ततो जगन्मङ्गलमङ्गलात्मना विधाय रामायणकीर्तिमुत्तमाम् । चचार पूर्वाचरितं रघूत्तमो राजर्षिवर्यैरभिसेवितं यथा ॥
Thereafter, the great hero of Ramayana, the best among the Raghu, the glory of the universe, ever blessing the world of sentient, organized his life into a program of intense tapas, as lived earlier by the royal saints in his own dynasty – Adhyatma Ramayana.
Ketavaram Palayam is an enchanting village with a population of roughly 6000 people. From tiny, thatched homes to well built houses, villages can be such wonderlands. The village remains invisible to the outside world except for one special occasion every year. This is during the occasion of Rama Navami to celebrate the birth of Lord Rama.
Lord Rama was born on Navami Tithi during Shukla Paksha of Chaitra month. On this enchanting day, the entire village of Ketavaram Palayam gets together for a grand 10-day celebration of Rama Navami. People who live in the same village and nearby villages, towns, and city, come together to celebrate this important event. This village is synonymous with Lord Rama and Rama Navami.
The tradition of celebrating Rama Navami for ten days was started by my grandfather and few others in early 1900. The year was 1904 as I was told. A small mantapa was constructed to facilitate the celebration. This mantapa houses a portrait of Lord Rama in ‘Pattaabhishekam’ pose.
In the Pattaabhishekam pose, Lord Rama sits on the throne with Sita sitting on his left along with his brothers Lakshmana, Bharatha and Shatrughana. Hanuman is serving him by holding Chatra and Chaamara. Sugreeva and Vibheeshana are saluting him. Lord Shiva, Brahma, Indra along with Devas and sages are present. This photo vividly describes the Pattaabhishekam and considered very auspicious.
The Rama Navami in Ketavaram Palayam is celebrated 24 hours a day during the ten days of celebration. The celebrations include music, singing and dancing. Musicians are invited for the holy ‘bhajans’, entirely sung in standing state for long period of time. Ample food is served as ‘prasaadam’ during the days of celebration. The celebrations begin during the day of Rama Navami. A day is marked to enact the divine wedding of Lord Rama and Sita. The celebrations conclude on the 10th day with ‘Hanumanthothsavam’, a day marked to celebrate Hanuman on the last day.
My first exposure of the epic Ramayana was through a book written by Sri Rajagopalachari, the first Governor-General of India. I read this book when I was in my middle school. Sri Rajagopalachari grandly retells Valmiki Ramayana. Ramayana is not about history. Mythology is also an incorrect representation to describe Ramayana. One cannot understand Sanatana Dharma unless one knows Rama and Sita, Bharata, Lakshmana, Ravaana, Kumbhakarna and Hanuman.
Itihasa, Rituals and Philosophy are the three pillars of Sanatana Dharma. The core message of Sanatana Dharma cannot be conveyed unless we have all the three. Itihasa refers to the important events that took place in ‘Bharata Varsha’, which includes the Puranas, Mahabharata, and Ramayana. For millions in India, Ramayana is not just a story. It has great meaning and truth when one looks at their own life. Ramayana has inspired generations and will continue to guide future generations.
Every Hindu should consider propagating the glory of Ramayana as a service to the nation. This is about Lord Rama as a role model for humans as an ideal son, an ideal brother, an ideal husband, an ideal disciple, an ideal friend, an ideal kind and even an ideal foe.