The Abandoning of Sita

KBS Ramchandra has written a piece on why possibly Rama abducted Sita.

[If as a nation we had spent half as much the time on evaluating our leaders (current and dead) than what we spend on evaluating behavior of our legends; we could have been a far better country today. I am unmistakably hinting at Nehru-Gandhi dynasty]

Ramayana says that when Ram discovered that his countrymen still doubt Sita’s purity he decided to abandon her. Ram hears a washer man abusing his wife and questions Ram’s integrity as a King.

Rama abandoned Sita without consenting anyone, not even Sita. He asked Laxman to leave her in jungle without giving her slightest idea that she is being abandoned.

In a modern day context Ram’s this decision is criticized and his perception as an ideal man (“Purushottam”) is questioned. This example is often sited by critics of Hinduism as how Hinduism treats women badly.

We must understand that Ramayana is a thousands of years old story. It has transcended to us through an oral tradition. It is likely that several parts of this story evolved along with the society of those times. In one sense it does reflect the mindset of our people during various times. We have continued to believe that Ram is incarnation of Vishnu and he is the Maryada-Purushottam. How can he be wrong?

I think this very idea that we can question the scripture is the essence of Hinduism. KBS Ramchandra makes an attempt to redefine and evaluate merits of Ram’s decision and tries to rationalize it by putting it in the perspective of modern values. This is in stark contrast to other mono-atheist religions where this story would have probably meant a dogmatic belief that whenever you doubt your wife abandon her without intimating her. Then justify this behaviour by citing the scripture.

I think Ramayana or Mahabharata are just stories. These stories are not merely a piece of ordinary poetry but an attempt to demystify human mind, virtues , duties, vices and vulnerabilities.

When we talk of Ram, the maryada purushottam, it is not necessary to validate his behavior against the modern day values. Also it will be equally wrong to view him with a modern day prejudice. The prejudice is that women were always treated inferiorly during ancient times. It because of this prejudice I feel we look at Ram’s decision as something anti-feminist. Also when we look at this injustice we essentially take into consideration Sita as individual and her rights as individual.

The reason why I feel we are prejudiced can be exemplified using following example. Ram left Ayodhya for the sake of his step-mother’s wish. She was a woman. We never view this as how much importance the society of that time gave to women, we only look at Sita’s example. Further, the entire episode of Ramayana took place because Sita insisted that Ram should catch a golden deer. She further forced Laxman to go after his brother despite his refusal. She crossed the Laxman rekha even after being told not to do so. Can this be viewed as natural female stupidity ? Whatever may be the answer, Ram crossed an ocean with a newly built army of monkeys and fought a war, only for her. Doesnt it exemplify importance given to a female? When we look at Ram life we don’t really look it in feminist perspective but when it comes to her abandonment we start viewing it as anti-feminist.

In Ramayana, there is an instance where Ram fights with hanuman, the man who stood besides him in all situations. We don’t really try to analyse this instance as much as Sita’s abandonment because hanuman is a man.

My point here is that Ram did many things which were apparently unjust. Sita’s abandonment was one such episode but it had nothing to do with she being a female. It was just a decision he made taking into consideration his duties towards his subjects.

Secondly, does that indicate that Indian society of that time gave undue importance to purity of women and a mere doubt on the same qualified her to be abandoned?

I think there one strong reformist concept that Ramayana keeps before its readers through this episode. The epic clearly indicates that Ram himself had no doubt about her purity, or even if he had he had not hesitation in accepting her. Isn’t it amazing that before two thousand years when barbaric religions were not even founded, we had a king who treated his wife like this ? Isn’t it true love?

But when we feel sorry for Sita, we essentially look at the issue in an individualistic perspective. Ram himself sacrificed so much for her, isn’t it her duty to sacrifice more for him to be a better king? Wasn’t assisting her husband in doing his duty was her foremost duty ?

Ram probably even did some injustice to her but then why should it really be an issue when Ram was actually serving a larger goal ?

I think true leaders are those who can make tough decisions like Ram did. In my opinion Ram is not to be faulted for his actions. We feel sorry for Sita and we should, Ram himself did but then sometimes bitter decisions are unavoidable.

Again, Ramayana is just a story, we should not interpret it based on our wishful thinking. It is an open ended epic.

15 thoughts on “The Abandoning of Sita

  1. Hi Akshar,

    I liked some of the points you put forward about Ram being just and respectful towards women (his step mother & wife) inspite of the anti-feminist attitude that people had during his time. All other examples you put forward about Sita acting in a stupid manner when she should have neither asked her husband to run after a golden deer or cross the Laxman Rekha are justifiable but the one question that has always bothered me is that; “If only Ram had told Sita about his decision to send her off to the forest because of some washer man; I’m sure she would have understood.” A newly wed lady who accompanied her husband to an exile of 14 years without thinking twice about the luxuries she was going to leave behind; would have never argued with Ram. After I finished telling the whole Ramayan story to my children, the first thing they asked me was,but Mommy how come Sitamata was sent away without being told where they were taking her? With all due respect to the legendary hero, I still think that Sita should have known….and every women would have respected Ram for the decision he made then. Even in todays day and age we all have to make bitter decisions which are unavoidable; but atleast we know why we are making those decisions?

  2. Actually you have put this question I am myself trying to answer. Being a pativrata and intelligent women belonging to a royal family she would have understood Ram’s compulsion of making such a bitter decision and she would have retired to forest.

    If you ever find a good explanation please let me know.

  3. wow. it is simply surprising to know that sexism continues to exist even after so many years. the fact that you consider ram’s banishment of sita as serving a larger goal clearly, although subtly implies how viciously men cover up their shame in the name of serving the society.

  4. The feminist view too can be called biased. Ram told Sita that golden deer does not exist still she insisted it. then she ignored Laxman’s advice and blammed him for eyeing her. Still Laxam drew the rekha to protect her but then again she made a mistake. Despite only she was to be blammed for her misfortune Ram traveled all the way to lanka to get her back. What will you call it ?

  5. This is horrible way to camouflage the point. Come open and tell me NOW – whether the banishment of wife is correct, burning (Agnipariksha) of wife is correct – This is practiced by many criminals. Whether burrying your wife alive is correct ? The one who could not be just to his wife, how can he be good to his subjects, he was thrown out at young age by his parents only because of his such behaviour. His actions brought disgrace to India and by worshiping him hinduism has encurred enough curse. The SINs of hinduism is the reason why we lost our freedom.

  6. Hello,
    Scriptures are not to be read and emulated literally. Scriptures are but a Divine Drama…a philosophy of The Human Consciousness and Creation..the Nature of all there is. Sita is born of the Earth..She represents the force of nature that creates the human mind. On the attainment of self-realization the human soul (ram) abandons Sita (Materialistic nature)
    This epic is not about Man abandoning Woman.

  7. @Vishwas
    First, understand that it is a story. So stop giving it so much importance. Secondly it was thousand years back so stop making an issue out of it. Hindusism does not mandate angipariksha and other stuff it is a human choice.

    If it is not to be taken literally how are we supposed to know the correct meaning ? Ram did not abandon Sita after self realization but after he heard a washer-man casting doubts on her honor. Your explaination does not make sense.

  8. there was a history as well as a period before 2000 years….that u will never know akshar …..religions were never founded,they are just followed..and given to next generations…a term like barbaric religion should never be used..nothing is barbaric unless we feel ourselves that we are the only one in this whole world..the whole world is not India,or else India isnt a world,we are mere part in this whole world,in ur context mr.akshar even rama should also be a barbarian,coz he is an aryan,he is from the aryan race,according to history aryans have come from norwegians or the nordick race,that means from norway..i wish we should keep our minds enlightened rather than getting ourselves dimmed away from the rest of the world…Ramayana is good,and it is written ages ago,, but that doesnt mean the rest of the religions doesnt have origins before 2000years…

  9. You know whats amusing, looking at the comments the ladies are making here criticizing Bhagwan Ram, even Sita Mata would be laughing reading that! 😀

    Why is it necessary to always divide every topic on the base of sex, cast or religion? Your mind is good enough to think at all the angles of a thing. And the subjects we are talking about here are not ordinary people; we worship them, not generally as individuals, but also as SitaRam!

    The purpose of Ramayan was not speaking low of women or praise manhood; these texts are not of anti-feminist view, nobody is, not even today (in general)! Even the word feminist doesn’t have an opposite! Doesn’t that ring a bell in your mind!

    And mind you, the name of female always comes before male in our Hindu Texts; doesn’t it tell you something about the respect and place we have for women since the beginning of times?

  10. That is really very succinct Rahul.

    “When all you have is a hammer you see nails everywhere”.

    That is the problem with feminist most of the times and they fail to see the larger picture.

  11. ““When all you have is a hammer you see nails everywhere”.

    That is the problem with feminist most of the times and they fail to see the larger picture.”

    That is equally a problem with male chauvinists, don’t you think? 🙂
    Basically if a person has an axe to grind, a predisposed point of view, they would obviously not be able to accept the other side of the story. This holds true for anyone who subscribes zealously to a point of view – whether it be feminism, male chauvinism, regional chauvinism, casteism, religious fanaticism, anything.

    Anyway, just had to make that point in order to rebut your sweeping generalization with feminists.

    Coming to the post, I see your point, but I have many bones to pick with it. For example, “She crossed the Laxman rekha even after being told not to do so. Can this be viewed as natural female stupidity?” Are you seriously implying that stupidity is something that comes ‘naturally’ to females?! See, the moment you make sweeping generalizations like that, you lose ground with people who justifiably can’t stomach such baseless comments. One might say that from this point of view, Ram also displayed ‘natural male stupidity’ by giving too much importance to what others thought of him and hence abandoning his dutiful wife of many years on the crude suspicions of an unlettered washerman (and other subjects).

    A leader is one who has the broad vision, sagacity and wisdom that his subjects lack, and who guides & leads his subjects towards greater enlightenment, mental & spiritual enrichment and a life of greater fulfillment. That is what sets apart a true king or a godo leader from the toiling masses. A good leader is NOT someone who does everything his subjects want, because the subjects may want it because they are too foolish to know any better!

    Honestly, in today’s day & age, Ram’s action of abandoning his dutiful and sincere wife just because of some people’s words/wishes is actually close to Congress’ policy of retaining their popularity by appeasement of certain sections of the society!! A good king/leader has the courage to make his own decisions and not get swayed by the words of foolish subjects for the sake of appeasing them.

  12. One question, why is only Sita suspected? Why wasn’t Ram suspected of being unfaithful? He also didn’t have his wife by his side for a considerable period of time. He should have taken the fire test too. The truth is, this ‘Sita syndrome’ does more harm to this society and women than it is believed that it does. Also, defending his subjects’ unfair ideas about women, how can Ram be a ‘Purushottam’? It’s sad that even centuries later, we worship such ideas.

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