Ram Navami or Rama Navami is celebrated every year by the Hindus to commemorate the birth of Lord Rama, who is believed to be one of the Dashavatara (ten incarnations) of Lord Vishnu. According to Hindu calendar, the festival is observed on Shukla Navami (the ninth day of waxing moon period) of Chaitra month (March-April).
Unlike other regions in India where Rama Navami festival is celebrated for a day, it is observed in Jharkhand for a full month — beginning on the Shukla Navami of Falgun and concludes nearly 30 days later on the day of Rama Navami, the Shukla Navami of Chaitra month when devotees of Lord Rama and Hanuman comes out on the streets in groups chanting and dancing to bhajans, wielding traditional weapons and lathis (sticks). Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, turns into a saffron city on the occasion of Rama Navami.
Thousands of youths religiously spend time in akharas (traditional gym) before the Rama Navami to practice and perfect maneuvers with their preferred weapon. Choices range from shiny steel swords to spears, khukris, knives, pharsa (axes), gupti (rapier) and even the Lathi (stick). The moves are practised to the thumping beats of huge drums called Nagaras and Tashas — traditionally used to herald the arrival of an army for war. It’s said that it symbolizes Lord Rama’s exemplary prowess in handling the divine weapons made in sage Agastya’s Agnishaala and other man-made weapons.
It’s a miracle that groups of men and women displaying marial art skills with sword and traditional weapons right in the middle of different sections of crowd don’t cause injuries to onlookers.
Huge processions are taken out by hundreds of participants, divided into small and big groups, led by marching troupes of devotees holding aloft in their hands huge saffron flags with beautiful pictures of Lord Hanuman in flying posture, hooked up on top of tall and dry bamboos, playing drums, bugles and nagaras, in ecstasy, at deafening pitch or staging mock war-like dances in the background of high beats of drums.
The city’s akharas take out processions starting after 3pm and the festive fervour continues into the night. All the holy processions march from different places in the city to the Tapovan Mandir in Niwaranpur, where devotees pay obeisance and return to their homes. Power supply remains disconnected in the city from 2pm to prevent any possibility of electrocution, considering the devotees carry large flags that may come in contact overhead electric wires.
Similar processions and festivities are also carried out in other nearby Jharkhand towns like Jamshedpur, Hazaribagh, Bokaro, Ramgarh and Gumla. By popular tradition, all the dancing devotees in these towns also carry sharp lethal weapons in their hands while staging the dance at several places en route from Hanuman temples to Rama temples.
Hanuman is revered as the foremost devotee of Lord Rama and tradition says that if anyone seeks Lord Rama’s blessings, they can reach him through praying to Hanuman. Hanuman is known as the god who protects one from all misdeeds or mishaps but there are very few people who know where he was born.
According to legends, Hanuman is the son of Anjana and Kesari, son of Brihaspati. Anjana was once an apsara (heavenly maiden) — named Punjikastala, who was cursed and transformed into a monkey woman for poking fun and disturbing meditation of a sage, who looked like a monkey. On her penance, the sage said that she would be redeemed from this curse after giving birth to a son. She would be freed from this curse only if she gave birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Anjana’s dedicated prayers and meditation to Shiva without any food or water soon gave her fruitful results. Lord Shiva was impressed with her prayers and wished to bless her with a son who will be immortal.
Though there is no sociological research available to explain this phenomenon, as per folklore, Lord Hanuman was born in a cave near Anjan Gram in Gumla district in the Indian state of Jharkhand. Anjan Gram is a small village about 18 km away from Gumla and around 130 km from Ranchi. Goddess Anjani was the mother of Lord Hanuman on whose name this place was named Anjan Gram. Anjani Gufa (cave) is at 4 km from the village upon a hill. It’s believed that mother Anjani used to live here. There is an idol of Mother Anjani with Hanuman in her lap near Anjani Gufa. It is known as the birthplace of Mahavir Hanuman.
This idol of Goddess Anjani dates back to the ancient times. Many objects of archaeological importance obtained from this place are placed at Patna museum.
The Anjan Gram has a lot of religious significance and at the same time, offers a great deal of scenic beauty. This place is bounded by the plateau of Netarhat from three sides and Khatwa River. Many Shiva Lingas are seen over here. It’s said that there were 365 Shiva Lingas here and the same number of ponds. As per the folklore, Mother Anjani used to take bath in these ponds and pray at the nearby Shiva Lingas. Now just around a dozen can be seen.
Ram Lakshman Janaki
Jai bolo Hanuman ki!
You may find some more images about the festival in Barreled Phantasy.