Editorial

SITA -- THE FURROW PRINCESS, A BOOK WRITTEN BY JANAKI SHARMA

September 25, 2014 12:35 PM

Chandigarh (Face2News Bureau)

It was the desire of the Chandigarh Museum Director, the late Mr.V.N. Singh that I write a book on Goddess Sita. Even now, I wonder why he singled me out for the task, but when I realised an inner call urging me to write, I decided to heed it, says Janki, author of the Book. She said, this is because in a land where women were considered to be incarnations of Shakti or Goddess Durga, incidents of atrocities and crime against women are on the rise. Incidents of domestic violence, dowry deaths, sexual harassment, female foeticide etc are being featured in everyday stories. Hence, I thought a visit into the times and life of Goddess Sita is timely. In fact, if female foeticide does not stop, there will be no girls left for Kanya Puja. Goddess Sita is one of the principal female characters in the religious and mythological epic “Ramayana”. Perhaps, it was Goddess Sita who became the reason for freeing the earth of the demon king Ravana. Sita emerges as the beautiful, kind-hearted and intelligent princess of Mithila also known as Videha. Hence, her names are also Maithili and Vaidehi. Since she was the daughter of King Janaka, she is also known as Janaki. Sita was marked by a fair brow, lovely locks and charming eyes and resembled a lotus in hue, she had a perfect complexion and was adorned with white, brilliant teeth and her face resembled the moon emerged after splitting a cloud. She had a shapely nose and beautiful coppery lips. Sita’s origins have been the subject of scholarly study. According to the Devi Puran, Sita is an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. When Mahalakshmi incarnated as Vedavati, she was performing austerities in Gandhamadana mountains. However, she threw herself into a fire to escape Ravana’s lust and swore that she would be the cause of his ruin in her next birth. There is also a theory that Sita is Ravana’s daughter who was abandoned and put in an urn and buried in a field. Her name means “furrow” as her father King Janak found her in a field while ploughing. Sita is an epitome of a woman’s sense of duty, sacrifice and loyalty. However, modern day feminists opine that she shouldn’t have put up with suffering and the grave injustice meted out to her. They say she should have rebelled instead of putting up with her ostracisement leading to obscurity. But contrary to popular belief, she is not a docile person, but a woman of spirit. Sita – the perfect embodiment of womanhood – is though not as submissive as one would believe. There are many instances which bring out her strong, assertive character. Her first clear act of will can be seen when she insisted on going to the forest with her husband Sri Rama. In this, she even overruled her husband’s dictum that she stay back in Ayodhya. In this way, Sita defined what “a devoted wife” is choosing what she saw as a substance rather than just the form of marriage. Sita once again comes across as a strong and assertive woman when she chides Lakshmana for not going to the aid of Sri Rama when Maricha calls out for help in Sri Rama’s voice. Married to Sri Rama, prince of Ayodhya, her journey of life courses through joy to sorrow. She had to abandon the luxury of royal comforts and lead the simple but harsh life of an ascetic in the prime of her youth. According to the Ramayana, Sita is kidnapped by Ravana and held captive in Lanka, until she is rescued by Sri Rama, who kills her captor. However, hardships continued to pursue her after she was held captive by Ravana and she was separated from her husband. Both physically and in her mind, she remained chaste and devoted to her husband Sri Rama. Ravana threatened Sita repeatedly when she was held captive by him at Ashoka vana but Sita remained unfazed and strong because of her total devotion to Sri Rama and loyalty to dharma. After rescuing Sita from Ravana, Sri Rama rebuked her and asked her how he could accept her as she had spent time in another man’s house. To which she replied in a spirited manner. 

After suffering countless insults and rejections, Sita finally takes revenge on Sri Rama in the most aggressive manner she knows. She chooses to return to the earth instead of remaining with a man who had abandoned her. Her dignified reaction bespeaks tremendous power that is derived from her austere and noble ideals.

It includes a passionate rebuke of his cruelty and a rational analysis of moral responsibility in the case of violence against women. Not one to prevaricate, she said: “Why do you talk to me like that, oh hero, like a common man talking to an ordinary woman, by giving way to wrath and passing premature judgement on a woman, having acted like a worthless man.” Sita undergoes Agni Pariksha (an ordeal of fire) by which she proves her chastity before she Is accepted by Sri Rama. She is supposed to be the ideal woman for the ideal man, the embodiment of right thought and action. Many readers feel that since Sri Rama is the ideal man, his treatment of Sita—his faithful and devoted wife – is wrong. Sita is forced to prove her chastity not once, but twice in a trial of fire and the second time, she is taken to the forest by Lakshmana, who is loath to perform this task. And there is no explanation from her husband Sri Rama for this. However, there is another school of thought which says Sri Rama sent her to Valmiki’s ashram only discharging his duty as a king which superseded his duty as a husband. According to the Ramayana, Goddess Sita is said to have been forced in exile sometime after her return to Ayodhya. Not knowing that she was pregnant, Lord Rama let her go away from him to give a judgement as a righteous ruler. Goddess Sita took refuge in Sage Valmiki’s ashram and gave birth to twins Lava and Kusa. During the Ashwamedha Yajna performed by Lord Rama, the valorous sons of Sri Rama caught hold of the Ashwamedha horse which resulted in the meeting of Lord Rama with his sons. After entrusting his sons to Lord Rama, Sita refused to return to Ayodhya. She gave up her mortal body to Bhoomi Devi (Mother Earth) so that she may not undergo any more hardships. At the fag end of the epic, when Sri Rama comes to take Sita back with him, instead of meek submission, she chooses her destiny. “ After suffering countless insults and rejections, Sita finally takes revenge on Sri Rama in the most aggressive manner she knows. She chooses to return to the earth instead of remaining with a man who had abandoned her. Her dignified reaction bespeaks tremendous power that is derived from her austere and noble ideals.

Brief of the book

In this book "Sita: the Furrow Princess", I am highlighting the character of Sita, the central female lead of the epic "Ramayana" written by the sage Valmiki. The aim is to portray Sita as a woman with a mettle -- as a strong and assertive woman with dignity, self-respect and character. The book is a visit into the life and times of Sita of the epic Ramayana, who was bold and faced any situation in life courageously -- be it the fire ordeal (Agni Pariksha), or life in Lanka or abandonment by her husband. It will serve as an example to women to be bold, strong and determined. This is because in a land where women were considered to be incarnations of Shakti or Goddess Durga, incidents of atrocities and crime against women are on the rise. Domestic violence, dowry deaths, sexual harassment, female foeticide etc are talking place with unfailing regularity. I dedicate this book to the late Mr. V.N.Singh, ex-Director of the Chandigarh Museum, who is the brain behind this book.

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