Today is Rama Navami, the ninth day and the culmination of the nine-day Festival of Spring celebrations of Shri Rama’s birth in India.
My grandfather, Dr. P Desikan, a scholar who has taught me most of what I know about the Hindu Dharma, spoke to me about Rama Navami today. Here are a few gems from the conversation that I learnt:
Traditionally, you are encouraged to read Rama Charitha Manas or a version of the Ramayana during the nine days leading up to Rama Navami. I have been fascinated each time I read them. The Ramayana has 24,000 slokas. “I have counted them.”, thatha says. “It takes thirty hours to just read the original script itself. Imagine writing that, at a time when it would have been nearly impossible to do that! Writing on a dried palm leaf with a sharp nail. Phew!”
Sri Rama: Divine or Human? Or perhaps both?
Valmiki has described Rama as the Utthama Purusha, the perfect being, of his time. He fully followed the Dharma of his time. Only God can very carefully avoid being, well, not mistaken for God. That is why he did not show himself to the people. But when Sages Vyasa and Tulsidas wrote the Adhyathma Ramayan and the Rama Charitha Manas, they decided, ‘No, this is too much! He is God, he knows what he was doing.’
Well, the specialty of Rama Charitha Manas and Adhyathma Ramayana is that, in this version of the Ramayana, Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and others are portrayed as beings who have taken a birth on Earth and lead their lives fully as fully enlightened beings, being aware of what is going to happen next and therefore planning every action in advance. He also says that these two versions are written having been narrated by Lord Shiva to Mother Parvathi. Whereas, in other version, they are portrayed as normal people, who go through life full of difficulties, react to situations with surprise, etc. (Dr. P Desikan has previously written a detailed article about it, entitled Rama Rama, Siva Siva.)
Dasharatha gets his name from his ability to drive his chariot in all the ten directions. Just like him, you can also drive your chariot, namely your body, in different directions using the ten Indriyas – five Jnanendriyas and the five Karmendriyas. But you cannot achieve peace, unless you are able to get the Satputhras that he had. Whether you have sons or not, what needs to be born in your life is Sathyam, Dharmam, Premam and Shanthi.
Asthi sada, Sathyam. Sath yasya bhaavaha, Sathyam. All that which is good, is Rama.
Bharatha is a synonym for Dharma. He always knew what was the right thing to do. Sometimes, he fought for it, and at other times, he bowed down before Sathyam.
Lakshmana is Prema. He is full of Bhakthi for Sathyam. He worshiped Rama as a God.
Beyond all of these, there is saintly, detached character, Shathrughna. Shathrugno Nithya Shatrughnaha. Shathrughna is called so because he had totally conquered all the six Nithya Shatrus – Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, Matsarya. Desire, Anger, Greed, Delusion, Arrogance and Jealousy. He is Shanthi.
How Will Your Ramayana Unravel?
In your travels in life, when you find the divine foursome, your Ramayana is over. Not otherwise. Otherwise, Ravana will come and kidnap some possession of yours. You will have to settle scores between brothers. Vibheeshana and Kumbhakarna and Vali and Sugreeva and many other characters will become a part of your life!
Dasharatha had the tremendous good luck of having these four illustrious sons, but also the bad luck of parting with them. But his story was completed only by them, not before that. Search for Sathyam, Dharmam, Premam and Shanthi in your life, in your mind to complete your Ramayana. 🙂
Panaka and Neer Mor
On another note, Rama Navami is famous for Panagam and Neer Mor. Panagam, or panaka, is a simple dish made from jaggery dissolved in water, spiced with elaichi and ginger, sometimes pepper. Neer Mor or Buttermilk can be made from any nut mylk, like our coconut milk thambulli.
The real significance goes beyond these two signature Rama Navami dishes – Rama Navami is a day of fasting, and you are allowed to drink only these two drinks. In some places and cultures, Panakam is the only drink allowed.
Fasting is one of the best, and most important, therapies in Naturopathy. Scientific research has backed the claims the Vedas have made on fasting, even finding out that fasting influences your genes themselves to lengthen your lifespan! Fasting is an integral part of each and every religion that exists. There is no religion without fasting. Think about it.
In a Nutshell
From a very practical point of view, Rama Navami is a beautiful festival designed by our sages to help us instill the virtues of Lord Rama in our own minds, and strive to become the Utthama Purusha, or Perfect Being, that he was, and at the same time, undergo a fast that will keep us healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally, and also protect the farmers who harvest the sugarcane crop at this time of the year by prescribing Panakam, a jaggery drink, to be taken while fasting. Beautiful, isn’t it?
Wish you a virtuous Rama Navami. May the Almighty Force bless you and your family with good health, long life, enough wealth, peace and wisdom.
Whole Food Plant Based Rama Navami Recipes