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   Religious Fasts
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Religious Fasts

Ram Navami

On the Ninth day of the Durga Puja of Chait the ninth day after the new moon in the Sukul Paksh (the waxing moon) some time in the month of April, Lord Vishnu took the seventh avtar, and Sri Ram was born to ride the world of Ravan who was creating havoc. Lord Brahma had granted so many boons to Ravan in the past, that he had become almost invincible and so became extremely arrogant. He was destroying dharma on earth and in devlok without a single thought for the future. The devtas ran to Lord Brahma. Brahmaji told them that he was well aware of the atrocities committed by Ravan, but he himself could do nothing about it. He had to depend on a human being to do something. Ravan could not be killed by any god or devta, but, in his arrogance, Ravan had forgotten to safeguard himself against a mere human being! Ravan was sure no man could kill him, therefore, only a human being stronger than Ravan must be born on earth to get ride of that evil force. At that very moment Lord Vishnu arrived on his vahan (vehicle) the Garud, and Brahma asked him to take the avtar of Ram. All the human beings on earth and the devtas in heaven were in utter misery because of the atrocities of the rakshas, Ravan. Vishnu agreed as he had also promised to be the son of Dasarath (or Dashrath) and Kaushalya in 'Tritha Yug'. (The two in a previous birth had done a lot of tapasya and prayed to Lord Vishnu to be their son and he had agreed.) Now the time had come.

A great Yagn was being performed when from out of the fire came a divine (male) form. He was dark and he was clad in crimson. He was wearing the most beautiful gold ornaments around his neck and arms and he smiled softly and charmingly. The divine being had a bowl in his hand and he gave it to King Dasarath and asked him to distribute the contents to his wives, saying, 'I have been commanded by the gods to give this kheer to you to your wives to eat and they will bear you the sons you carve for'. Dasarath took the bowl in his hands and the divine being vanished.

The King went to Kaushalya (the eldest wife) and asked her to take half the contents. He then gave half of what was left to his second wife Sumitra and then he went to the third, Kaikeyi, who took some, but a little was left over, which the kind again gave to Sumitra. And so were born Ram the eldest to Kaushalya; twins, Lakshman and Shatrughan, to Sumitra and Bharat to Kaikeyi. They were all the amsha (part) of 'Vishnu' (all living beings according to Hindu belief are in essence a part of the manifest 'Supreme'). They loved each other and were the most perfect of brothers, but Ram and Lakshman along with Ram's wife Sita were to lead a life that became the essence of the great epic, Ramayana, which is the guiding light of virtually every Hindu household and moulds the Hindu character.

On Ram Navami puja is simple and is done in the morning. Some people as usual would like to keep a fast and only eat phalar which is taken in the afternoon. Phalar consists of a sweet made of khoya; potatoes made in any form without haldi (turmeric), garlic, adrak (ginger) or onion. In phalar, all root vegetables are permitted. Fruit of every kind is allowed. Puri is made with kuttu-singhare - ka-atta. These are two different types of root vegetables which have been dried and ground into flour and mixed, and used instead of wheat flour; they don't hold very well, therefore, boiled arvi is mashed and mixed with the dry atta. It is then mixed in water to form a pliable dough to make puri or pakori as one likes. Curd is allowed and, of course, tea, coffee or milk, but not take more than twice or thrice in the day. Of course, water can be taken.

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