because “no one is above the law (even if it is that of nature).”

Such diversions apart, Lord Rama was an epitome of purity and virtue, and the only Avatar that suffered immensely as any other human being would on earth.

Many Rishis (sages) and scholars have said that He suffered the pain of separation for the most of his life; first from his parents, brothers and the people of Ayodhya and later from his wife Sita. The agony did not end with their return to Ayodhya and his coronation as the king. Sita had to be banished, to spend time again in the forest as an expectant mother and raise her twins.

Voyage to the unknown

The story of Rama is the story of the archetypal hero who lies within the depths of our own psyche. His journey to the forest is a unique voyage all of us must make. It is an adventure into the mysterious and the unknown. The jungle is an apt and well recognised Jungian symbol for the unconscious self, and entering the dark forest is a threshold symbol.

It represents the soul entering the perils of the unknown, a quest for the secrets of nature, and the spiritual world that man must penetrate to find meaning.

Rama set off on this supreme adventure. He entered the realm of uncertainty. Indeed it was a wise choice. Certainty implies limitation, while uncertainty means stepping into the unknown, which holds within it a million opportunities.

Creative imagination here is not stifled and limited by what is known but stimulated by the boundless possibilities open before it.

The love of Rama and his lawfully wedded wife Sita is the theme and substance of Ramayan. True to the image of the mythical hero, both the carnal and the sublime aspects are highlighted in this epic, as in the majority of heroic lore across the world.

Celebrating another aspect of their affection is the appreciation that theirs was love in conformance with Dharma. Those who symbolically interpret Ramayan regard Sita as the individual soul and Rama as the Supreme Being.

Rama was a human and God, like all of us. This approach does not make Him any less worthy of worship. Setting an example by the action of valour tempered by sacrifice, He inspires all of us ‘ordinary’ mortals to follow the path of a just and upright existence, unswerving in our faith of its correctness.

This is the true inner journey of the hero, leading to the divine spark that blazes inside each of us, waiting to be discovered.

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