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Sita - The Silent Power of Suffering and Sacrifice

Article of the Month - March 2005
Viewed 101188 times since 2nd Oct, 2008

An ancient Indian folk song depicts a young girl describing to her father the kind of husband she wants. After narrating his various qualities, she say in the end: "Go north, go south, or get for me a groom from the east, but don't ever go westwards."

The Marriage of Sita and Rama
The Marriage of Sita and Rama

 

 

Significantly, this song belongs to the region of Mithila, where Sita, heroine of the epic Ramayana was born. More interestingly, Ayodhya, where lived her husband Rama, lies to the west of Mithila. Thus, what this lyric is effectively saying is that a girl from this region would not prefer to have a groom like Rama, which is ironical considering the fact that he is considered the 'perfect man' in the annals of Indian thought. Further, though the numerous temples in this region contain images of both Sita and Rama as a couple, they are invariably named Janaki Mandirs (Temples of Sita). Janaki being another epithet for Sita signifying that she is the daughter of king Janaka. Even today, the people of Mithila consider it inauspicious to marry off their daughters in the month of Marg-Shish, which is the season when Sita and Rama tied the knot.

 

 

 

Rama - the Ideal Man
Rama - the Ideal Man

 

 

These traditions seem less odd when we realize that people all over India will say approvingly for someone: "He is a Rama like son, a Rama like brother, or a Rama like king. " It is rare however to hear the following as a compliment "Rama like husband or son-in-law."

Intriguing as this phenomena is, the reasons for this all-pervasive sentiment are readily understood when we recall the life adventures of this couple. As is well known Rama, even though he was its rightful heir, abdicated the royal throne in favor of one of his younger brothers. In addition, he was banished to the forest for fourteen years by his stepmother. Sita, the devoted wife that she was, also accompanied him to his exile. Later, a demon named Ravana carried her away forcefully and it was only after a fierce war that Rama could regain his virtuous wife. Before accepting her as his queen again however, he asked Sita to publicly prove her chastity, witnessed by all those present in the battlefield.

 

 

 

Sita and Rama in Exile
Sita and Rama in Exile

 

Thus it is obvious that Sita's trials did not end with her liberation from the demon's captivity. All versions of the Ramayana are unanimous in reiterating her fidelity and devotion towards Rama even in times of extreme adversity. For example, when the hero is preparing to go to exile in the forest all alone, she addresses him thus: "O son of an illustrious monarch, a father, a mother, a brother, a son or a daughter-in-law, all enjoy the fruit of their merits and receive what is their due. It is only the wife who actually shares the fortunes of her husband. When you depart this day for the dense forests which are difficult to penetrate, I shall walk ahead of you crushing under my feet, all the thorns that lie on your way." This is just one of the many expressions Sita used to convince Rama to take her with him. She considered it her privilege to share in his misfortune and suffered the consequent trials and tribulations in equal measure throughout their sojourn in the forest. However, being exiled in the forests was the least of her troubles.

In fact, not even her kidnapping by Ravana could break Sita' immense will-power, constantly nourished as it was by the memory of her beloved Rama. Ravana too, fearing the accumulated merits of a chaste woman did not dare touch her; he nevertheless did try to make advances. What was Sita's reaction to his overtures? The great sage poet Valmiki (author of Ramayana), has captured her wretched condition vividly, through a series of inspired metaphors. For example, on viewing Ravana: "She seemed like a flame wreathed in smoke; a great fame which had dimmed; a lotus pool stripped of its blossoms; like Rohini pursued by Ketu (a metaphor for the eclipsed moon); a traditional text obscured by a dubious interpretation; a faith that has been betrayed; an order that has been flouted; a hope which has been frustrated and an understanding that has grown feeble."

Hanuman Presents Rama's Ring to Sita at Ashoka-vatika
Hanuman Presents Rama's Ring to Sita at Ashoka-vatika

Witnessing her appearance, Hanuman, the loyal monkey ally of Rama says: "For a woman the greatest decoration is her lord and Sita, though incomparably beautiful, no longer shines in Rama's absence."

Although her physical beauty undoubtedly dims on account of the enforced separation; she keeps her mind fixed upon Rama, and thus radiates with an inner beauty as a result of this steadfastness. "Though that blessed one was shorn of her own beauty, yet her own soul did not lose its transcendency, upheld as it was by the thought of Rama's glory and safeguarded by her own virtue." Truly she remained chaste in both thought and deed and the various recensions of the epic recall episodes where even the mighty Ravana had to bow before Sita's piety. Once for example, when the demon approached her, she placed a single strand of straw in between them and challenged him to cross the "proverbial last straw." Predictably he did not dare to do so. He knew that the chastity of a virtuous woman was like a fire that could reduce to ashes anyone who tried to violate her against her will.

All of Sita's miseries in the confinement of Ravana pale in comparison however to the emotional trauma and humiliation she was subjected to by Rama himself. In a bitter irony, what was to be her moment of deliverance, turned out to be the beginning of another trial.

Abduction of Sita by Ravana
Abduction of Sita by Ravana

Standing before him, her eyes raised expectantly to his face, the innocent Sita wept, overwhelmed at the prospect of a joyful reunion with her consort after his victory over Ravana. The latter however remained formal and aloof and set out to articulate his heartfelt thoughts (hrdyaantargatam bhavam): "Today I have avenged the insult to my honor and fulfilled my promise. You stand unabashed before me, even though suspicion has arisen with regard to your character. Today you seem extremely disagreeable to me even as a light to one who is suffering from sore eyes. Therefore go wherever you like, O Janaka's daughter, the ten directions are open to you today. What man born in a noble family would take back with an eager mind a woman who has dwelt in another's house, simply because she has been kindly disposed towards him in the past? How can I accept you, who were squeezed into the arms of Ravana while being borne away by him and who regarded you with a lustful eye? There is no more attachment for you in my heart. You may therefore go wherever you like."

Harsh words indeed, which pierced Sita's tender heart like arrows tipped with poison and shrinking within herself, the sensitive lady shed profuse tears, saying: "I was helpless when I came into the contact of Ravana and did not act of my own free will on that occasion. My adverse fate alone is to blame on that score. That which is under my control, viz., my heart, eternally does it abide in you."

The South Indian Ramayana, authored by Kamban, sums up her situation graphically:

Like a deer
on the point of death,
tortured by terrible thirst
in the middle of a desert
who sees a lake
just beyond reach,
she grieved at the barrier
that rose before her.

Addressing her brother-in law Lakshmana, she says: "Raise for me a pyre, which is the only antidote against this calamity. I no longer desire to survive, smitten as I am with false reproaches." Lakshmana looked at his brother, half-expecting him to put an end to this bewildering public spectacle. Scrutinizing his elder sibling's expression, Lakshmana realized, to his horror, that this was exactly what Rama expected.

Not one of the assembled warriors, who just moments before had proved their mettle in the battlefield, had the courage to dare open his/her mouth opposing the grave injustice being perpetrated. The obedient Lakshmana set out to prepare the pyre. As a mark of respect, Sita circumambulated Rama, who, as the ancient texts put it - stood with his head bent low. As she approached the blazing fires, the world went into a crisis: the immortal gods and living beings, the cosmic elements, the four Vedas and Dharma, all cried out in horror. Then:

As if she were going home
to her place on the lotus
that rises up from the flooding waters,
she jumped in;
and as she entered, that fire was scorched
by her burning faithfulness.

Goddess Lakshmi
Goddess Lakshmi

 

 

 

 

 

The lotus here refers to Sita being an incarnation of the great goddess Lakshmi, who is typically associated with this auspicious flower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ravana Fails to Win Over Sita at Ashoka Vatika, Lanka City
Ravana Fails to Win Over Sita at Ashoka Vatika, Lanka City

 

Here, to highlight the extremely pure bearing of Sita, the poet has innovatively depicted the moment as being one of an excruciating, fiery torment. Fire is burnt by the heat Sita holds within herself; generated by a lifetime of chastity, self control, faithfulness, suffering and sacrifice, which are represented here not as abstract ethical virtues but rather as part of the substantial and dynamic reality that suffuses the inner being of a faultless woman like Sita. It was this same heat that had earlier terrified Ravana against coming near her.

 

Her trial-by-fire is portrayed evocatively in the ancient texts and she not only emerges unsinged, but also manages to scorch the god of fire (Agni) himself, who, according to Kamban, screams out in pain and protest. Lifting Sita in his hands, Agni points out that the beads of perspiration formed on her body due to anger directed at her husband were not dried up by his flames while the flowers she wore in her hair still continued to bloom as freshly as ever. Sita's accumulated spiritual force of concentrated energy (tapas) proved too much for even the fire-god, who emerged saying: "I had to materialize because I could not bear the blazing fire of faithfulness in this woman."

He also asks Rama:

Didn't you hear
when the gods and sages
and all that moves and is still
in the three worlds
screamed, as they struck their eyes?
Have you abandoned Dharma
and resorted to misery instead?

Will rain fall,
will the earth bear its burden
without splitting in two,
will Dharma go the right way,
or can this universe survive
if she becomes enraged?
if she utters a curse,
even Brahma on his lotus will die.

Sita's Fire Ordeal
Sita's Fire Ordeal

Rama is overjoyed at the developments and the public display of his wife's unblemished character: "Sita undoubtedly needed this purificatory ordeal in the eyes of the people inasmuch as this blessed lady had lived for a long time in Ravana's confinement. The world would have murmured against me saying that my mind was so dominated by lust that I actually accepted the daughter of Janaka without proving her chastity. I too knew Sita to be undivided in her affection to me. Ravana couldn't violate her, protected as she was by her own moral power. In order, however, to convince the inhabitants of the three worlds, I ignored Sita even while she was entering the fire. She is as inseparable from me as sunlight from the sun."

That Sita herself volunteered for the agni-pariksha speaks for the high volume of understanding between the couple since she understood Rama's wish without him explicitly stating it. Her action was not a surrender to the unreasonable whims of a husband rather a supreme act of defiance that challenged the aspersions cast on her, by the means of which she highlighted the superficiality of his doubts, so that even the gods had to materialize and point out the apparent fallacy in the indignity he had so unceremoniously cast on her. She emerges as a woman that even Agni - who has the power to reduce to ashes everything he touches - dare not touch or harm. Eminent Indian poetess Bina Agarwal has pulled no punches while narrating Sita's dual victimization:

With your husband you chose exile:
suffered privation, abduction,
then the rejection -
the chastity test on scorching flames,
the victim twice victimized.
Could those flames turn to flowers
without searing the soul?
they say you, devoted wife,
questioned him not
and let him have his way.

The Desertion of Sita

Ram Durbar
Ram Durbar

Thus reconciled, the contended couple repaired back to Ayodhya and Rama continued to rule as an ideal monarch over his extensive rein.

More misfortune however was in store for Sita. No sooner had the couple settled down than rumors started in the capital questioning the propriety of having a queen who had spent a year in a villain's captivity, putting her chastity under doubt. Surprisingly for a clear-headed individual, Rama took these allegations to heart and asked his younger brother Lakshmana to banish Sita (this time alone), to the forests. Rama did this even though he was well aware that his wife was well advanced into the family way.

Thus Lakshmana carried Sita the next morning, on the pretext of visiting the hermitage of a sage, to the forests. The unknowing, innocent lady cheerfully boarded the chariot. Little did she know what travails lay in store for her. Once they reached the wilderness, her brother-in-law informed her thus: " You have been forsaken by the king who is afraid of the ill-report circulating among his citizens. You are to be left near this hermitage by me."

Hearing these cruel words the crestfallen Sita fell swooning to the ground. However, it was not long before the valiant lady composed herself and addressed him thus: "This mortal frame of mine was indeed composed by the creator for bearing sorrow only. What sin was committed by me, that though being of good conduct, I should be forsaken by the king? I cannot give up my life since I carry within myself the seed which will carry forward the lineage of my lord. Do then as you are ordered O son of Sumitra (Lakshmana's mother), forsake me the miserable one, obey the orders of the king, but do tell him this on my behalf: If to preserve your good name among your people, I must be sacrificed, I am content to let it be so. As you serve your subjects, so I serve you."

Rama and Family (Rama, Sita and Lakshmana)
Rama and Family
(Rama, Sita and Lakshmana)

One jarring feature of this whole episode is the role of Lakshmana who is often deified not only as the ideal brother, but also the perfect brother-in-law.

He was known to vent his quick temper whenever he perceived an injustice being perpetrated. In fact when, against the norms of natural justice, Rama was exiled for fourteen years, Lakshmana advised his elder brother to take up arms against their father's decision and seize what was rightfully his by force. Yet when this grave impropriety was being committed on Sita, he was silent, why? In the immortal words of Bina Agarwal:

Your brother-in-law,
so quick to anger
on his brother's behalf, left you,
mother-to-be,
alone in the dark forest,
exiled again.
His brother's command!
some citizen's demand!
was injustice to you
not worthy of his anger?
you, loving sister-in-law,
bore this too is silence
and let him go away.

Sita - The First Single Mother in the World

Sita with her two sons - Luva and Kasha
Sita with her two sons - Luva and Kusha

Thus abandoned, Sita gave birth to twin sons in the wilderness and brought them up all alone, without the protective presence of a father, hence becoming the first single parent in history.

When these worthy sons entered their teens, tales of their valor spread far and wide, and it was not long before Rama realized that they were his own offspring. This knowledge prompted him to immediately call his beloved Sita and the two boys to his court. In front of the assembled subjects, tributary kings, ministers and merchants from all parts of his empire, he asked her to undertake the fire ordeal again for the benefit of these venerable gentlemen, who had missed the earlier spectacle in Lanka.

Sita's reaction however was different from that earlier occasion. The emotional scar had obviously not healed. This time she did not ask her brother-in-law to prepare a funeral pyre for her. Nor did she circumambulate her husband in meek submission. Rather, with folded hands, she merely uttered the following words: "If I have remained true to Rama in mind, speech and action, may the Mother Earth embrace me in her bosom." No sooner had she spoken than the ground beneath her feet split wide open, and before anybody had the time to react, she entered the depths. A dejected and helpless Rama was engulfed in grief. Thus did end the exemplary life of Sita, with fate pursuing her to the bitter end.

In the televised version of the Ramayana, shown in serialized form on Indian television, the Earth Goddess is shown emerging from the ground seated on a bejeweled throne. Spreading out her arms she beckons Sita saying: "Come my child, this world is not worthy of you." Sita does as she is told, leaving behind her, the lamenting assembly.

Sita as Janaki
Sita as Janaki

It is interesting to connect the above episode with the fact that Sita was not only metaphorically (as all woman are), the daughter of the earth, but also literally so, since she had not materialized out of the human womb in the 'normal' manner, rather, she had been found by her father, king Janaka, when he was tilling the fields with a golden plough in fulfillment of a sacred ritual. This is also the reason why the people of Mithila (the place where she was so 'discovered') think of her as the daughter of the whole village because, if Janaka had not ploughed the grounds that day, someone else from the region would have definitely found her and thus she would have become that person's daughter.

Sita's appeal to Mother Earth to reclaim her was not the helpless reaction of slighted woman. It was a spirited, self-effacing statement of protest, when things went beyond endurance. For those of us living in this technologically advanced modern age, Sita's message is extremely significant. As we continue to assail the earth, taking her for granted, she is bound to someday lose patience and cleave open her chest in trepidation, leading to goddess knows what calamity.

Did Rama Really Doubt Her Chastity?

Rama's conduct vis-a-vis Sita leaves many questions unanswered. The most significant is of course whether he really doubted her fidelity. Even if we disregard the traditional sentiment believing otherwise, there is a strong logical basis supporting the conventional view:

1). Some time after he abandoned her, Rama decided to perform the horse sacrifice (ashvamedha yagya) which is the highest ritual a king can strive to. There was a technical snag however. Of the hundreds of ceremonies a Hindu has to perform, not one can be performed without a wife. Therefore many in Rama's retinue suggested that he remarry. A suggestion he firmly rejected: "In the heart of Rama there is place for only one woman and that one is Sita." He therefore had a golden image of his wife made and completed the sacrifice. Would anyone thus give his wife a position of such supreme respect if he doubted her chastity?

2). After the vanquish of Ravana, when she was first brought into his presence, Rama compared Sita to a "light," which was hurting his "sore eyes." Thus it is his vision, which finds defect in the bearing of the noble lady, that is at fault, and not the "light" itself, whose natural function is but to illuminate.

3). On the same occasion, before entering the fire, Sita circled Rama clockwise, in respectful homage. What was Rama's reaction during her circulation? Well, he kept his head down (adhomukham). Is this not a gesture of self-indictment and contradiction? The ostracized victim is boldly performing what she has set out to do, while her accuser stands with a hung head.

Lord Rama and Mahatma Gandhi: A Shared Obsession

According to Shastri Panduran V. Athavale, a noted social reformer, "It was not Rama who abandoned Sita; in reality it was the king who abandoned his queen. In the effective performance of his duty, he had to choose between a family and the nation. Rama sacrificed his personal happiness for the 'larger' national interest."

In other words, Rama wanted to set a standard, a stainless example for his subjects and followers to look up to. The psychological havoc it may have wreaked on those dependent emotionally on him was of no consequence whatsoever. Thus often does the immediate family of a reformer suffer even though the nation as a collective may gain substantially. Mahatma Gandhi says in his article 'The Law of Suffering,' "Progress is to be measured in terms of the suffering undergone by the sufferer. The purer the suffering, the greater is the progress. Hence did the sacrifice of Jesus suffice to free a sorrowing world. In his onward march he did not count the cost of suffering entailed upon his neighbors, whether it was undergone by them voluntarily or otherwise."

The Mahatma in the Making (With His Better Half (c.a. 1913))
The Mahatma in the Making
(With His Better Half (c.a. 1913))

Recall in this context the Mahatma's own neglect of his children, and his imposition of a strict disciplinarian regime on his wife in a drastic manner without preparing her slowly and steadily like he did the entire nation. This is but another instance of the better half being taken for granted, being treated as another experiment in the moral evolution of humanity rather than as a free-minded individual who could have a viewpoint of her own. Likewise Rama never cared to personally explain anything to his wife; he knew she would understand. These virtuous ladies suffered in silence. What did Kasturba Gandhi as a mother, as a woman, gain out of the high moral pedestal her husband bagged for himself? Her children lacked the presence of a simple, loving father whom they could look up to in an ordinary way. Indeed, it is their 'extraordinariness,' that often distances the path-breaking revolutionaries like Rama and Gandhi from their children who have their own normal, 'selfish aspirations.' In such circumstances a rebellion definitely brews beneath the placid surface. It culminates into the supreme sacrifice of Sita leaving a distraught Rama behind, or it may find expression in objectionable actions (as those of one of the Mahatma's sons), whose sole aim is to bring grief to the 'larger than life' parent. In either case it is the woman of the house who pays the heaviest price. It must be realized here that engrossed in this program of social reform, stress is placed not only on merely being fair, but equally important is to appear to be 'fair' and 'impartial,' and being theoretically rigid in setting high standards for their own families while being practical and flexible when applying these same principles to the general populace. However, it must go to the credit of both of them they set an equally, if not sterner, moral regime for themselves.

Conclusion: Who is Greater? Rama or Sita?

Sri Sita Ram
Sri Sita Ram

Sita sets a high standard as an ideal wife who stays unswerving in her loyalty and righteousness, no matter how undesirable her husband's response. Her refusal to perform a second agnipraiksha and her consequent reversion to mother earth is not merely an act of self-annihilation. It is a momentous and dignified rejection of Rama as a husband. Truly Rama may have deselected her as his queen in deference to social opinion, but it is Sita who rejects him in a personal sense as a husband. By this act does she emerge supremely triumphant. If the defining scale for quantifying greatness is the amount of suffering one has undergone, it is undoubtedly Sita who is the clear winner. It is her dignified tolerance (sahan-shilta) and self-effacing silence, which may even be termed as weakness by many, that turns out to be her ultimate emotional strength, far valorous than any assertive aggression. Rightly therefore does her name always precede that of Rama (as in Sita-Ram or Jai Siya-Ram).

In the words of Swami Vivekananda, " There may have been several Ramas, perhaps, but only one Sita."

 


References and Further Reading

  • Gandhi, Mahatma. The Collected Works (Vol. 20): New Delhi, 2000.
  • Grimes, John. A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy (Sanskrit - English): University of Madras, 1988.
  • Hawley, John Stratton and Donna Marie Wulff: The Divine Consort (Radha and the Goddesses of India): Delhi, 1995.
  • Kakar, Sudhir: The Essential Writings: New Delhi, 2002.
  • Kinsley, David. The Goddesses' Mirror Visions of the Divine from East and West: Delhi, 1995.
  • Richman, Paula (ed). Questioning Ramayanas: New Delhi, 2003.
  • Richman, Paula (ed). Many Ramayanas The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia: New Delhi, 2001.
  • Sastri, The Rt. Hon. V.S. Srinivasa Sastri. Lectures on the Ramayana: Madras, 1986.
  • Srimad Valmiki-Ramayana (2 vols. With Sanskrit Text and English Translation): Gorakhpur, 2001.
  • Vatsyayan, Sacchidanand. Jan Janak Janaki (Hindi): Delhi.
  • Vivekananda, Swami. The Complete Works (Vols 3, 4 & 6): Kolkata, 2003.
  • Wolpert, Stanley. Gandhi's Passion: New York, 2001.
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  • Dear Noor,
    Look not with 21st century eyes at Sita. You are selectively believing some things and rejecting other things according to your conditioning and conveniencem and this is what MF Hussain also did...
    This great epic happened in a yuga when a completely different mindset and a completely different spiritual culture was prevailing and it's sometimes hard for us Kali Yugis to understand all this...

    Just like the elements protected Sita when she jumped in the fire, the same heat protected her when Ravana tried to approach her. Also, Ravana was a Shiv bhakt, and that also helped in controlling him...
    by Om on 12th Jul 2010
  • a very useful and clarifying source. Sita was indeed mahaan. I believe people still feel aggrieved about her treatment, even the land is a hotbed of injustice today, just look at the curse that is upon Ayodhya, surely this is Sita's curse. The poorer Shri Rama is considered as a husband, the greater the dutiful king, just look at what the Queen of England has had to sacriface for her sense of duty.
    by ravi on 19th Aug 2009
  • How wonderful the story of Ramayan could be re-interpret again..I myself named after Sita Devi and not by design having a serious relationship now with a guy named Rama.
    I have been falling in love with the Ramayan story since a child and this writing of yours is very much indeed inspiring and enlightened me with Sita's true wisdom..
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts with us,,
    by Sita uma on 12th Dec 2008
  • This article inspired a school project. The information was very informative-- nothing was missing. Thank you so much for providing this article for students like myself.
    by Kat on 4th Dec 2008
  • Great article and analysis by the authors! Thank you very much - excellent portrayal of Sita - its very meaningful that she deserted Rama and not the other way around.
    by Charu T on 10th May 2008
  • I love Sita Devi so much! Thanks so much for this beautiful article on Her life!
    by Jai Sita-Ram! :) on 3rd Apr 2008
  • I have seen the Ramayana seriel in DD channel when I was growing. But only now I have read such an engraved small version of Ramayana. There may be any number of Ramayana, but we as a human have to follow only the truth to live in World. Laws are to be discussed and followed, but truth (Religion) should be felt and not to be discussed. Jai Ram, Jai Sita...
    by Sreebalakumar on 28th Oct 2007
  • I have been having a stressful week at work and everything was going wrong after reading this powerful artical I was mezmerized and all my stress melted away
    by Ria Shah on 28th Oct 2007
  • What a great retell about a story that has been passed down for generatoins.

    I have read the ramayan in 2 different ways and have heard 25 retells on it never have I heard such wonderful writen words
    by Mia Pandyaa on 28th Oct 2007
  • A GOOD ARTICLE ....realy its wonderfull
    by Raghavendra Lolla on 3rd Aug 2006
  • Lets consider reality for a moment:
    Lets say a beautiful woman stays is kidnapped by a lustful man and stays with him for a long period of time.
    Is it possible by any stretch of imagination that she did not have nay sexual contact with him ?
    I think Ravana must have ravished Sita ; not only him but also his male relatives and other countrymen.
    by noor on 31st Jul 2006
  • I very much enjoyed this beautiful article. Though, i had heard a addition to this tale: when lakshman questions ram as to why he was not sent to receive his sister-in-law, ram replies that a fire has to be prepared as we have to take back sita from the fire-god. To clarify his statement, ram tells his bro that he had previous knowledge of sita's kidnapping before the actual incident and hence had asked her to take refuge with the fire-god. And sita did so leaving behind a shadow of hers. Hence no one knew about it and ram was forced to create the whole agni-pariksha episode to cover up his true divine identity. I am not sure how far this is true, but it makes sense to me.
    by Akshaya on 2nd Mar 2006
  • I personally would like to know what example Ram set, as described by the author,

    "In other words, Rama wanted to set a standard, a stainless example for his subjects and followers to look up to."

    What is this so-called "standard" - that victims of the crime of kidnapping have no rights? I don't get it.
    by Sita kinkari on 7th Aug 2005
  • As with Yudhisthira's overwhelming adherence to the pure road to the next life as Nirvana (i.e. self-extinction in the soul), Ram fails to see that acceptance of things beyond our control and / or knowledge of certainty is often the higher road. Sita's self-sacrifice, a reflection of that by Sati in the face of her father's view that Shiva's act of violence had attainted her, too, is only valid because she was the goddess incarnate and her cause of the highest moral ground. Many women have been encouraged to emulate her example on lesser grounds, sometimes positively shamelessly abusive onees, with probably dire consequences in both this world and the next incarnation for both the suttee and the man who was its cause.
    by Ian Ison on 24th Apr 2005
  • Very well narrated article on the Ramayana. Beautiful depiction of mother Sita's patience in life and devotion to her husband. Well written about Sri Rama's role, actions to uphold dharma while sacrificing a lot. Thank you for illuminating our minds in these times on earth where dharma is hard to preserve.
    by chandni on 14th Apr 2005
  • What a wonderful narration. I was mesmerized. Thank you for making my day.
    by Ruthie on 18th Mar 2005
  • Thank you for such a detailed revelation of Sitaji's life.
    by Sameer Roy on 18th Mar 2005
  • What a well-written comprehensive retelling of an old traditional tale - quite inspiring!

    I am a writer with a special interest in symbolism amd metaphysics; also an artist, and so find pleasure in the lovely words and images you present to people. Many in the West have little understanding of Asian life and thought, or of the iconography of the different spiritual systems - you do something to dispell this ignorance.

    Thank you.
    by Rochelle on 17th Mar 2005
  • Thoroughly enjoyed the Sita and Rama article. I found especial interest in Sita's engulfment by mother earth, what a beautiful tale. Thank you for sharing!

    Namaste.
    by Jennifer on 17th Mar 2005
  • I am enjoying reading your last article, "The Silent Power of Suffering." It is an interesting interpretation and is giving me something to think about in this regards...that what seems like powerlessness is actually a manifestation of power.

    My Goddess group met last week and we honored Dhumavati. Such tenderness was evoked through her suffering and her strength was revealed to us. WE were all surprised to find ourselves bathed in love..a paradox considering her quarrelsome, obsteterous nature. WE created through Her an alter of roses past their prime with an exquisite beauty all their own even in decay..an altar sparse, but subtle and powerful. In the middle we had a picture from your gallery of Dhumavati dressed in white, her hair loose, riding her chariot. Do you recall this image? WE all expressed gratitude to you for sending Her to us in this way. WE never plan our altar or even what Mahavidya will visit us, but it magically unfolds. WE have been meeting like this once a month for the past five years. What a journey it is!
    by Kaila on 17th Mar 2005
  • Your articles have kept me spellbound with details beyond being merely informative; "class act" readings of a high caliber. Thank you very much.
    by IDHO Falconmyst on 17th Mar 2005
  • Thank you for that 'story' and your work to provide the wisdom of India.

    But it was a former world that needed ideal monarchs to teach the "populace" how to progress in a hopeless history... but hence it has nothing more to do with the Dharma to sacrifice ones happiness for a "larger national interest" and to turn this earth from a battelfield to a graveyard where we (the searcher for trouth) can still find all these "stainless examples" for the brain and heartless subjects and followers of mad-going gods.

    And is it realy a historical truth that "the sacrifice of (a) Jesus sufficice to free a sorrowing world?...

    Well, I hope to meet Sita on the dark side of that 'supremely triumpant' reason of a politicaly correct act for a 'larger' interest than the happiness of a wo-MAN…
    by Pete ORE on 16th Mar 2005
  • Excellent article on Sita Ram. I appreciate all the energy you put into these mailings.

    Satchitananda
    by Kathy Rabold on 15th Mar 2005
  • Thanks for a wonderful article. I have thoroughly enjoyed all your monthly newsletters and will continue to lookforward to reading them each month - Meera
    by Meera on 15th Mar 2005
  • Thank You Nitin !!
    by Wim Borsboom on 15th Mar 2005
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"Actually, the one who worships Bhagwan Vishnu should get rich and the one who worships Shiva should become an avadhuta like Him…. Then he works hard again to acquire wealth. I render all his efforts futile…. However, Bhagawan Vishnu is not like that, it takes longer to please Him…. As a consequence, they later harassed the great God Himself…. On the seventh day, he bathed in the holy waters of Kedarnath and began to cut his head with an axe to offer into the fire…. The boy bowed respectfully before the demon and asked…. No one who commits sin against a great person can be safe and happy in this world."
Shiva and Vishnu: A Unique Aspect of Their Worship
"Here is a fragment from one of the most poignant episodes of Indian history…. This piece of history is from the Mahabharata…. She was dying with shame but inside, like a true kshatrani (woman of the warrior race), she was burning with anger…. I have heard that women who follow dharma were never brought before a public court….Greed is the destroyer of dharma. I do not desire a third boon…. Draupadi was as forgiving as mother earth herself…. Just then Arjuna saw his dear friend Bhagawan Krishna approaching him…. “Leave him, leave him. He is a brahmin and worthy of our worship. Their mother should not cry, like I have at the death of my children."
Analyzing the Eternal Dimensions of Dharma Through Itihasa (History)
"She has always believed that this would redeem her of her distress….A coconut, otherwise an ordinary dried fruit or the source of edible, or at the most, beauty oil, has always been revered as an auspicious object effecting good and well-being and the food that gods most loved….The tree in the Buddhist tradition was later identified as Bodhi-tree, seated under which Buddha had attained Enlightenment….Body gestures and symptoms, signs, indications among others must have been the early man’s tools of communicating oneself and knowing and understanding the world around….Kirttimukha was initially conceived as a mystical mask….Lion does not figure in the wide range of animal toys or figurines excavated from Indus sites."
Auspicious Symbols in Indian tradition
"The Bhagavad Gita, while describing the qualities of a wise person says…. This verse is vividly illustrated in the story of king Rantideva occurring in the Srimad Bhagavatam…. He did not believe in hoarding, was above all attachments and was highly patient…. They were all trembling due to starvation and thirst….bowed to the dogs and their owner…. What I want is only this: That I be able to go and live in the hearts of all beings and undergo sufferings on their behalf, so that they may become free from all miseries."
An Example of Living Vedanta: The Story of King Rantideva
"The primary thrust in the Mahabharata is to teach us the nuances of dharma through the poignant love story…. I have full control over my mind, even then it is attracted towards you…. You think you are alone with your own self. But don’t you know that the all-knowing God dwells in every heart…. Those who have wives are the ones who have Lakshmi…. I tell you that truth is equal to studying all the Vedas and bathing in all the pilgrimages…. The immortal dialogue between Shakuntala and her husband is one of the greatest…."
Narrating Dharma - Story of Shakuntala in the Mahabharata
"Vyasa Ji explained through a story how it came to be that the Pandava's marriage with a single wife was in conformity with dharma….The gods, along with their king Indra, were sitting on the bank of a river when they saw a beautiful golden lotus floating on its waters…. Both were playing a game of dice…. On hearing Shiva’s words, Indra started shaking with fear… Without death, the burden on the earth becomes too much…. Her birth had the sanction of all the three Gods - Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu."
Devi Draupadi: Resolving the Paradox
"This middle path lies in between extreme asceticism on one side, and extreme indulgence on the other…. When standing under a Ashok tree, tired and exhausted, she raised her right hand for seeking support of a branch of the tree…. The unique balance that defined his entire life was pre-determined in this duality….One day, in the palace garden he frightened his attendants…. He ate less and less till his diet reduced to a sesame seed, and himself, to a mere skeleton…. Seven days after the attainment of enlightenment gods sent food for breaking his fast…. However, he postponed his ‘nirvana’ for three months till he visited the places he had reminiscences of."
The Light That Enlightened Millions
(The life of Buddha in the popular mind)
"Who would not satisfy his wife who is but his better half?…. Later, he took a bath, performed pranayama and meditating silently on the pure, eternal light, repeated internally the Gayatri Mantra…. Once it so happened that goddess Lakshmi was out of Vaikuntha…. Despite being older, they always maintain the appearance of five-year olds…. Seeing the great saints he welcomed them with reverence…. It is never for one single purpose but to fulfil many functions at the same time…. He ensured for them a glorious death."
God’s Lila, Understanding the Collective Impact of Avatara
"Only a certain fraction of this karma is chosen by God in order to form the blueprint of our next birth…. The fruit that one experiences in this birth is due to prarabdha and a portion of the present agami…. Similarly, a fish in the Ganga does not accrue punya because of always living in Ganga…. A good karma can be annulled by a bad karma and a bad one by a good one…. Sometimes we also hear that prarabdha cannot be got rid of. It has to be spent through…. Bhagawan Vyasa says that for the full result of the karma to manifest, three things are necessary…. Then how to understand the statement that prarabdha should unavoidably be experienced?"
Theory and Practice of Karma: Some Salient Features
"Once as he was engaged in puja, a saint came to visit him….Like a true householder attached to his family, Gajendra sported in the water with his wives, children and friends…. Understanding that his end was imminent, they all slowly withdrew, till Gajendra was left alone…. If we reflect on it calmly, we will realise that there is no house in the world where the story of Gajendra does not play out…. The one who is careful towards the end is able to reform his death…. Gajendra’s hymn of praise is one of the greatest philosophical poems in the annals of world literature."
Moksha of Gajendra: Liberation by The Formless God
"We assume that our happiness is the result of an interaction with external objects…. Suppose that an individual is deprived of sleep and food and pleasurable objects for a long time and then all of them are simultaneously offered to him…. Actually, seeking the answer to this question is the most significant pursuit in life…. The veil comes up again and the duality returns…. In this background, we can now analyse the nature of dukha (grief)."
Ananda: Understanding the True Nature of Happiness
"It concedes that for an orderly social life a division into four groups based on the principle of varnadharma is necessary…. Each individual sometimes acts in a sattvika manner while at other times he may act in rajasic or tamasic manner, which means that the manifestation of a particular guna depends on circumstances…. Though all the three gunas are present in everyone, different persons are driven to act differently…. The karma that I have to perform should depend on my inherent gunas and should have the ability to regulate these gunas…. There is no instant transition to moksha…. An individual has to make his way towards moksha only through worldly life."
Varnashrama Dharma: A Logical View
"But to pull this statement out of context and give it as an advice for anyone is far from correct…. But how is one to recognise the guru? Obviously, he will be able to understand the difficulties of the disciples and clarify to them the meaning of the scriptures on the basis of logic and experience…. They will have to search in their own neighbourhood only….The guru chosen by him should be at least better than himself!…. Of course, if the ideal guru whose features have been enumerated in the beginning is available, then the sadhaka should immediately go and surrender to him…. It is just like going to another teacher for higher education, after completing the education in a school."
The Qualities of a Guru and How to Find One
"Whenever he gets the time, he should go and live amongst people who have given up worldly life…. A wise person should serve his body and family only to the extent that is functionally necessary…. The person who lays claim on the surplus wealth is nothing but a thief…. He should share all objects of enjoyment with everyone, right down to dogs, sinners…. Such is the attachment to one’s wife….How despicable is this body, which if buried is going to become the food of worms, or excreta if eaten by animals….Since a son is to thus revere his elders even after their death, what to say that he is expected to serve them when they are alive…. The person wishing to follow the path of dharma should steer clear of the five forms of Adharma."
Narada Teaches Yuddhishtra a Householder’s Dharma
"During one such sacrifice, nine spiritually charged men entered the sacrificial hall….As for Bhagavat Dharma, it is the dharma spoken by God directly from his own mouth…. Like a person eating food finds himself gratified simultaneously in three ways…. We are all constantly taught by spiritual texts to offer or dedicate all our actions to God. However, the question remains as to how to practically carry out this injunction…..The only fruit of wealth is dharma... Therefore, there is no need for the Vedas to enjoin us to these things for which we already have a tendency….The real intention of the Vedic injunctions in these matters is to make a person abstain from them…”
Nine Teachings from Nine Yogis: The Essence of Bhagavat Dharma
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