Ramnavami of Mandrem

By Ramkrishna

Ram is regarded as the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Gudi padva, the first day of the first month of the Hindu calendar (Chaitra) is supposed to be beginning of ‘Vasant Ritu’ (spring), the time of year when plants are in bloom. Close on the heels of Gudi Padva comes Ramnavami, on the ninth day of Chaitra.

In Goa, there are several temples dedicated to Lord Ram. In Canacona, at Partagali the place of the Partagali Jeevottam math, Ramnavami is celebrated five days from panchmi to navami, whereas at Colvale, Ramnavami celebrations commence on Gudi Padva and lasts till navami. During this period bhajans, kirtan and dramas are organised.

Ramnavami is celebrated mostly at Ram temples, Maruti temples, Vishnu temples or ‘maths’. Celebration at homes is a rare phenomenon.

However, celebrations associated with the birth of Ram are witnessed at the residence of Desais of Zunaswada, Mandrem in the Pernem taluka, which over the years has become a community-based festival. Although there is no specific date as to when the Desai family started celebrating the festival, it dates back to the seventeenth century. It is said that in late 17thcentury a sage belonging to Ram Dasi Seet Panth during his visit to the village handed over an idol of Ram Panchayatan to the then head of the Desai family and persuaded him to celebrate the festival in the village to popularise the cult of Rambhakti. The family has been celebrating the festival for three centuries, uninterruptedly.

This year the four-day festival began on Friday (March 30) with the installation of Rama Panchayan idol - Asanarohan - by the senior most  member of the Desai  family amidst chanting of mantras by the family priest, followed by pujas and aartis. The festival will conclude on April 2.

The main function will be held on April 1 at noon followed by kirtan recital by Vishnubua Shetgaonkar, following which the birth of Ram will be announced. The idol of infant Rama will be placed in a decorated cradle and devotees will be allowed to pay their obeisance and make their offerings. Lord Rama will be venerated by singing of lullabies and offering of prayers.

The four-day festival will be marked by various religious activities and cultural events. The stage has been set up in front of the Desais’ house where dramas will be staged by Ram Kala Mandir, a local cultural troupe.

This year two dramas have been planned – ‘Ughadalem Swargache Dwar’ and ‘Tinem ka Dhadiyalem Vani’.