The auspicious festival of Ram Navami (the divine appearance of Lord Ramon this earth) is on 10th April, this year. I am wondering, as a child, teenager or youth, I don’t remember ever celebrating this festival. The fondness of any particular festival would be based on if it is ‘powerful’ enough to award a school holiday or can it inspire the family to go shopping.
Even today, at first thought, just because I am in the association of devotees and we have a festival to celebrate in the temple, that I am aware of this occasion. And on the consistent push of a special friend, I am attempting to write a small reflection on this festival.
The festivals are meant to bring us together around a common cause or celebrations. Sadly, more often, ‘religious’ festivals often appear to divide people of different faiths. I think that’s not because of religion but because of lack of depth or not knowing religion in its spirit and true meaning. What will it take to make this festival relevant and interesting? Nothing new or extra ordinary. If the story of Ramayana can be presented without any adulteration or change, that story itself can captivate the heart and mind of any listener. Who doesn’t like stories?
Human society has not witnessed the finer portrayal of relationships, mellows, emotions than by Sri Valmiki in Ramayana. What makes it even more special and worthy is that they are centered around Lord Ram, thus making it transcendentally ever fresh. One can read these hundreds of times and not be bored.
One can find love, duty, hatred, devotion, envy, valor, diplomacy, philosophy, ethical dilemma, temptations, leadership, etc in these narrations.
Be it the influence of association on Kaikeyi, dutifulness of Lord Ram, devotion and chastity of mother Sita, lust of Ravana, integrity of Dasarath ,sacrifice of Jatayu or servitude of Hanuman, each narration is full of anticipation and amazement. Two incidents particularly stand out apart for me:
1.Integrity of Bharata : Lord Ram was sent to exile in forest for fourteen years in the absence of Bharata. He had no idea that his mother Kaikeyi, to enthrone him as a king, has sent his elder brother Lord Ram to the forest. He was in fact called by ministers to perform the cremation of his father Dasarath, who passed away in grief of separation from Ram. Upon reaching back in Ayodhya, every single person treated him with the attitude of anger, disdain and condemnation thinking him to be the cause of Lord Rama’s exile. His nearest and dearest relatives – Kaushalya, Laxmana, Vasishta, ministers and in fact the entire kingdom saw him as someone hungry for power, selfish, insensitive and cruel. How did he respond? His heart was pierced with each remark and yet his focus was on bringing Lord Ram back. Even when Lord Ram refused and requested him to accept the responsibility , he never sat on the throne but ruled the kingdom from an outer village on behalf of Lord Ram. He didn’t accept the dress and food of the royal court. He never slept on the bed thinking how Ram was sleeping on the floor. It is said that the greatness of a person has to be estimated by his/her capacity to tolerate provoking situations. The tolerance of Bharat amidst misunderstanding and false accusation by everyone around him gives a glimpse about his greatness. What can be more heart wrenching when those false accusations come at a time when his heart was sinking the most because he just lost his father, his dearmost brothers and was held responsible for the entire conspiracy.
2.Victory of monkey’s army: If we compare the army of Ravana with the army of monkeys, we find there is no match. Ravana’s army was equipped with all the modern technology of the time, skilled ,trained and professional whereas monkeys only knew how to throw stones, mountain peaks and trees. Yet because they were fighting from the side of Lord Ram, they emerged victorious. Strength received from transcendence far excels the strength of one’s own mind and intelligence. One need to fully utilise one’s strength, capabilities, intelligence and skill for a cause but at the same time it is the dependence upon the mercy of the supreme Lord that can make one victorious. Krishna says to Arjuna in BG 8.7 mäm anusmara yudhya ca: [Bg. 8.7] “Think of Me and fight.”
There are innumerable stories and narrations in Ramayana which one can meditate , reflect, seek inspiration and act suitably in life.
Hearing these stories can nourish our mind, heart and soul. The festival of Ram Navami is thus a festival of quenching the thirst of the soul. This thirst can be satisfied only by an unlimited source of love. This festival is a festival of imbibing the spirit of service that we see in Ramayana in multiple characters and personalities. This festival is a festival of giving. To experience the love, shelter, security of Lord Ram through his life and teachings. And then to become an instrument through which this pure love of Lord Ram can flow to others. What is the one thing that you can do in life today to become an instrument of Lord’ love?
Can our life show others about the love that Lord Ram has towards them?
~ Premanjana Das