Sri Rama’s words were as harsh as they were highly provocative: they were spelt out in an irritative mood. Vaidehi turned very sad.
Her first reaction to her husband’s unimaginably fierce words was to bend her head to shame. It looked as though she was painfully pierced by a flurry of arrows of sharp words and that the arrows covered all her limbs. Her heart sank and tears started flowing down her cheeks; she tried to compose herself by wiping her drenched face and in a voice choked with emotion endeavoured slowly to talk to Sri Rama:
“Kim maam-asadrisham vaakyameedrisham srotradaarunam,
Rooksham shraavayase Veerapraakritaha Praakritam-iva.” (Sar: 116 Sl:5)
“Veera! Why are you expressing something which does not befit your caliber? Your words are painfully strong for my ears. They are like those uttered by an unrefined man bereft of culture to an unrefined woman equally lacking in culture.”
“Nritathasmi Mahaabaaho yathaa thwamavagatchhasi,
Prathyayam gatchha me yena chaaritrenaiva the shape.” (Sar 116; Sl.6)
“Mahabaahu! I am certainly not what you think. Have faith in me. I tell you I swear on my record of character. Beyond all shadow of doubt, I don’t deserve to be suspected.”
Suspecting the female community?
“It is improper,” said Sita, continuing her defence, “to suspect the entire female community merely because you have seen the behavior of some unrefined women. If only you have examined me well, there is no cause whatsoever to suspect me. I shall clearly recapitulate the circumstances I was in. Dispel your doubt by knowing them:
“Prithak streenaam prachaarena jaatim
Parithyajemaam shankaam yadi
the-aham pareekshitaa.” (Sa; 116: Sl.7)
Guilt of God!
Sita proceeded to make a forceful defence of her character attributing the inexorable circumstances of her abduction by Ravana to the veritable guilt of God! So emphatic was her assertion:
“Yadyaham gaatra-samsparsham gataasmi
Kaamakaaro ne me tatra daivam
tatraapaaradhyati.” (Sa, 116: Sl. 8)
“Prabho! When Ravana abducted me, I wasn’t free. I was forcibly being carried and I had not surrendered to him out of free will. Even if it true that someone else’s body touched me, I cannot be blamed; it is the blame of divine dispensation.”
Sita brought to bear an even more convincing explanation:
“Madadheenam tu yattanme hridayam twayi vartate,
Paraadheenshu gaatreshu kim karishyaamaneeshwaraa?” (Sar: 116: Sl.9)
“At that time,” she said in defence, “what was in my control was only my mind. There was no question of its alienation whatsoever. And my mind then was preoccupied with your thoughts entirely. If my body was under the control of someone else and if I was forcibly being carried by one, what could a helpless woman do? What do you think I could have done?”
Sita brought indirectly the theory of charity beginning at home. (There is a Kannada proverb which says a person could be so uncharitable as to be serviceable to the community but inimical to the home front!)
“Respector of others, but showing an accusing finger to my detriment!” retorted Sita, “Love between us was increasing from day to day. We always used to be together. Inspite of it, it is amazing you have not known my innate qualities. With that I have become a living sepulchre. No earthly purpose will be served by my continuous love:
“yadyaham the na vijnaataa thenaasmi shaashwatham.” (Sa. 116: Sl. 10)
Sita then proceeded to question the propriety of Rama’s inexplicable silence and taciturnity all these days when he could have sent word through his messenger Hanuman about his rejection of her!
“Preshitaste yadaa veero Hanuman – avalokakaha
Lankaasthaaham trayaa veera kim thadaa na visarjithaa?
You know you had sent the great and brave Hanuman to see me (and find out my true qualities) at Lanka. If you had any cause for doubt in this respect, why did you not choose to reject me then itself?”
Sita, taking a spirited stand, asserted categorically:-
“Pratyaksham Vaanarendrasya twadvaakyasamanantaram,
Twayaa santyaktayaa veera tyaktam syajjeevitam mayaa: (Sa: 116; Sl:11)
If only you had communicated the message, through Hanuman, to reject me I would have put an end to my life in his very presence then itself.”
A lawful point
Sita advanced an extremely cogent argument in defence of her irreproachable conduct. It was a lawful point for which Sri Rama did not seem to have an answer! Or did he have one? She said:
“Na vrithaa the shramo –ayam syaatsamshaye nyasya jeevitam
Suhurjjanapariklesho na chaayam nishphalastava” (Sa:116; Sl. 13)
“Otherwise,” She said, “there would have been no need whatsoever to waste your time and energy by engaging yourself in war, on a foundation of suspicion against me! There would have been no cause for worry and bitterness on the part of those who were dear to you. If only I had given up my life, all these unpleasant things could have been avoided.”
Sita charged Rama of pursuing anger relentlessly.
“Great among men!” said she, “you are making relentless pursuit of anger and like a small-minded man, catering to the suspecting airs of an ordinary woman.”
Men of the lower rung who lead a life far from the sphere of suspicion will have to face the vicissitudes of the mind of a suspecting woman for fear of being swept away by an avalanche of a doubting damsel. The factor of credibility against the spectre of suspicion is a phenomenon dominating the life of the small-minded.
Here Sita uses an expression which is pregnant with many a meaning! She compared Rama to a small minded one with a propensity to commit mistakes:
“Laghuneva manushyena streetvameva puraskritam”
Rama being an exalted one among men, Sita implies should not stoop down to the level of such a mean person. A person whose reputation is known to be the lowest ebb will have to indulge in frequent protestations of innocence and argue in vain even in instances where he may be free from blame and more so with a suspecting spouse!
Another facet of this comparison implied in Sita’s words is that suspicion is the fort and domain of suspecting women of the low thinking type.
What is, however, explicitly firm in Vaidehi’s voice is that she desired Rama to recoil from an attitude of anger and irritability and to transcend the limitations of mentality of those whose stature, born of low culture and suspicion, does not lend itself to any amount of credibility.
Sita’s divine origin
Compared to women at the abysmally low levels, Sita raised herself to the pedestal as to her origin and pedigree by clarifying to Sri Rama how she got the bewitching name of “Janaki” from her illustrious foster father Janaka who had a blemishless record of personal history and built up a very high reputation.
Mama vrittam cha vrittajna bahu thena puraskritam”,
“Knower of Virtue!” said Sita, “It is because I was found by Janaka in yagna-bhoomi, I came to be called “Janaki”, Actually I am a product of Bhoomidevi and ayonije (born outside the physical limitations of the womb). I was born in a way totally different from the entire human community. I had a unique origin. My personal records and history are equally unique and divine. You are not entertaining any of these.”
Breach of marriage bond
Sita accused Sri Rama of committing a breach of promise originally made at the time he took her hand in marriage:
“Na pramaaneekritaha paanirbaalye mama nipeeditaha,
Mama bhaktischa sheelam cha the prishtaha kritam.”
“As a boy you took my young hand in marriage but now you are not doing anything to honour even the bonds of marriage. You have chosen to relegate my devotion, character and everything to the background.”
Thus saying, Sita was crying and sobbing bitterly, She was no longer able to express herself properly. Tears were incessantly flowing down her cheek. Then she turned towards Lakshmana who was worried and grief stricken.
Sita decides to end her life
“Lakshmana!” said she, “Make fire to me. The best cure for my distressing situation is to enter the fire. Polluted by false allegation, I cannot live any longer:
“Chitaam me kuru Sowmitre vyasanaasya bheshajam,
Mithyaapavaado-upahataa naaha jeevitum-utsaahe.” (Sa. 116; Sl.18)
“Apreetena gunairbhartraa thyaktayaa janasamsadi,
yaa kshamaa me gatir gantum pravekshye Havyavaahanaam:
My Lord is not pleased with my character and conduct. He has rejected me in the august assembly. Under these circumstances, I shall adopt whatever path is appropriate and proceed accordingly. At this moment, the only way open to me is to enter the fire, I shall make agni-pravesham. So prepare the fire.”
A brave conqueror of the enemy, Lakshmana heard Vaidehi’s direction and turned towards Sri Rama with indignation. He could not tolerate the insult caused to Sita.
He had also known to understand Sri Rama’s mind and intention by the latter’s facial expression itself. He drew a silent message from his elder’s brother’s countenance and prepared the fire accordingly.