In the Hindu religion, Rama Navami takes place every spring as a day to celebrate the birth of lord Rama. This day stands as a holiday for Rama’s followers to participate in certain rituals to observe festival traditions and worship Rama.
Ramayana, a piece of Hindu scripture, details the heroic events of Rama’s life, including his birth, 14-year exile, and eventual rule over Ayodhya. Born into a royal family, Rama gained the title of prince under his father King Dasharatha. However, his stepmother, Kaikeyi, demanded Rama to be banished to the forest in an attempt to turn the kingdom over to her other son. In the forest, Rama had to work with Sugriva, king of the monkeys, to rescue his wife, Sita, from the evil demon king, Ravana of Lanka. When they arrived back at the kingdom, the two are crowned king and queen, and Sita went on to give birth to Rama’s two sons.
People across the world celebrate Rama Navami differently. In the birthplace of Rama, Ayodhya, India, people will visit the holy river Sarayu or one of the many Rama temples. Passages from the Ramayana are recited as Hindus reflect on the virtuous traits of Rama in hopes of being able to develop a similar character. Also on this day, devotees dress and bathe an image representing baby Rama to add to a cradle-like altar adorned with fruit and flowers. Special food is created and shared with the congregation, but some prefer to fast from certain food during this day in reverence to Rama. This is a worshipful day filled with singing, the repetition of mantras (japas), and saying prayers (pujas) to celebrate the birth of Rama. The celebration of this holiday by specific practice varies not only from region to region but on an individual basis.
Taking an interest in your friend’s plans for Rama Navami is a great way to open the door to show you care deeply about them. Due to the shared belief in the practices of worshipping and praying, Hindus are very open to conversations about their faith. Often, they are willing to share their ideas of faith, which allows you to establish your belief in one personal God in comparison to their many gods. Since this holiday involves reading about the life of their god Rama, you can ask them to explain to you the story and what it means to them. Then, ask if you can share Jesus’ story of sacrifice and victory. Make clear that He is a historical figure sent by God in a loving act to redeem us (John 3:16).
While discussing the story of Jesus’ life, you can compare Rama with Jesus. Rama is praised for saving his wife Sita, and Jesus is praised for saving his Bride, which is made up of his people who choose to follow Him. Regardless of their views on God, it is important to make sure you let your friends know that God’s grace and love are welcome to all who seek him.
“‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.’” -Acts 10:34-35
If you are invited to celebrate in Rama Navami, it is important to remember to follow Paul’s example in 1 Corinthians 9:22, to “become all things to all people … .” Try your best not to show any offense and instead show the compassion of Jesus and respect for them making these dietary choices.