“In the childhood form, wearing nice jewelry and clothing, He plays in the dirt and His limbs become full of dust. With child-like speech, Rama plays with all the brothers and children.” (Dohavali, 117)
बाल बिभू।सन बसन बर धूरि धूसरित अंग |
बालकेलि रघुबर करत बाल बन्धु सब सन्ग ||
bāla bibhū।sana basana bara dhūri dhūsarita aṃga |
bālakeli raghubara karata bāla bandhu saba sanga ||
It is the dead of winter. The sun barely comes out. It is so cold that you dread stepping outside, even if it is only for a few minutes. You have to take out the trash on the regular collection days for the neighborhood. You have to walk to the mailbox to pick up whatever the postal carrier has delivered. You have to step in the car and drive to the local supermarket to get essential items for the home.
Combine everything together and it feels like there is nothing to celebrate or be happy over. In the bhakti culture there is the relevant Sanskrit word: nityotsava. This translates to a continuous celebration. It is devotional life, after all. The devotion has a target: the personal God.
He is both the oldest person and without a beginning. He is here at the moment and He will remain so forever into the future. He appears and disappears from this planet in His personal form, and at the same time He has fixed residence in the Vaikuntha planetary system.
यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य
ग्लानिर् भवति भारत
तदात्मानं सृजाम्य् अहम्
yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham
Because of these limitless features, it is possible to have nityotsava only with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You could target a specific period in time, even, such as with the childhood years for the avatara known as Shri Rama.
1. His birth
The annual occasion is known as Rama Navami. A specific date in the lunar calendar, typically falling in the month of April, those who understand the superior standing of Vishnu in comparison to other gods make sure to participate in this celebration.
There is the time travel to the original moment. Though we can trace back the event to some thousands of years ago, we should know that there are limitless universes. Somewhere the same Shri Rama is appearing from the womb of Mother Kausalya at this very moment.
He was the savior for King Dasharatha of Ayodhya, who was without an heir to the throne for a long time. The king finally received a son, four at one time, at an advanced age. The timing did not take away from the joy, as they say the best things come to those who wait.
2. His childhood play
Goswami Tulsidas describes how baby Rama would play. The mothers would dress up their children nicely, who would then play amongst one another. It seems counterintuitive to go to such great effort only to see the children play in the dirt.
Yet the child is a gift from God. No amount of effort in love is wasted on them. Shri Rama is the most special child a parent could receive, and so the elders derived limitless joy in that interaction. They took great delight from hearing His child-like speech.
3. His closeness with Lakshmana
Another cause for celebration is the closeness with Lakshmana. He was born as one of twin boys to Queen Sumitra. Vishnu does not arrive in this world in the typical way. As explained in Bhagavad-gita, the janma and karma are divyam, or Divine in nature.
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यम्
एवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर् जन्म
नैति माम् एति सो ऽर्जुन
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
Dasharatha conducted a special yajna for the purpose of having a son. The remnants of the sacrifice were given to the three queens: Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. A full half-portion went to Kausalya, and so her son Rama is considered Vishnu Himself. The other half was divided amongst the two remaining queens, and so Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna are considered partial incarnations of Vishnu.
From the time of birth, the boys basically paired off. This was in terms of association. Lakshmana could not eat or sleep without Rama. He would always stay close by. He was loyal to the highest degree imaginable. There is a reason that to this day those two brothers are typically worshiped together.
4. His slaying of Tataka
When Vishnu arrives He can stay in one place for years if He so chooses. He still finds a way to help the suras in some way. These are the demigods, who reside in the heavenly region. Sometimes the forces of evil in this world gain so much in strength that the demigods ask for Vishnu’s direct intervention. This is opposed to nature taking its course through the great devouring agent known as time.
Vishvamitra Muni once paid a visit to Ayodhya. He wanted to take Rama with him back to the forest area. There were some bad characters causing a lot of trouble. Vishvamitra knew that only Rama could provide adequate defense. Dasharatha was mortified at the thought, but following sound advice he decided to agree to the request.
Of course Lakshmana accompanied the group, and one of Rama’s first tasks was to slay a female Rakshasa by the name of Tataka. She could appear and disappear at will, and so an ordinary fighter wouldn’t suffice. Though young at the time, Rama could locate enemies through sound. The work was easy for Him.
5. His defense of Vishvamitra’s ashrama
The real reason for the request from Vishvamitra was to allow the completion of a specific vrata. Vishvamitra had a yajna that kept getting spoiled by attacking Rakshasas. They were so dastardly that they would wait until the last moment, on purpose, to throw blood and pus on the sacrificial fire.
With Rama now guarding the ashrama, there was no reason to worry. Though Maricha and Subahu predictably attacked again, they were sent away through Rama’s arrows. That single event can be celebrated every single day, but it can also be placed on a garland of memories from what would be considered the most successful childhood period the world has ever seen.
Most successful childhood ever seen,
Defending yajna though barely a teen.
Rakshasas driving away,
When in that ashrama to stay.
To father giving delight,
Sun of solar dynasty bright.
Shri Rama of that era profound,
Days with joyful pastimes abound.
Categories: the five