Rama Navami + Durga Ashtami
Today, we celebrate Chaitra Durga Ashtami and Rama Navami on the same day!
Rama Navami celebrates the birth of the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu. It falls on the 9th (navami) lunar day of bright lunar fortnight (i.e. shukla paksha; waxing phase) of the lunar month Chaitra. The actual lunar day (tithi) of navami starts at 12:13 PM today (April 20) and ends at 12:05 PM tomorrow (April 21) this current year of 2021, based on timings in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since Lord Rama was born during the mid-day (Madhyahna period based on sunrise and sunset) and since this mostly prevails on the 20th, Rama Navami is celebrated today according to the Smarta Sampradhaya. However, Vaishnavas generally observe Rama Navami tomorrow. Either way, we wish you Lord Rama's blessings on this auspicious occasion
Here is an excerpt on the birth of Lord Rama and his brothers:
King Dasaratha performs the Aswamedha yaga to beget sons. It is decided that the rituals will take place on the northern bank of the Sarayu river, and preparations for the yaga begin. Dasaratha also informs his queens of the yaga, so that they can also adhere to the required observances. Sumantra, a minister in Dasaratha's court, extols the virtues of sage Rishyasringa, son of sage Vibhandaka, and the son-in-law of King Romapada. Sumantra narrates how the birth of Dasaratha's sons had been predicted by none other than sage Sanatkumara. Dasaratha requests Romapada and Rishyasringa to be present at the time of the yaga.
Romapada and Rishyasringa are duly welcomed into Ayodhya, and the yaga is performed. In the meantime, Lord Vishnu decides that it is time to incarnate as a human being in order to slay Ravana. Ravana had obtained from Brahma a boon, as a result of which none other than a human being could kill him. The Lord chooses Dasaratha as His father.
King Dasaratha, having performed the Aswamedha yaga, also performs the Putrakameshti yaga to have progeny. Out of the sacrificial fire comes a divine being, who is dazzling. He holds a golden vessel with a silver lid. He tells Dasaratha that he should give the porridge in the vessel to his wives, and they will then give birth to sons. Dasaratha approaches Kausalya first, since she is the chief queen. He gives her half of the porridge. He gives Sumitra a quarter and Kaikeyi one-eighth. The remaining portion he gives again to Sumitra. As a result, Kausalya gives birth to Rama, Kaikeyi to Bharata, but Sumitra who receives two helpings gives birth to Lakshmana and Shatrugna.
King Bhoja gives a version of this part of this story, which differs from Valmiki's, but is nevertheless interesting, said Vaduvur Veeraraghavachariar. His version says Kausalya was first given half, she being the chief queen, and then Kaikeyi was given the remaining half. This left out Sumitra. The other two queens were sorry to see Sumitra having been excluded thus. So they gave her half of each of their portions. And they did so voluntarily, showing the goodwill Dasaratha's wives had for one another. (Source: The Hindu)
Followers of Goddess Durga, especially those who are from the Shakti tradition, hold Chaitra Navratri in great regard. Chaitra Navratri marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year for many Hindus, but it is also celebrated through the worship of Nav Durga (i.e. nine forms of Durga). Today (based on lunar phase at sunrise) is Ashtami, or more specifically Chaitra Durga Ashtami.
Throughout different regions of India, women are held in high esteem during these nine days of worship. Ashtami tithi is held in high regard and considered to be the most auspicious tithi among Devi or Shakti worshippers. Legend has it that on this Chaitra Navaratri, Shakti had taken the form of goddess Durga on the request of the devas to kill the demon Kalasura. So for those of you who are followers of Shakti, we wish you a happy Durga Ashtami today!
Did you know?
Prior to slaying Ravana, Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga to seek her blessings prior to his battle with the evil king and rescuing his wife Mata Sita. When you see this image, the depiction is of Lord Rama offering his "lotus eye" because he only had 99 out of 100 lotuses to offer Goddess Durga at her feet.
While this particular occasion occurs during the popular Sharada Navratri during the lunar month Ashvin, it is still a blessing to revisit.
After all today happens to commemorate both Lord Rama and Goddess Durga.
Best wishes on this auspicious occasion of Durga Ashtami and Rama Navami!