There’s no Rama without Sita

Sita with Luv and Kush

By Kanaka Ramakrishna

Ramayana, the most ancient and popular epic, is the encyclopaedia of the ancient Indian life and wisdom portraying an ideal civilization. It has been the cherished heritage of the whole Hindu world for the last several thousands of years and forms the basis of their thoughts and of their moral and ethical values. Ramayana depicts the life of Rama and Sita, the ideals of the Hindus.

“Sita is the idealised India. There is no other pauranika story that has so permeated the whole nation, so entered into its very life and has so tingled in every drop of blood of the race as this ideal of Sita ”¦ The Hindus never think of Rama without remembering Sita” – Swami.Vivekananda.

The character of Sita is the most fundamental ideal to the cultural consciousness of India. She is the epitome of purity and virtue. Her life is apparently conceived as that of suffering, docile, meek, subjected to and oppressed by circumstances.

The deeper study of her life as depicted in the Ramayana would reveal the fact that she was not always docile and yielding. She was strong, smart, brilliant, gentle and graceful. She spoke up when needed. She could force her will if it was proper. When there was suffering, she accepted it voluntarily, even to the extent of her remorse. If there was Dharma to be upheld, she did it more strikingly than Rama did.

Perhaps no woman in the epic literature can come to the stature of Sita as portrayed by Valmiki. Her matchless beauty, tenderness of emotion, kindness to a fault, sincerity, faithfulness, brilliant intellect and wisdom, extraordinary courage, endurance beyond human limits ”“ all these traits found a harmonious place in her. Though victimised and oppressed, her extraordinary strength and power, which originated from truth, purity and chastity, showed best in times of adversity.

Sita wanted to accompany the banished Rama to the forest. Rama tried to convince her to stay in the palace, saying the life in the forest would be very difficult for her. Sita boldly but lovingly said, “ If you start for the most impenetrable of forests even today, I will lead the way, crushing the grass and thorns in front.”

As the constant companion of Rama, she lived in the forest happily. The sight of the golden deer which she wanted to have, made   Rama to chase it for her. When Maricha called out for help in Rama’s voice, she wanted Lakshmana to go and help Rama. But Lakshmana was convinced that Rama was not in trouble and he refused to go to help him as he was obeying Rama’s instruction to protect Sita.

Sita pleaded him first and again told him to go and help Rama, but he did not budge. Out of her love and obsession for Rama’s safety, she breathed fire and brimstone in what she told Lakshmana. Later, she magnanimously repented for her excessive outburst of emotion at a time of too much mental anguish. Making amends for the cruel words she used against Lakshmana, she sent words through Hanuman: “Sita sends very solicitous enquiries about Lakshmana, who is very gentle, pure, competent and entirely dear to Rama.”

Sorrows do not come in singles, but in battalions. Sita’s abduction by Ravana and her captivity in Lanka were the days of unbearable kind of misery and suffering. Yet, she showed amazing strength and character. After Ravana’s death, when she was freed and brought to her husband Rama, he refused to accept her. She had to undergo the ordeal of fire, Agnipariksha, to prove her chastity and she came out unscathed.

The God of fire not only responded to her prayers, but also gave a testimony of her chastity. He told Rama, “Sita is sinless and pure of heart. Please accept her.” It is only after this proof Rama accepted her. The coronation of Rama appeared to have brought an end to her trials and tribulations and looked like her happy days were ahead. But it was only for a brief period.

After the coronation, Rama and Sita lived in Ayodhya happily for some time. Nothing was wanting to keep their cup of joy full to the brim. Meanwhile, Sita had become pregnant. Rama wanted to please his pregnant wife by satisfying any desire she might have had in her mind. Sita had only one desire; to visit the holy hermitages of the Rishis residing on the banks of the Ganga and pay her respects to them.

Events happened soon which brought an abrupt end of their happy life. A tragic and an unending suffering was in store for Sita on this earth. Being a dutiful king and caring for the welfare of his people, Rama one day asked one of his counsellors to find out and report to him the opinions and feelings of his subjects   regarding him as a king of the people.

For most of the citizens Rama was Dharma incarnate, but the kingdom was not without a few people who judged even Rama’s actions. They not only whispered about Rama’s errors and wrongs but also spoke openly in public places. They thought the most unbecoming thing Rama did was taking Sita back to him.

Rama was grieved. He sent for his brothers who saw him in tears. They soon learnt the cause of his grief. Rama   himself   was in no doubt about Sita’s purity. He had not forgotten that he had her chastity tested by god Agni before she joined him. But he was a king whose Raja Dharma was first and foremost to him. He could not bear the censure of his people.

The highly sensitive and dutiful Rama decided to abandon and banish Sita from his Kingdom. He ordered Lakshmana to take out Sita in a chariot the very next morning and leave her alone in the forest near the hermitage of sage Valmiki. What an irony that Sita had asked just a few days back to be taken to the forest to visit the sages! What a way of fulfilling the desire of the pregnant woman Sita, who was carrying his progeny!

Lakshmana broke the news of her banishment   and told her that he was only carrying out the command of the King Rama. Hearing this heart-breaking news, Sita said, “O Lakshmana, really the creator created this body of mine to experience sorrow.” She did not blame Rama or anybody else though extremely hurt and pained, she blamed herself for being born as a woman.

However pure and perfect she was, Sita could not escape the calumny. The most undeserved calumny was acted upon her by her husband, her very own soul mate, Rama. The out come of the whole thing was a great tragedy, too deep for tears.

But chance and circumstances were kinder to her than the King and the slander. Sage Valmiki saw the exiled Sita, warmly welcomed and accommodated her in his hermitage.

Sita soon gave birth to twins in the hermitage of Valmiki. The boys were named Kusa and Lava. As a single mother, Sita raised her children with the help of the women of the ashrama and moved on with her life. Valmiki brought up the two boys in the best manner possible. He composed the Ramayana and taught them to sing melodiously.

Meanwhile, Rama had decided to perform an Aswamedha sacrifice. A huge gathering had assembled to watch the sacrifice. Valmiki, with his two disciples, Kusa and Lava also attended.

The sage took advantage of the occasion of the sacrifice and made the boys recite the epic of the Ramayana. He instructed them not to accept any monetary reward and to introduce themselves only as the disciples of Valmiki. Rama, along with several others listened to the recital of his own story. Pleased with their melodious recital, he ordered the award of 1800 gold coins to the boys, who of course declined to accept it. The people noticed the remarkable resemblance between Rama and the boys. Only their bark clothes and clotted hair suggested their forest dwelling.

Listening to the story of his own life induced Rama to think of taking back Sita. But the king in him demanded that Sita should solemnly make an affirmation of her purity and provide satisfactory proof of it publicly in an assembly. Valmiki agreed to this and things seemed to be shaping towards a happy ending. The assembly met where many sages attended on the invitation of the king. There was a vast gathering of people belonging to all walks of life. Curiosity was writ on every face.

Valmiki entered the assembly, followed by Sita behind him with downcast look, folded palms, tear-filled eyes and her heart set on Rama. Valmiki, speaking with the weight of long and hard penance, assured the vast gathering headed by Rama, that Sita was pure and chaste; her character was blameless and she always held her husband as her god and Kusa and Lava were Rama’s own sons. Rama answered that though personally he was convinced of Sita’s virtue and chastity, he would like her to give a sure evidence of her purity to the public.

Sita, clothed in ascetic dress, with folded hands, pitiful eyes and bent down head, spoke her swan song:

“In as much as I have with my mind never thought of any one other than Rama, may Mother Earth give me an asylum!”

“In as much as I adore Rama, by thought, word and deed, may Mother Earth give me an asylum!”

“If I have spoken the truth declaring that I know none other than Rama, may Mother Earth give me an asylum!”

Hardly had Sita sworn and prayed, the earth opened, a throne came up and carried her down and away. Mother Earth warmly received her daughter into her bosom in the underworld.

Thus ended the mortal journey of Sita.

But was this the end? Let us listen to the assurance of Swami Vivekananda: “Sita has gone to the very vitals of our race. She is there in the blood of every Hindu man and woman; we are all the children of Sita.”   Sita is immortal.



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