There isn’t a specific practice today because the day after the New Moon is the traditional New Year in many regions of India, including Kashmir (Navreh), Maharashtra (Guḍhī Pāḍavā), Andhra Pradesh (Ugādi), and Karnataka (Yugādi). It is the dawning of a new age – the time for a fresh and sacred beginning.
For many of us, even though we celebrate around the world on January 1, it never actually feels like new year until spring rolls around. The warmer weather, fresh green sprouts, and lush blossoms can’t help but fill us with joy and inspiration. There’s optimism and a sense that light once again reigns supreme.
So it’s no wonder that according to tradition, this is also the day that Śrī Rāma comes home to Āyodhyā, after rescuing his wife Sītā – who embodies the earth and pure life energy – from the demon-king Rāvaṇa, who is greed, arrogance, and the delusional tendencies of an impure mind.
Bhagavān Rāma, as an incarnation of the divine, specifically represents the qualities of absolute integrity, purity, and goodness. His birthday is celebrated on Rāma Navamī (nine days after the New Moon). This year, that is on April 5th.
Anytime a deity has a birthday celebration, we need to understand that this isn’t referring to something that happened in the past. Of course, we honor the legacy of living power, but the birthday means actually experiencing the birth of that power in real time. For example, to honor Śrī Rāma’s birth means giving new life to our inner Rāma – our own integrity, dharma, and virtue.
Interestingly enough, Śrī Rāma’s power is also associated with both exemplary leadership and virtuous government. To this day, all kinds of leaders – including corporate bosses – who are honest, principled, and kind are said to embody the qualities of Rāma-bhagavān. This may come as a surprise to you: yes, even governance and politics have their own deity! But remember, in this tradition, the spiritual and physical are united, and so everything in this world is also linked to a specific sacred power.
When leaders are aligned with dharma, it allows all creation to flourish. In fact, the Sanskrit name for this type of governance is Rāma-rājya – the kingdom of Rāma, the kingdom of righteousness.
In modern times, the idea of Rāma-rājya has been co-opted by some to push a specific political and religious agenda. However, spiritually speaking, it is much bigger than one community or one point of view. Rāma-rājya is dharmic in its very core – it upholds a universal and sacred power that protects everything. This type of government is just and compassionate, serving the welfare of all its citizens, which traditionally includes animals, forests, rivers, and the earth. By following dharma, it supports every being to also fulfill their highest dharma.
In times of political turbulence, it is particularly important that we continue to invoke Śrī Rāma’s energy and uphold a high vision for what is possible. Dharma lives inside each of us and we all live within it. Individually and together, we have the power to create Rāma-rājya – not just during Rāma Navamī, but throughout the year.
Practice: Honor Śrī Rāma
Traditional practices for the New Year and for Rāma Navamī are:
-For the New Year, it’s always a good idea to clean the house, inner and outer. So take some time today and make a clean and fresh start for yourself.
–You can decorate your house with orange (the traditional color of dharma) or green (the color of life) fabric or flags, rangolīs (sand and chalk art that invites grace), and many bright flowers. If nothing else, you may want to place new offerings on your altars. Wear clean and bright colors if possible.
–Perform pūjā, chant to, or reflect on Śrī Rāma, and also Sītā-Devī and Hanumān. There are many, many beautiful devotional songs and chants to Rāma, including the commonly heard “Hare Rāma Hare Kṛṣṇa” or “Raghupati Rāghava Rājā Rāma”. Singing the name or mantra of a deity invokes the vibrational power of that deity. Even just saying his name “Śrī Rāma”, is a powerful mantra for strength and protection.
–Fasting is traditional on the day of Rāma Navamī. Normally this fast takes the form of eating one meal a day – freshly prepared – with no meat, fish, eggs, onions, or garlic. During the day, small quantities of fruit, nuts, and dairy are acceptable if needed. Some people start the fast on New Year and continue it through all nine days.
–Pray to Bhagavān Rāma and invoke his energy and protection. In your meditation or prayer practice, let yourself connect with the part of you that protects all life and is uncompromisingly good. Let yourself taste your own strength and purity. Śrī Rāma’s grace and blessings contain great antidotes for fear, self-doubt, and weakness. Awaken your own unflinching resolve to do the right thing. Know that it is your integrity that protects your life, and the lives of all.
–Work towards nurturing virtuous leadership in yourself and others. Resolve to be part of a just and compassionate world.
Jaya Śrī Rāma!