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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The epic character Sita has very special proud concerns a woman of substance

Have you ever looked in Sita’s Ram angle in this way?

For all of us familiar with Hindu mythology and with the Ramayana in particular, the name of Sita evokes feelings of reverence for a woman most extraordinaire. For the vast majority she is the epitome of womanhood even today – an ideal daughter, an ideal wife and an ideal mother. The writing of Ramayana is credited to Valmiki – a sage in whose ashram Sita took refuge when Ram banished her from his kingdom. However, the Ramayana is about Rama and his life rather than of Sita and her life. Sita rarely speaks throughout the Ramayana (an ideal wife perhaps).The first time is in Chitrakut where she narrates an ancient story to Ram. The second time is when she tells Ravana (in the guise of a Brahmin) that he does not look like one. There are a few other instances, but the major speeches are with Hanuman in the Asoka Vatika.

The story of Sita’s trials and tribulations possibly begin with her marriage to Ram. Soon after her marriage, she insists on accompanying Ram into his exile. Could she have chosen to stay back in the relative comfort of the palace like the wives of the other three brothers? Was her sense of loyalty to Ram misplaced? Why was the immense faith that Sita had in Ram so misplaced? For a long period of time she lived in the Asoka Vatika with Ravana’s guards for company. Then there was the additional constant fight against the advances of the powerful Ravana. She all alone braved all this with only a hope and a prayer on her lips. When Hanuman wanted to take her to Ram on his back, she refused. She did not wish to run away like a thief. She instead wanted Ram to come and avenge her, vanquish Ravana her tormentor and take her away with dignity.

The relief that Sita would have felt at seeing Ram is almost palpable. What lay ahead was a life full of trauma. Ram asked her for an Agni Pariksha and such was the euphoria that she willingly accepted it. Can there be a greater humiliation for a wife and queen to be paraded for chastity? After all the tortures of an exile and Agni Pariksha, she comes back to Ajodhya and takes over as the queen for, alas, a very short period of time. Instead of standing up for Sita after the Agni Pariksha that he had inflicted on her, Ram banishes her on the pretext of the doubts of his people. Had the Agni Pariksha actually resolved anything at all? In the end, Sita returns to Mother Earth once the children have been reunited with their father. This raises doubts if Sita was as important a part of Ram’s life as he was to her’s. Ram is described as “Maryada Purushottam” – an ideal son, an ideal elder brother and an ideal king. But was he an ideal husband? Isn’t it ironical that despite Ram’s humiliations Sita is never remembered as the unfaithful wife to Ram?

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