There was one character in Ramayana who has not been given her due importance, that was Urmila, Lakshman’s wife. One version stated that Urmila’s personality was so great, her sacrifice so supreme that no level of description or praise could justify it.
When Sita went into exile along with Ram, experienced countless challenges, had to conceive in the most challenging circumstances, at least she was in the company of her husband, Rama, and had unending help from her brother-in-law, Lakshman, who looked upon her as his mother.
Urmila, on her part wished to go along with her husband, but remained back in Ayodhya to look after Lakshman’s ageing parents. He also explained that if he took her along, he would struggle to give undivided attention and service to Rama and Sita. Urmila suffered in silence for fourteen long years, never complained about her isolation or anything else for that matter.
Small Tale About Urmila in Valmiki Ramayana
There exists a small tale but is not in many versions of the epic which tells us how great her dedication to Rama, Sita, Lakshmana. While in exile, he had taken a vow to keep awake through out the exile period of 14 years to be able to better serve and protect Rama and Sita. Days, weeks, months and years passed. After some time, the goddess of Sleep became aware of Lakshman’s penance.
Pleased with his unwavering commitment and attention to Rama and Sita, she made an appearance in front of Lakshman. She said that she was stunned at his sense of devotion to his purpose and was there to bless him so that he would not get tired by those sleepless nights. He replied by saying that he could never get tired of serving his Lord and his Mother. To accept her blessings for the purpose she mentioned, would amount to self doubt and he begged the goddess’ forgiveness.
The goddess of sleep was silent and thoughtful for a while. Finally, she said: “Now that I am here, I can’t go away without giving you some kind of boon. Ask for anything.” Lakshman folded his hands and replied: “Devi, I am here under protection (chhatrachhaya) of my Lord Sri Ram and Mother Sita. In Ayodhya, Urmila is fighting a lone battle looking after my parents. So kindly visit her and bless her so that she doesn’t suffer.” So great was Lakshman’s dedication that he remembered Urmila for the first time in a long time.
The goddess was pleased and promised Lakshman that she would fulfill his wish. She visited Ayodhya, met Urmila and informed her about her visit to her husband and about his wish to bless her. Urmila’s reply was a typical one that only she could give: “Hey Devi, I was honored but, I am not tired. I could not get tired of looking after my near and dear ones.
Moreover, it was my husband’s wish that I stay back and it is my solemn duty to obey him. Again, he had not compelled me. He had merely stated his wish. Still, if you wish to fulfill my desire and bless me, please see to it that my husband didn’t remember me even once during rest of the remaining exile period, otherwise he will be worried about me and that would hinder his dedication to Sri Rama and Ma Sita, which I do not want.
She said remove me from his memory till then so that he could focus and serve them without his mind wavering.” It was because of Urmila’s strength that Lakshmana was able to serve Ram and Sita day and night as he did. Rather than entrap her husband in snares of attachment towards her, she inspired him to fulfill his dharma.