The moment of the real climax in Ramayana had dawned. The climax in the popularity known to the majority is apparently the killing of the arch villain Ravana. If Sita had intended to do away with him following the sacrilege of her abduction, her fiery eyes could have easily consumed him and burnt him to ashes. The killing had to be done by Sri Rama himself as it was so ordained by the divine. She did not choose to punish Ravana for his unpardonable crime. She allowed divine dispensation to take its course! That was her greatness. That was the lesson to all women in distress she left behind! She entered the golden pages of history by setting a glorious example. In Dwaparayuga, Draupadi emulated Sita’s footsteps and caused a unique ripple in legendary records.
Rama was looking like Yama?
Valmiki says (in Sarga 116, Sloka 23):-
“Na hi Ramam thadaa kaschit-kaaalantaka-Yama-upamam,
Anunoelumutho vaktum drashtum uaapyashakat suhrit,”
For all the people witnessing the proceedings there at that time Sri Rama was looking as fierce and awe-inspiring as Yamadharmaraja would appear at that time of deluge. Not even a friend would dare to turn towards him or tell him anything, far from offering him words of comfort or pacification.
Sita took a pradakshina of Sri Rama who was standing with his head bent and went towards the fiery pit that was raging with flames. She offered prostration to Gods and brahmins, stood in front of fire and with folded hands said:
..yathaa me hridayam nityam naapasarpati Raaghavaath,
Tathaa lokasya saakshee maam sarvataha paatu paavakaha.” (Sar: 116; Sl. 25)
“Contrary to Sri Rama’s imagination if I have been free from reproach, and have maintained my character and conduct, let Agnideva who is a witness of the world, protect me in all possible ways”
She proceeded further:
“Karmaanaa manasaa vaachaa yathaa naaticharaamyaham,
Raghavam sarva-dharmajnam tatha maam paatu paarakaha.” (Sar. 116; Sl: 27)
“If it is proved,” said Sita, “that physically, mentally and intellectually through the spoken word I have not gone against the all-knowing and virtuous Sri Rama, let the all witnessing Agnideva protect me.”
Finally, she offered prayers to all the devatas:
“Aditya Bhagavaan-Vaayuradishachandras Jathaiva cha
Ahaschaapi tathaa Sandhya Raathrischa Prithvee tathaa
yatha-anyepi viaananti tathaa chaarithra samyutaam. (Sar: 116; Sl.28)
“If all the devatas” said Sita, “like Surya, Vaayu, Diks, Chandra, Day, Night, the two transitions of the Day, Prithvi and others are of the opinion that I have maintained a pure record of personal history, let Agnideva protect me from all sides.”
So saying, Vaidehi took a pradakshina of Agni and with an unwavering mind entered fire, the visible symbol of the invisible God of Fire. Yagneshwara, the lord of all sacrificial offering in fire.
Sita had offered herself to Agni.
A sight to remember:
All those people consisting equally of the young and old saw the wondrous sight of Vaidehi entering the fuming flares of fire:
Valmiki describes how she fell into the fiery pit:
“Janashabmahaamstra baalavriddha samaakulaha,
Daadarsha Mythileem tatra pravishanteem Hutaashanam.” (Sar: 116; Sl. 30)
In the very presence of all those who had assembled there and had been witnessing the raging fire, the bejeweled beauty Vaidehi who was looking effulgent and as brilliant as a piece of gold put into a fire-pot, fell into the fiery spot:
“Saa taptanavahemaabhaa taptakaanchanabhooshanaa,
Papaata jwalanam deeptam sarvalokasya sannidhou.” (Sar: 116; Sl. 31)
Valmiki describes in Yuddha Kanda that all living beings witnessed with wonder the sight of the wide eyes Sita glowing with the golden hue:
“Dadrishustaam vishaalaaksheem patanteem Havyaavaahanam,
Sitaam sarvaani roopani rukmaevadinibhaam tadaa” (Sar: 116; Sl.32)
The rishis, devatas and gandharvas also saw the great Sita entering the huge fire just as the sacred poornaahuti slips out of the hand of one performing a sacrificial offering in fire, into the Agni-kunda:-
Rishayo Deva Gandharvaa yajne poornaahuteemiva.” (Sar: 116; Sl. 33)
Valmiki gives a graphic picture of Sita’s falling into the fire:
“Prachukrushuhu striyaha sarvaastaam drishtwaa Havyaavaahane
Patanteem Samskritaam mantrairvasordhaaraam-iva-adhvare: (Sar: 116; Sl. 34)
He has likened the fiery entry of Sita to the Vasodhaara (the incessant pouring of ghee into fire) nurtured and chastened by mantras of yajna. But what was the reaction? All the women folk gave vent to a fit of cry loudly.
Like the abysmal fall of a celestial damsel, cursed by the devatas and pushed from Heaven to Hell (three worlds) the devatas, rakshasas and gandharvas also saw Sita falling into fire:-
“Dadrishustaam thrayo lokaa devagandharvadaanavaaha
Shaptaam patanteem niraye tridivaaddevatam-iva.” (Sar: 116; Sl. 35)
As Sita was entering fire, all the Vanaras and rakshasas resorted to loud expressions of dismay. Their strange sounds and gestures and helpless cries rent the air and sent reverberations:-
“Tasyam-agnim vishantyaam tu haa heti vipulaha swanaha
Rakshasaam Vaanaraanaam cha sambabhoova-adbhutopamaha.” (Sar: 116; S1. 36)