Myths and Legends of India: Sita’s Rejection

Found another tale for you, if interested, from Myths and Legends of India found on Pg 52 – 54: Sita’s Rejection

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“The famous story of Rama and Sita did not end with the rescue of Sita from the demon-king Ravana, and their triumphant return to Rama’s kingdom of Ayodhya. Sita was soon pregnant there, and they should have lived in happiness and Contentment for the rest of their days, had not Rama been suddenly stricken with doubts about his perfectly chaste and loyal wife.

“One day Rama was walking through the streets of Ayodhya with a small retinue, observing the lives of his subjects. He suddenly saw a woman being turned out of her house by her husband. The man had grabbed her arms and was pushing her roughly, saying: ‘What were you up to, visiting that house alone? If you want to bring scandal on yourself, make your way in the world alone. There’ll be no place for you in my house, as my wife!’

“The woman was weeping and saying, ‘Even King Rama didn’t abandon his wife, though she dwelt for many months in the place of a Rakshasa, whose sole purpose is rape! All I did was visit the house of a relative. What on earth is scandalous and suspicious about that?’

“Then she added, with bitter irony, ‘I suppose you think you are better than King Rama, with even stricter moral standards!’

For some reason – perhaps because of a streak of naivety in his goodness – Rama didn’t understand her irony, and instead was overcome with shame at the thought of being morally inferior to the townsman he was observing, and with dread that a scandalous construction might be put on Sita’s pregnancy. It was true – Sita had been at Ravana’s mercy for many months. How could he be certain she had managed to preserve her chastity? And now that he was a king again – no longer living in the forest – he couldn’t run the risk of gossip and scandal.

“So, with cruelty that was quite uncharacteristic of him, he cast her out, as ruthlessly as the townsman had thrown out his wife. And Sita found herself wandering through the forest again, but this time without Rama or Lakshmana to protect her.

“Heavily pregnant, she reached the hermitage of the sage Valmiki, the celebrated author of Ramayana. The other sages who lived there were highly suspicious of her: they assumed she must indeed have been defiled by Ravana, for how else could the noble Rama have abandoned her, after all the travails of her loss and her rescue from the Rakshasas? They feared that even to look at her would pollute them forever. It was all right for Valmiki himself: he was a great sage, and had such powers of asceticism and compassion that no pollution could attach itself to him. But they were no way near his equal, and they decided they had best get out of the hermitage as fast as possible.

“Just as they were leaving, Valmiki said, ‘Brahmins, you need not worry. I know by the power of my meditation that Sita is chaste, and Rama has misjudged her cruelly.’ When they still looked doubtful, Sita herself said, ‘Your great guru is right: I am chaste, and have never swerved froom my husband. Set any test you like to prove my purity. If I fail it, let me be punished by having my head cut off.’

“Then the Brahmins said, ‘Well, there is a lake near here called Tithibhasaras, named after a chaste lady called Tithibi, whose husband had wrongly accused her of infidelity. When she was abandoned by him, she praed to the earth-goddess, and the lake rose up as a sign of Earth’s vindication of her. Perhaps you should go there, and pray to Earth for a similar sign.’

“Sita agreed to this, and she went to the lake, knelt by its shore and prayed to Earth with the words: ‘O sovereign mother, let me walk into this water, drowning in the middle if I was ever unfaithful to my husband, and crossing it safely if I was true to him.’

“Then sthe stepped into the water, and as she waled out into it, Earth miraculously raised her from below, so that she walked on its surface, and reached the other side with scarcely a drop of moisture on her sari.

“The sages now had no doubts about her. Indeed they were so moved by reverence for her and outrage at how Rama had treated her, that they wanted to curse him. But Sita said, ‘My husband is good and noble, and did not cast me out maliciously, but only because he feared that if scandal attached itself to me and him, his whole kingdom would suffer. I beg you not to curse him. Rather you should curse me, whose misfortunes have brought him so much suffering – first when Ravana abducted me, and then again when my lord Rama rejected me himself, through mistaken doubt and fear. I know how grievously he misses me: his separation from me is punishment enough, without being cursed by you in addition.’

“The sages were so impressed by the self-sacrifices and devotion of Sita’s sentiments that – far from cursing her – they blessed her fulsomely: with the result that, soon afterwards, she gave birth to a healthy son. The great sage Valmiki called him Lava, and Sita lived on with her baby in the safety of the hermitage – deprived of her husband, but no longer forced to wander in the wild.”

One thought on “Myths and Legends of India: Sita’s Rejection

  1. Pingback: Year 4: Life, Reflections, Myths, Psyche | Inside A Soul

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