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Devotees offer their prayers during the Ram Naumi celebrations at the Laxmi Vishnu Mandir at Laucala Beach.

Nine days of prayers and fasting came to an end this week as Hindus around Fiji got together to celebrate Ram Naumi, a Hindu festival which marks the birth of Lord Rama who is remembered for his prosperous and righteous reign.

Ram Naumi is an important event on the religious Hindu calendar. It occurs on the ninth day (naumi). Ramrajya (the reign of Rama) has become synonymous with a period of peace and prosperity. Even Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi used the term to describe his vision of the kind of India he wanted to see post-independence.

Devotees filled up the various temples and residences to celebrate the special day which started off with a hawan (religious ritual) and was followed by the birth celebration of Lord Rama at around midday.

The atmosphere was electrifying as devotees danced freely to the tunes of religious hymns and sprinkled powder on each other to celebrate the happy occasion.

Prasad (offerings) and a variety of delicious Indian vegetarian dishes followed for lunch. The scene after lunch was even more of an eye catcher as the various groups took to the sea shores for the final ritual which was to cast all the flowers and other disposable pooja (prayer) items into the sea to mark the end of the celebrations.

The interesting part about the ritual is that people have to dance to the beats of the dhol or tabla (Indian percussion instruments) and splash water on each other as they pour the flowers and other prayer items into the sea. The Nasese sea side area in Suva was full after lunch as members of the various mandalis (religious groups) and temples got together for the final ritual.

Some mandalis and temples in the central and northern division held the prayers for only eight days this year as there was a curfew in place on the opening night of the naumi due to Cyclone Tomas.

In northern India, where the festival originated, the event that draws popular participation is the Ram Naumi procession. The main attraction in this procession is a gaily decorated chariot in which four persons are dressed up as Rama, his brother Laxman, his queen Sita and his disciple Hanuman. The chariot is accompanied by several other persons dressed up in ancient costumes as worn by Rama's soldiers. The procession is a merry affair with the participants shouting praises of Rama's reign.

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