Rama Navami is a spring festival that celebrates the birth of the Prince of Ayodhya of the epic Ramayana.  Lord Rama is the seventh avatar of the Hindu deity Lord Vishnu. It is marked across India with much fervour. There are 108 temples and towns called Divya Desams or “mystical abodes” which are revered for Vishnu and his avatars. These are some of the temples famous for the worship of Rama across India.

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Ayodhya on the banks of River Sarayu is celebrated as the birthplace of Rama © 108 Divya Desams/Niyogi Books

Mythology, fables and legends mark the temples and pilgrim towns around India.  There are 108 Divya Desams or abodes of Vishnu. According to Vaishanavite beliefs, 105 temples are located all over India; one in the neighbouring nation of Nepal and two are not on Earth but in haloed space.

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A sculpted tableau of Rama and Sita flanked at Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Thiruvellakulam in Tamil Nadu. © 108 Divya Desams/Niyogi Books

In South India eighty-four Divya Desams are located across Tamil Nadu, of which the island temple at Sri Rangam, is the most special. Two other temples are in Andhra Pradesh and there are eleven in Kerala. Eight Divya Desams are dotted across north India and one is in Nepal. Many of these temples are over 2000 years old with stunning architecture, fascinating legends and unique temple cuisine.   

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Colourful murals of the Vishnu purana cover the walls at Thirukkozhi Temple in Tamil Nadu © 108 Divya Desams/Niyogi Books

In South India, Rama Navami food offerings include a cool vegetable salad called kosumalli and two drinks – a sweet drink made of jaggery water flavoured with elaichi called panagam, and neer more or watery buttermilk. In North India kala channa, poori and sooji halwa and kheer is made in many homes and vrat or fasting food is made of sabudana or tapioca.

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According to legend the Thiruppullani Temple in Ramanathapuram is where King Dasharata received a sweet kheer which he shared with his queens who blessed him with sons.  © 108 Divya Desams/Niyogi Books

The epic Ramayana and its many regional versions across India continue to evoke passion and fervour among its faithful. The many temples and towns remain busy pilgrim places even today.

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The Thiruppullam Bhoothamkudi Temple legend celebrates Jatayu, the mythical bird in the Ramayana © 108 Divya Desams/Niyogi Books

The writer is the author of Temple Tales – Secrets and Stories from India’s Sacred Places. She can be found on Instagram.

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