The day is the ninth and last day of Chaitra Navaratri (not to be confused with the autumn Navratri). It celebrates the arrival of Vishnu's 7th avatar, god Rama. It is marked by the faithfuls with puja (devotional worship) such as bhajan and kirtan, by fasting and reading passages about Rama's life. Special cities in the Ramayana legends about Rama's life observe major celebrations. These include Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh), Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu), Bhadrachalam (Telangana) and Sitamarhi (Bihar). Some locations organize Rath-yatras (chariot processions), while some celebrate it as the wedding anniversary festival (Kalyanotsavam) of Rama and Sita.
While the festival is named after Rama, the festival typically includes reverence for Sita, Lakshmana and Hanumana given their importance in Rama's story. Some Vaishnava Hindus observe the festival in Hindu temples, some observe it within their homes. Surya, the Hindu sun god, is a part of the worship and ceremonies in some communities. Some Vaishnava communities observe all nine days of Chaitra Navaratri remembering Rama, and reading the Ramayana, with some temples organizing special discussion sessions in the evening. Charitable events to help those in need and community meals are organized by temples and Vaishnava organizations, and for many Hindus it is an occasion for moral reflection.
In Karnataka, Sri Ramanavami is celebrated by the local Mandalis (organizations) at some places even on footpaths, dispersing free panaka (jaggery and crushed muskmelon juice) and some food. Additionally, in Bengaluru, Karnataka, the Sree Ramaseva Mandali, R.C.T (R.) Chamrajpet, organizes India's most prestigious, month-long classical music festival. The uniqueness of this 80 years old musical extravaganza is that celebrated Indian classical musicians, irrespective of their religion, from both genres – Carnatic and Hindustani – descend down to offer their musical rendition to Lord Sri Rama and the assembled audience.
Bhadrachalam temple in Telangana
is one of the major Rama Navami celebration sites.
In eastern Indian states such as Odisha, Jharkhand, and West Bengal, the Jagannath temples and regional Vaishnava community observe Rama Navami, and treat it as the day when preparations begin for their annual Jagannath Ratha Yatra in summer.
Devotees associated with ISKCON fast through the daylight hours. A number of ISKCON temples introduced a more prominent celebration of the occasion of the holiday with the view of addressing needs of growing native Hindu congregation. It is however always was a notable calendar event on the traditional Gaurabda calendar with a specific additional requirement of fasting by devotees.