Sita – Valmiki Ramayana Story

sitaSita (सीता, Siya, Seeta, Seetha, Vaidehi, Janaki, Maithili, or Bhoomija) was the wife of Rama, the seventh Avatar of Vishnu in the Hindu tradition. Sita was believed to be an avatar of Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. The occasion of her marriage to Rama, prince of Ayodhya, is celebrated as Vivaha Panchami.

Sita was found in a furrow when Janaka was ploughing in a field as a part of a yagna. For this reason Sita is regarded as a daughter of Bhumi Devi, the goddess of the Earth.

Sita was known by many epithets. She was called Janaki as the daughter of Janaka; Maithili as the princess of Mithila’; as the wife of Ram. Her father Janaka had earned the sobriquet “Videha” due to his ability to transcend body consciousness; Sita was therefore also known as Vaidehi . She was best known by the name Sita, derived from the Sanskrit word sita, which means furrow.

In one version of the Ramyana, Sita was the rebirth of a woman named Vedavati daughter of sage Kushadhwaja, who had thrown herself into a fire to escape Ravan’s lust and swore revenge. Many versions of the Ramyan hold Sita as being an incarnation of a goddess Lakshmi. In other stories, Sita was Ravan’s daughter who was abandoned, put in an urn and buried in a field or set afloat on the ocean. Some of the stories also present Sita as being the natural daughter of King Janaka.

Exile and Abduction of Sita in Ramayana

Rama married Sita after stringing and breaking Siva’s bow. When Ram, was about to be crowned, Queen Kaikeyi asked the King Dasharath to fulfill his promise to her and make her son Bharat the king, exile for Ram for fourteen years . Sita willingly gave up the comforts of the palace and accompanied her husband Ram to the forest. Rama, Sita and Lakshmana lived in the forests of Dandaka and Panchavati.

One day in Panchavati forests Sita saw a golden deer and desired that Ram capture or kill the golden deer, the demon Maricha in disguise, for her. When Maricha was dying he called out for help in Ram’s voice. Lakshman convinced Sita that Rama cannot be in trouble. She pleaded with Lakshmana, accused him and finally threatened to kill herself if Lakshmana did not go to Ram’s rescue. Sita was abducted by Ravana, King of Lanka. because she had to step out of the safety line to give alms to Ravan, disguising himself as a Brahmin, while her husband was away fetching a magnificent golden deer to please her.

Ravana took her to his kingdom in Lanka, and Sita was held as a prisoner. During her captivity for a year in Lanka, Ravan expressed his desire for her, however, Sita refused his advances. Ram and Lakshman rescued Sita with the help of an army of monkeys, but Ram doubted Sita’s purity having lived with the demon for over a year. Sita endured a trial by fire and proved herself untouched by any but Ram.

(In the fifteenth century Adhyatma Ramyana, Sita that begged for the deer and was kidnapped by Ravan was not the real Sita at all, but a shadow Sita, created by Sita on Ram’s orders to keep her safe. It is this Sita that was kidnapped, rescued and eventually disappeared into the fire, upon which time the real woman rejoined her husband. Sita’s purity is unquestionable because the genuine Sita never spent any time in Ravan’s palace.)

The couple came back to Ayodhya, where Ram was crowned king. During Rama’s period of rule, an intemperate washerman, while berating his wife, declared that he was “no pusillanimous Ram who would take his wife back after she had lived in the house of another man”. This statement was reported back to Rama, who knew that the accusation of Sita was baseless. Nevertheless, he would not let slander undermine his rule, without an explanation to Sita he asked Lakshman to take her to forest .

Sita was thus forced into exile a second time; she was not only alone this time but also pregnant. She was rescued by the sage Valmiki. He gave her refuge in his hermitage, where she delivered twin sons named Luv and Kush.

In the hermitage, Sita raised her sons alone, as a single mother. They grew up to be valiant and intelligent, and were eventually united with their father. Once she had witnessed the acceptance of her children by Ram, instead of meekly submitting, she chooses her own fate. She chooses to return to the earth, instead of remaining with a man who had twice abandoned her. Sita sought final refuge in the arms of her mother Bhumi. Hearing her plea for release from an unjust world and from a life that had rarely been happy, the earth dramatically split open; Bhumi appeared and took Sita away.

Conclusion

Sita is worshipped all over India in innumerable Hindu shrines, along with the idols of Lord Ram, Lakshmana and Hanuman.

Modern feminists have objections to the way the mythology of the Ramyana ends. In the myth, Sita is referred to as Sita Maiyya (Mother Sita) and the text has gone to great lengths to emphasize her ‘purity’ and loyalty to her husband. Feminists point out that having been depicted as a wife beyond reproach; it is unfair that she is made to undergo a ‘purity test’ by walking through fire.

Moreover, when Sita walks through the fire unhurt, which implies that she has been faithful to her marriage vows, she is still made to go into a second exile, even in her pregnant state, as the citizens of Ayodhya are unable to accept her. Sita is forced to prove her chastity not once, but twice in a trial of fire, and when she was taken into the forest, it was by Lakshmana, without an explanation from Rama.

The feminist argument is with only Sita being tested for her vows and not Ram even though he was without a wife and had temptations in his way. They point out that as an ideal husband, Ram could have gone with her, or that as an ideal ruler, he had to take a stand against the irrationality of the citizens and keep Sita as his queen in Ayodhya.

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