India celebrated on Friday Rama Navami, the birthday of Hindu god Rama, a mythological figure in the story of the Kingdom of Dasharatha in Ayodhya.
During the festival, which is considered a focal point of moral reflection, people cleaned their houses, offered fruits, flowers and sweets to the god, and recited prayers in temples as well as at home early morning.
Rama is an incarnation of the Hindu god Lord Vishnu, one of the three Hindu Lords, and is the hero of Hindi epic Ramayana.
Ram Navami is a public holiday which falls on the ninth day of the Hindu lunar year, usually from middle March to early April, although astrologists say the birthday of Rama was January 10, 5114 B.C.
Religious places associated with Lord Rama such as Ayodhya where he believed to be born in the north Indian state Uttar Pradesh, and Ramesvaram in south Indian state Tamil Nadu attracted thousands of devotees and pilgrims.
At the end of the day, prasadam, or sacred food offered to the god, was distributed among family members and devotees.
In some houses, an image or an idol of baby Rama was placed in a covered cradle. At noon, the time Rama was born, the covering was removed and prasadam was offered to him before being distributed among the congregation.
Yet others performed the marriage of Rama and his wife Sita. Some fast the whole day. Some took only fruits. Some ate only onions, garlic, spices and wheat products.
N. Suryanarayan, a Delhi resident originally from the south, said that in south Indian homes, idols, decorated in bright clothes and jewels, of all Indian goddesses were kept on a pedestal and prayer service was performed during the festival day. All neighbors visited each other, collected prasadam and bowed to the god.
He said that in the modern life, festival was a medium to let people get near to the ancient gods and this let him feel harmonious with all other creature under the sun.
To many in India, religion does not mean one particular faith.
Gurpreet, an ethnic Sikh woman living in New Delhi, offered prashadam in community prayer service on Hindu festival Ram Navamievery year and prayed to her Sikh gurus with the same devotion.
Suryanarayan said that for him, religion was not simply particular rituals, sacred books or places of worship, it is more a way of life.