Sunday, January 3, 2010

PDE Ramayana: Sita Departs

Reading Guide. While living in Valmiki's hermitage, Valmiki has taught the twin boys to sing the deeds of Rama in a long poem that is the Ramayana itself. Imagine Rama's amazement when he hears them sing the song! Also, to appreciate this episode, it is important to remember Sita's unusual birth story: King Janaka found her in a furrow in the ground, and her name commemorates that discovery — the word "sita" means "furrow, the place of sowing."

Image: This is another illustration by Raja Ravi Varma, with so much drama on the faces of the characters you see here: Sita looking back to Rama, Rama looking at Sita, and both Lava and Kusha, along with Lakshmana, watching the incredible events that are taking place.

SourceMyths of the Hindus and Buddhists by Sister Nivedita (1914). [800 words]

Valmiki's Hermitage | 79. Sita Departs | Rama Departs

Valmiki told Kusha and Lava to recite the Ramayana everywhere and, if any questioned them, to name themselves as Valmiki's disciples. So they went about and sang of Rama's deeds.

Rama called a great assembly of the brahmins and all kinds of grammarians and artists and musicians, and the hermit children sang before them all. Wondrous and delightful was their song, and none could hear enough of it, but all men drank up the children with their eyes and murmured, "They are as like to Rama as one bubble is like another."

When Rama would have given them wealth, they answered, "We are dwellers in the forest. What use would money be to us?"

And when he asked who had composed that song, they answered, "Valmiki who is our teacher. And, O king, if the story of thy feats delights thee, do thou hear it all at leisure."

So Rama hearkened to the story day by day, and from it he learnt that Kusha and Lava were the sons of Sita.

Then Rama mentioned Sita's name before the assembly and sent a messenger to inquire from the hermits if they would vouch for her faithfulness and to ask herself if she were willing to give proof of her innocence again. "Ask her," he said, "if she will swear before the people to establish her own purity and mine." The hermits sent back the message that she would come, and Rama was glad thereof, and appointed the next day for the taking of the oath.

When the appointed time had come, and all were seated in the assembly, immovable as mountains, Valmiki came forward, and Sita followed him with downcast glance and folded hands and falling tears, and there rose a cry of welcome and a murmuring in the assembly when they saw Sita following Valmiki thus, like the Vedas following Brahma.

Then Valmiki spoke before the people and said to Rama, "O son of Dasharatha, albeit Sita is pure and doth follow the path of righteousness, thou didst renounce her near my hermitage because of the people's censure. Do thou now permit her to give testimony of her purity. And, O Rama, I myself, who follow truth, tell thee that these twin children are thy sons. Also I swear before thee that if any sin be found in Sita I will forgo the fruit of all austerities I have practiced for many thousand years."

Then Rama, seeing Sita standing before the assembly like a goddess, with folded hands, replied, "O great one, thou art ever virtuous, and thy words convince me of the purity of Sita. I recognize these brothers Kusha and Lava as my sons. Yet Sita shall give testimony herself, for the sake of those that have come here to witness her avowal."

Then there blew a sweet, cool, fragrant air, a divine zephyr such as used to blow only in the golden age, and folk were astonished that that air should blow also in the second age. But Sita, with downcast looks and folded palms, said, "I have never thought of anyone but Rama even in my heart: as this is true, may the goddess of the earth be my protection. I have always with mind and body and words prayed for Rama's welfare, and by this I pray Vasudhara to receive me."

Then a heavenly throne rose up from within the earth, borne on the heads of mighty nagas, decked in shining jewels, and the Earth stretched out her arms and welcomed Sita and placed her on the throne, and the throne sank down again.

Thereat the gods cried out in praise of Sita, and all beings on earth and in the sky were filled with wonder and astonishment, so that one mood for a single moment swayed all the universe at once.

But Rama sat him down stricken with sorrow and with hanging head, and he was torn by grief and anger that Sita had disappeared before his very eyes, and he would have destroyed the very Earth if she would not give Sita back. But Brahma said, "O Rama of firm vows, thou shouldst not grieve; rather remember thy essential godhead, and bethink thee thou art Vishnu. Sita is blameless and pure, and for her virtue she has gone to the abode of nagas, but thou shalt be with her in Heaven."

But now Rama was heavy-hearted, and the whole world seemed empty without Sita, and he knew no peace. He gave the monkeys and the kings and hermits gifts, and sent them back to their own homes, and he made a golden image of Sita to share with him in the performance of sacred rites, and a thousand years passed, while all things prospered in the kingdom of Ayodhya.

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