Sita’s abduction, the killing of Ravana, the redemption and recovery of Sita, the suspicions against Sita who was irreproachable, her rejection by Sri Rama – all provide by far the greatest lessons in enlightenment for man and clues to permanent and impermanent values in human life. The undercurrent of thought is the Leela of the Lord!
That Sita was above suspicion, indisputably blemishless and was a paragon of virtue is evident from the assertions of Sri Rama, the protestations of Sri Lakshmana and Sita herself besides the eloquent testimony of Agni, Brahma and Valmiki in addition to a countless number of Gods among men and men among Gods.
Sita is a shining example of feminine distress in silence for the success of the female folk of our society. The remembrance of her name is self-purificatory for all men and women.
One among five Gems
Sita’s name itself is a captivating force and an illimitable power. Utterance of her name drives out all sins, big and small. The name of Sita protects all dames and damsels from the stigma of uncharitable suspicions and unwarranted aspersions. It kills death-inflicting forces from sins born of ignorance. It resuscitates all those who are similarly placed like Sita from the brink of virtual death or disaster. It rejuvenates the dying spirit of confidence guillotined by a penumbra of suspicion. May the great Sri Rama and Sri Sita protect all in general and the readers of “Sita above Suspicion” in particular!
Ahalya Draupadi Sita
Taara Mandodari thathaa
Pancha kanyaam smarennityam
The enchanting song of Ramayana sung by Kusha and Lava was heard by Sri Rama: the melody and meaning convinced him that the two boys were no other than his own sons. Naturally, Sri Rama’s thoughts turned towards Sita. He sent a message to Valmiki Maharshi:
“If you think that Sita has a pure and unblemished record of personal history, she can seek your permission and go over here to swear to her purity in the presence of all people to be assembled here. The daughter of Janaka, Sita, can do it tomorrow morning itself to clear the stigma associated with her.”
The message was respectfully conveyed to Sri Valmiki. He sent a reply to the effect that Sita would act according to Sri Rama’s direction; the Sage emphasized, “For a wife the husband is the God.”
The kings present at the time praised Sri Rama and said, “Great among men, whatever you have said is fitting and proper. Such words cannot stem forth from anyone except you. On this habitable globe, such words cannot be spelt out by anyone except you.”
Sri Rama fixed the following morning as the day of judgement for the people to assess Sita’s vowful protestation of purity.
Valmiki’s assertion of Sita’s purity
On invitation from Sri Rama, the royal assembly was adorned by an illustrious galaxy of great Sages including Vashishta, Vamadeva, Jaabaali, Kashyapa, Viswamitra, Deerghathamas, Durvasa, Pulastya, Shakti, Bhargava, Vaamana, Chiranjeevi Markandeya, the reputed Moudgalya, Garga, Chyavana, Shataananda, Bharadwaja, Agni’s son Suprabha, Narada, Parvata, Gautama, Katyaayana, Suyagna, Agastya (the repository of thapas) and many other Rishis and Munis wedded to severe austerities and penance.
Even the bravest of rakshasas and Vaanaras had assembled at Sri Rama’s palace. The sabha was also adorned by many spiritually evolved Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras. In short, the assembly of people included those who were wedded to jnana, karma and yoga, very keen on hearing Sita Devi’s assertions of personal purity. There was absolute silence and the invitees like vigrahas, did not even move their limbs. It was in this atmosphere that Valmiki Maharshi set out with Sita to reach the assembly Hall.
Sita was following Valmiki Maharshi with hands folded and head bent. Tears were flowing down her cheeks incessantly. Her heart had no place for anything except Sri Rama and she walked with preoccupations of thoughts on Rama. Just like Veda Mata following Lord Brahma, Sita was walking behind the repository of Vedas, Valmiki. Cries of “Sadhu! Sita! Sadhu!” rent the air and caused reverberations. All the people who watched Sita were overcome by a wave of unbearable torment and uncontrollable fit of sorrow, There were echoes of reaction and commotion. There were cries of “Sadhu! Rama! Sadhu!” besides those of “Sadhu! Sita! Sadhu!
At this juncture, Valmiki Maharshi followed by Sita entered the royal assembly hall.
Valmiki defence of Sita
“Son of Dasharata!” said Valmiki, addressing Rama, “Sita is wedded to austerities enjoined by vratas of a great nature. She is a steadfast follower of dharma. Fear of public ridicule was the cause of her banishment of the forest near my ashram. You are afraid of public comment and Sita will restore the image by invoking your confidence in her character. You have to allow her to do it. Kusha and Luva are twins born of Janaki and they are your children too. They are as much capable of challenging the enemy as you are. I am telling you what is true. Raghava! In the family tree of Bhrigu Maharshi, son of Varuna, I am the tenth in the line. I do not remember to have spoke a lie in my life-time so far. Undoubtedly, these two are your own children.”
Then Valmiki proceeded to make a vehement declaration by making categorical assertion of Sita’s purity. He said:
Thapashcharyaa mayaa kritaa,
Nopaashneeyaam phalam thasyaa
dushteyam yadi Mythilee (U. Kan Sa96, Sl: 20)
Raghava! I have performed thapas for many thousands of years. If Janaki is wrong, let not fruits of my thapas accrue to me.”
“Either mentally or by spoken word or by action,” proceeded Valmiki, “I have not committed a sin. If Janaki is taintless, let me get benefit of righteous conduct from my irreproachable mind, speech or action. I proceeded to adopt her as my daughter from the vicinity of my ashram after knowing her to be absolutely pure from proof of my conscience and the witnessing five elements. She is without doubt one of pure record having looked upon her husband as a Paradevata. As you are overcome by fears of public ridicule, she will herself swear to her purity before this august assembly. Prince! I have known about Sita’s purity to be superlative and supremely sacred from the divine vision I am endowed with. Therefore I took her to my ashram. She is extremely dear to you. You are also aware she is absolutely pure. But with a wavering mind shaken by possible public criticism, you rejected her.”
Following Valmiki’s firm assurances, Rama looked at the paragon of virtue and personification of beauty, Sita and with folded hands in the midst of the assembled people said “Great ones! I abide by what you have said as you are knowers of dharma. My confidence as to Sita’s purity has been restored by your assertions. On a previous occasion in the midst of devatas, there was a crisis of confidence and Vaidehi swore to her purity and proved her mettle. That was the reason why I gave her a place in my palace. But the strong wind of public ridicule tarnished her name. I had to reject her, I had always known that she was devoid of sin. Only my fears of public opinion led to her rejection. I seek your pardon for this wrong (done to her). I am actually aware that these twins Kusha and Luva are my children. However, she will earn my love only after she proves her purity by Pramana before the people assembled here.”
Limits to suspicion: Sita disappears
The atmosphere created by Rama’s tough stand brought Indra and his retinue, with Brahma as their head, to the place. They were followed by the peaceful Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Viswedevatas, Saptamaruts, Saadhyas, all Gods, Saptha Rishis, Nagas, Suparnas and Siddhas taken aback by the kind of fierce vow or protestation that Sita may take as to her purity.
Addressing the devatas Sri Rama said, “Great among Gods! I have full confidence in the blemishless words of Valmiki Maharshi. In spite of that, Vaidehi will win my love and admiration more if, in the midst of these people, she proves her purity.”
Vayudeva, known for his capacity to engender a pleasing atmosphere and a salubrious climate created an ideal situation by causing mellifluent ripples in air. All those who had gathered had their anxious eyes fixed on Sita awaiting the re-enactment, ascribable to the previous cycle of Krita yuga of the wonderful and unimaginable high drama in store.
Sita at that time was dressed in saffron robe like a thapasvini. She saw all the great ones including the devatas that had assembled there. With folded hands but with the eyes fixed on the floor, she said:
“If it is true that I have given thoughts in the mind to none but Raghava, let Bhagavati Bhumidevi give a place to me in her crevice.
manasaapi na chintaye
Tathaa mae Maadhavi Devi
Vivaram daatumarhati (U. Ka. Sa: 97; Sl: 14)
If it is true that I have worshipped Sri Rama in mind, deed and word let Madhava’s (Maha Vishnu) consort Bhu Devi give her earthly crevice as a cosy corner to me.
If it is true that I know of no one but Sri Rama, let Madhava’s consort Bhu Devi give her crevice for my cosy corner.”
Sita’s vow was a bolt from the blue. She was literally driven to take such an awe-inspiring vow. There were limits to suspicion and there was no other way she could prove her purity except by calling upon all the Gods, Sages, Seers, kings and queens besides the people drawn from far and near to witness a terrible vow – a terrible vow of what proved to be one of self-extermination!….. self-exit!
Even as she completed her shocking assertions, from beneath the ground that opened as per Vaidehi’s wish, a divine throne of wondrous looks carried by Nagas who seemed to be brave and bejeweled beauties emerged from the crevices of the floor. Along with the great throne and seated thereon came Bhu Devi. Embracing Sita with both her arms suggestive of felicitation and invitation, she seated her on the throne. The devatas saw Sita Devi occupying the throne and entering Rasatala and showered a rain of flowers on her. Their congratulatory encomium “Saadhu Saadhviti vai Siteyasyaaste sheelameedrisham” echoed in all corners and was heard by all: Sita Sadhu! Undoubtedly, your character is the most sacred one and the purest one. You alone are great!”
All the Rishis, kings and the people who saw Sita entering Rasatala were struck with wonder. But those in the Patala were dismayed. Some were happy they saw an unforgettable sight.
Some went into meditation and deep contemplation. Some were looking at Sri Rama. It was an occasion of rejoicing for some. It was a moment of despair for many. The scene suggested a spring of delight for some and a winter of mourning for many. They were all carried away by an inexplicable fusion of joy and sorrow, cheerfulness and sadness, ecstasy and rage.
Sri Rama was a picture of sorrow, With a bent head, he was shedding tears incessantly and crying for Sita who disappeared into Rasatala. He was as much overcome by a wave of sorrow as by a fit of rage. He expressed grief at the disappearance of Sita in his presence. He even implored Bhu Devi to restore Sita to him or show her earthly abode so that he could settle there permanently with her. He threatened to destroy the world if his wish was not fulfilled.
Then Brahma brought him to his senses with the comforting words that he should remember he was an avatar of Vishnu and Sita was the most sacred soul. By virtue of her thapas dedicated to Rama he said, she was happy in Nagaloka. He said Rama would rejoin her in Heaven.
Brahma also said, “This Ramayana is a sacred epic. No one except you can be the famous hero of a great epic authored by Valmiki”.
But bereft of Sita’s company, the world was empty for Sri Rama. Was it Rama’s making or was it part of the Leela of the Lord, the Parabrahman? Whatever it was, the events proved that Sita was above suspicion, that unfounded suspicions are fraught with disastrous consequences, that suspicions beyond limit, however cogent the base may be in the life of a puritan, cause irretrievable situations. In short, poetic justice overtakes those who suspect the unsuspected! Earlier, Sita was physically removed from Rama. The restoration did not last long as the penumbra of suspicion chased Sita forcing Rama to extract impossible assertions of purity despite vivid demonstrations thereof. That made Sita realize that her sojourn in Rama Rajya had come to an end! That was the kind of justice we call poetic that overtakes a person who suspects one who is above suspicion!
Sita’s character is the most glorious one in Ramayana. She suffered and suffered – for the sake of Sri Rama’s image. Yet her mind was fixed on Rama the repository of idealism. Hence Sita’s smarana brings fulfillment.