The Role Models from Ramayana- 2

Sitaayascharitam Mahat - The magnificient Story of Sita

Contributed by RP Turaga

I bow to that Lord Raghunandana (Sri Rama), on whose right side is Lakshmana, on the left side is His consort Mother Sita, daughter of Janaka, and Maruti (Sri Hanuman) is in the front.

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The Ramayana is Sitayana as well.

Sri Rama and Mother Sita Devi are two sides of the coin called Ramayana/Sitayana .

If Sri Rama is the embodiment of Dharma (Righteousness), Mother Sita is the embodiment of Pavitrata (Purity).

The immortal Mother Sita Devi is a Paragon of Patience, Purity and Nobility. She is to this day looked upon as an exemplar of Modesty and Simplicity.

Ramayana is not simply Raamasya Ayanam (Sri Rama's Life-Story) but Raamaayah Ayanam ( Mother Sita Devi's Life-Story ) as well.

In fact Valmiki refers to his work as the Magnificient Story of Mother Sita ( Sitaayaah Charitam Mahat )

Goddess Mother Sita was put through a lot of hardships, but never does she swerve from her Dharma (Duty) in the least.

Mother Sita, the personification of Purity, Patience, and Forgiveness, is the Role Model of Indian Womanhood .

Mother Sita had several wonderful characteristics and virtues just like her husband Sri Rama. She was a wonderful daughter, an idealistic wife and a wonderful mother.

Mother Sita is the epitome of all that a woman should be in the different roles that she has to play throughout her life.

Strengthened by the power of Purity & Penance , Mother Sita could face the severest of adversities.

Valmiki extols Mother Sita Devi with the following attributes:

Sri Swaroopini - Personification of the mystic syllable Shri - Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.

Dharmajna - Knowing what is right

Dharma Darshini - Seeing what is right

Yashasvini - Illustrious, Glorious

Sah Dharmachaarini - Virtuous wife, Companion in practice of Dharma

Tapasvini - Ascetic

Manasvini - Noble minded woman, virtuous wife

Madhura Bhashini - Sweet tongued

Kalyaanatara Vaadini - Lady with an auspicious voice

All of these are facets of Mother Sita. In the following these are narrated in the sequence as they happen in Ramayana, starting with the events in Aranya Kanda

Mother Sita in Chitrakoota.

After spending more than ten years at Chitrakoota Sri Rama, Mother Sita and Lakshmana prepare to proceed further into the Dandakaranya forest.

When Sri Rama and Lakshmana take the bows and arrows, Mother Sita had something on her mind. She had heard her husband promising protection to sages from the demons. But the demons had done no wrong to Sri Rama, Mother Sita and Lakshmana. So was it proper on the part of Sri Rama to punish the demons who had done no harm to them? Mother Sita voices her fears to Sri Rama regarding His promise to the sages. Was it not unfair on His part to fight the demons unprovoked? Would it be a wise move, she wondered.

Mother Sita gently tells Sri Rama ( 3.9.3 ):

“There are three kinds of desire prompted addictions. First one is speaking untruth, second one is approaching other's wife for personal pleasure with lust, the third one is developing enemity without cause and being cruel to them. The latter two addictions are of a more serious impact”

She goes on to say ‘Sri Rama you have never spoken untruth nor will you speak untruth in future. Destroying the character of other's women will never happen in your case. Sri Rama you are one who is vowed to truth, highly virtuous, prosperous and in you truthfulness and virtues are all well established.”

Mother Sita further elucidates about the greatness of Dharma (Righteous Conduct : 3.9.31):

Sri Rama, righteousness will yield wealth, righteousness will result in happiness and everything can be attained by righteousness. This world constitutes the very essence of dharma.

Dharma is attained carefully by capable men by emaciating their bodies with different disciplinary acts. Happiness itself does not beget happiness.

Mother Sita humbly requests Sri Rama to consider the matter and do what is best.

On hearing the words of Mother Sita who is devoted to her husband, Sri Rama who was steadfast in dharma replies to Mythili( 3.10.2).

“O Sita, a knower of dharma, and daughter of king Janaka! You have given a suitable advice, worthy of you out of your affection, keeping in mind the nobility of race. It is a well-wisher's advice”.

Rama Continues

“The sages live eating roots and fruits and follow the principles of dharma in this forest. They are scared of the cruel actions of the demons and they do not experience happiness. The sages who keep practicing many different spiritual practices in the forest at all times are eaten by the dreadful demons who live on eating flesh. Those ascetics, the best of brahmins living in Dandaka forest, who are being eaten up beseeched me to go to their rescue”.

Rama continues “ I have to be sought after by such brahmins. This very fact is giving rise to uncomparable shame in me… O Sita, the daughter of Janaka, on hearing the words of the sages I promised to undertake protection of sages of entire Dandaka forest… Sita I will even give up life, even Lakshmana and you also but will not break up the promise made specially to the brahmins, after having promised, I will not fail to fulfill”.

However Sri Rama appreciates Mother Sita's advice and says

“Your words are most appropriate for yourself and favourable also in the interest of the family. You are the follower of my dharma and so more dearer to me than my life”.

This discussion is one of the outstanding examples where the wife reminds the husband about Dharma (Righteous Conduct), and the importance of following Dharma even during difficult days in the forest. 

Mother Sita reprimands Ravana.

In Aranya Kanda Ravana has come to her in the guise of a mendicant and Mother Sita tells him that he does not look like one. Ravana reveals his real form and expresses his evil intentions. Mother Sita faces the situation with self-respect, courage and courtesy.

The moment Mother Sita knows about Ravana's intentions, she does not spare him.

She condemns his action without any fear and warns him of the consequences, if he courted enmity with her husband.She says (3.47.43 / 3.56.19)

“If you are desiring to seize the wife of Sri Rama, who is of virtuous conduct, you are desiring to hold blazing fire by a cloth. .. Lowly rakshasa, I am a chaste woman and the righteous wife of Sri Rama who is ever righteous. It is not possible for a sinner like you to touch me”.

Again in Sundarakanda with Mother Sita confined to Ashokvan, Ravana enters the Ashokvana to persuade Mother Sita to accept him as her husband and become his principal queen.

Mother Janaki dismisses the offer outright and asks Ravana to behave himself. She cautions Ravana that his attempts to tempt her will result in his destruction. Mother Sita tells him that the only way to save himself is to surrender at the feet of Sri Rama and return her to him with respect.She says ( 5.21.15)

“I cannot be lured by prosperity or even wealth. I am inseperable from Raghava just as radiance from the Sun-god”.

When one thinks of the Sun, he thinks of its radiance, its brightness. Just as brightness and the Sun can never be dissociated, so too can Mother Sita and Lord Sri Rama can never be viewed separately, and should not be viewed separately.

“ He is well known as a knower of dharma and is compassionate to those who seek his protection. If you desire to be alive make friendship with him”.

Ravana turns a deaf ear to all this and threatens Mother Sita that if she fails to accept his offer within two months time she will be served as his breakfast by his cooks.

Mother Sita turns him back by turning her back towards him and tells Ravana:

"Since I do not have Sri Rama's instruction and also because I am observing penance, I am not reducing you to ashes even though you are fit to be burnt and reduced to ashes".

When the Rakshasa women torment her Mother Sita says with firmness

"Destitute or devoid of Kingdom he is my husband and my master !"

Sita and Hanuman

When Hanuman sees Mother Sita for the first time in Ashoka vana after searching for her, he feels immensely rewarded and blessed . He conjures up a mental image of Sri Rama and Mother Sita as a couple and remarks they match each other in all respects.

Hanuman says Sri Rama and Mother Sita are able to bear the pangs of separation only because Mother Sita remains enthroned in Sri Rama's heart, and He in Hers.

Noticing that Mother Sita is extremely distressed to the extent of taking her life ( aham gamishyami yamasya moolam ), Hanuman introduces himself to Mother Sita by first singing the story of Sri Rama. Intrigued Mother Sita is pleased that Hanuman is Srirama's messenger.

Seeing Mother Sita's distress Hanuman wants an immediate meeting of Sri Rama and Mother Sita, and thus he proposes to Mother Sita to ride on his back.

But Mother Sita explains to him that she cannot accept the offer for several reasons, the main reason being that it would not befit the prestige of Sri Rama to get back his abducted wife through the back-door.

Mother Sita refuses as she does not want to run away like a thief; instead she wants her husband Sri Rama to fight the battle, defeat Ravana and then take her back to Ayodhya with dignity. ( 5.37.62 )

“ It will be proper if Sri Rama comes here kills Ravana along with all his relations and takes me away”.

 Protective spirit of Mother Sita ;

In Sundarakanda Hanuman after meeting Mother Sita decides to confront Ravana and accordingly he makes his presence felt by all the citizens including Ravana. He is finally captured by Indrajit and brought into the prsence of Ravana. He advises Ravana to return Mother Janaki to Sri Rama with a note of apology or be prepared for the total destruction of his kingdom and himself.

As ordered by Ravana, the demons wrap up old rags around Hanuman's tail, pour oil to it and burn it with fire.

The demons tie Hanuman with ropes and conduct him to walk down the entire city, proclaiming to the citizens of Lanka saying that Hanuman is a spy. The female-demons inform Mother Sita about the burning of Hanuman's tail and making him move around the city by demons.

Mother Sita, worried about the safety of Hanuman, starts praying to the fire-god and invokes the blessings of the fire-god to do good to Hanuman.

“O Fire-god! If I had served my husband, if I had practiced austerity, if I had been only devoted to my husband alone you may keep Hanuman cool. O Fire god! If wise Sri Rama has some compassion for me, if there is good luck left for me, let Hanuman be cool. O Fire god! If that righteous Sri Rama thinks that I am virtuous, and that if I am longing to unite with him, let Hanuman be cool. (He should not be burnt.). O Fire god! If Sugriva who is true to his vows in war-fare is going to rescue me from this ocean of sorrow, let Hanuman be cool”.

Then the intense flame appeared to the fawn-eyed Mother Sita indicating auspiciousness and assuring safety to Hanuman and moving clockwise steadily. The wind-god who was accompanying Hanuman's tail with fire, blew cool like wind blowing from snow, this brought peace in Mother Sita's mind.

Hanuman realizes to his pleasant surprise that the fire has been kind to him by keeping his tail cool, and also feels that the blessings of Sri Rama and his own Father have also soothened the fire.

Hanuman sets fire to Lanka.

After setting fire to Lanka, Hanuman feared that Mother Sita too might have been caught in the devastating fire.

Then he thought, 'O, what have I done? What has happened to Mother Sita?'

By virtue of asceticism, truth and devotion towards her husband, she may consume the fire. Fire will not burn her.

Yes, Mother Sita was such a burning fire of Purity .

Sita's Baptism of Fire

After the end of the war, Sita is brought to the assembly of citizens of Lanka.

Sita looks intently at Sri Rama, eagerly awaiting to hear him.

Sri Rama addresses Sita, not in his role of Sita Pati (husband of Mother Sita) but as Jagat Pati (The Lord of the Universe).

Sita turns to Lakshmana, and asks him to prepare a pyre of fire for her to prove her chastity and integrity.

When Lakshmana prepares a pyre, Sita prays to the fire-god and enters into it, in order to prove her conjugal fidelity.

There upon, Mother Sita, after doing circumambulation to Sri Rama, who was standing with his head bent low, proceeded towards the blazing fire.

Having offered salutation to gods and brahmins as also having joined her palms in the vicinity of the fire, Mother Sita spoke the following words:

"As my heart never moves off from Sri Rama, so let the fire-god, the witness of the world, protect me from all sides."

"As Sri Rama apprehends me, though of unimpeachable conduct, to be spoilt, let the fire-god the witness of the world, protect me from all sides."

"As I have never been unfaithful in act, thought and speech to Sri Rama, who knows all the virtues, so let the fire-god protect me."

"Since the adorable sun-god, wind-god, the four quarters and even so the moon-god, as also the deity presiding over the day-time and the twilights and the night and the earth and even others know me to be endowed with good conduct, so let the fire-god protect me."

Thus speaking, Mother Sita walking around the fire-god, with her mind free from hesitation, entered the blazing fire.

Then the fire-god appears in person from the burning pyre, carrying Mother Sita in his arms and restores her to Sri Rama, testifying to her purity. Sri Rama later joyfully accepts her.

Then, the fire-god, the witness of the whole world, spoke to Sri Rama as follows "Here is your Sita. No sin exists in her.This auspicious lady, whose character has been good, has never been unfaithful to you, who are endowed with strength of character, either by word or by mind or even by intellect or by her glances."

God of Fire , the foremost of Gods continues.

"Take back Sita, who is sinless, with a pure character. She should not be told anything harsh. I hereby command you."

“ The salutary advice of you all, the affectionate guardians of the world, who are saying what is conducive to our good, must be certainly carried out by me."

Saying thus and getting reunited with his beloved Sita, the victorious and highly illustrious Sri Rama, a scion of Raghu dynasty, who was endowed with a great strength and deserved happiness and was being glorified by his exploits, performed by his own self, experienced joy

Sita Rama Sharanam Mama (Lord Sri Rama & Mother Sita are my refuge)

Jai Sita Ram

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Reference:

http://valmiki.iitk.ac.in/index.php?id=translation

http://www.valmikiramayan.net/