Ram Naumi or Navami (Birth of Lord) Observed by Indo-Caribbean American Hindus
Dayaram Mandir, Shro Surya Narayan Mandir, Shiva Mandir Tulsi Mandir, Shri Devi Mandir, and others held Observances
Indo-Caribbean American Hindus and other Hindus in the US and worldwide celebrated Ram Naumi (Navami), the birth or appearance of Lord Rama, last Sunday. Temples were packed to capacity with worshippers in the greater New York area where hundreds of thousands of Indo-Caribbeans (Guyanese, Trinis, Surinamese, and others) are settled. There are dozens of West Indian Mandirs in the NY metro area, Schenectady, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. There are also Guyanese and other West Indian Mandirs in Miami, Ft Lauderdale, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Atlanta and a few other cities where there are large clusters of Guyanese, Trinidadian and Surinamese Hindus. Ram Naumi, the birthday of Lord Rama, is one of the more popular festivals of Hindus though not in the same category as Diwali or Phagwah. Every Hindu celebrates Ram Namu in India which is a national holiday. Ram Naumi is tied to Navratri, the holiest period in the Hindu calendar in the Spring.
Hindus have been observing Navratri since April 1 – a fasting period that culminated with observance of Ram Navami. Navratr is an auspicious time for marriages or new undertakings. Just prior to Navratriis known as “Karwas” which prohibits marriages or poojas or new undertakings. Navratri is one of the most auspicious periods in the Hindu calendar and during this time the feminine aspects of God are worshipped. Navratri is an extremely pretty festival, highly inspiring and instructive on how to live. People were observed praying during this period with great fervor and devotion. Temples are holding discourses from the Ramayana or other holy books.
Large crowds thronged mandirs for nine nights of religious observance and propitiation of the three Devis and for the birth of the Lord. Hindus view Lord Ram as the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. They believe that when the evil forces were out to destroy the world, Lord Vishnu incarnated as Lord Rama and made his appearance on earth to save the world and to re-establish dharma – righteous life.
Some devotees will continue their fasting thru Hanuman Jayanti will be observed on April 16. Hindus have been flocking to mandir nightly during the Navratri period and or conducting puja at home. Huge throngs showed up at mandirs on Saturday evening and Sunday morning to pay obeisance to Lord Rama. Hindus believe Lord Rama made his appearance (was born) on earth over five thousand years ago.
Hindus celebrated or observed the festival with prayers and a feast on Sunday for lunch. Devotees fasted (avoiding meat, fish and eggs) and visited temples and conducted prayers at homes the preceding days. Many observed a strict fast, avoiding food in the day, for over two weeks. Fasting, pandits explained, is good for the body and the soul. Many performed or sponsored pujas or Ramayana kathas (discourses) as is the custom in Guyana, Trinidad, Surinam, and the Caribbean.
Navratri and Ram Naumi are extremely colourful ceremonies, highly inspiring. Lord Rama murti was richly adorned with ornaments and malas and very colourful clothing. The holy ‘Ramayana’ was read with a discourse during Navratri and on Ram Navami and their lessons explained by the presiding pandits. Several pandits graced each temple. The temples were elaborately decorated with party favours (festooned with flags, baloons, and colourful electronic lights).
Devotees were well dressed in traditional garb. It was a solemn yet festive occasion. At the Shiva Temple, Pandit Munelall held court explaining the relevance of the festival and the significance of Lord Rama. There was bhajan singing accompanied by drumming and musical equipment with people clapping to the rhythmic beat.
Ram Namui culminates the fasting period for Hindus for the Spring Navratri – one of the most auspicious periods for observant Hindus. Hence the reason for the propitiation of Lord Rama. Hindus believe that chanting Lord Rama’s name removes all the devotee’s sins and brings prosperity to them. Lord Shri Rama fulfils the wishes and desires of his devotees.
At the mandirs, there was bhajan and kirtan singing. Elaborate vegetarian meals were prepared nightly for Navratri and for the celebration of the lord’s birthday on Sunday similar to a party.
By Vishnu Bisram