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.

Albert Ekka Chow, Ranchi during Ram Navami
Albert Ekka Chowk of Ranchi is decked up with saffron Hanuman flags and red & white Sarna flags for Rama Navami and Sarhul festivals.

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 Tashaas — 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 martial 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 3 pm 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 2 pm 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.

Ram Lakshman Janaki
Jai bolo Hanuman ki!

 You may find some more images about the festival in Barreled Phantasy.

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