Ramayana: Rama's Coronation

What the author here calls "the sorrows of Sita" are probably not what you expect here at the end of the Ramayana, and some versions of the Ramayana omit them entirely, preferring to give the story more of a fairy-tale ending. There are no easy answers here, and the amazing full-length animated film by Nina Paley, Sita Sings the Blues, is inspired exactly by what happens to Sita. The film is in the public domain, so you can watch it at YouTube... I highly (HIGHLY) recommend it if you want to think more about the Ramayana and see the story from yet another perspective: Sita Sings the Blues.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Ramayana unit. Story source: Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913).

Rama's Coronation

Rama and Sita

When peace was restored, Rama commanded that Sita should be brought forth. She was carried towards the plain concealed in a litter, and all the Apes gathered round to behold her, whereat Rama requested her to alight and walk towards him, and she did so. With folded hands she approached her husband and knelt at his feet, weeping tears of joy.

Clouded was the brow of Rama; he spoke sternly, and said: "Mine enemies are slain, and thou art delivered from captivity, O Sita, but now that my shame is removed, I have no desire to behold thee. I cannot receive thee as my wife because thou hast dwelt in the house of Ravana."

Said Sita: "Chaste and innocent have I remained. . . . O Rama, if thou hadst informed me of thy doubt, I would have died ere now. Better is death than thy dark suspicion."

Addressing Lakshmana, she then said: "Build for me a funeral pyre so that I may end my grief amidst the flames."

Image source: Sita in the arms of Agni

As she desired so did the brother of Rama do. He built the pyre and set it alight. Then Sita invoked Agni [the fire god]:

If in act and thought, she uttered, I am true unto my name,
Witness of our sins and virtues, may this fire protect my fame!
If a false and lying scandal brings a faithful woman shame,
Witness of our sins and virtues, may this fire protect my fame!
If in lifelong loving duty I am free from sin and blame,
Witness of our sins and virtues, may this fire protect my fame!

Fearlessly she then leapt amidst the flames and vanished, while all lamented around her.

Rama cried: "This day have I sinned, because she is innocent."

In that hour a great wonder was wrought. Suddenly the Deva-rishis and Gandharvas and the gods appeared in the air. At the same time the red flames of the mighty pyre were divided, and the god Agni came forth with Sita, whom he delivered to Rama, saying: "Receive thy wife who is without sin or shame."

Rama embraced Sita, and said: "I have never doubted her virtue; she is without sin, and now her purity has been proved before all men."

He wept, and Sita hid her face in his bosom and soft embrace.

Rama Returns Home

The exile of Rama was now ended, and he returned speedily in the car of Indra to Ayodhya, with Sita and Lakshmana and Hanuman.

Bharata welcomed his elder brother and laid the sandals at his feet, saying: "These are the symbols of thy rule, O Rama; I have guarded the throne for thee. Now take thy crown and govern thy kingdom. I give thee back thine own."

Rama was crowned on the morrow amidst the rejoicings of the people, and prosperity returned once again to the kingdom.

The Sorrows of Sita

Time went past, but the sorrows of Sita were not ended. The people whispered against the fair queen, doubting her virtue because she had been taken away by Ravana, and they wondered Rama had received her back.

At length, her husband, yielding to the wishes of his subjects, banished the innocent queen from the kingdom. The faithful Lakshmana conducted her towards the southern jungles and abandoned her nigh to the hermitage of Valmiki, counselling her with tears to take refuge with the saintly poet.

Valmiki received her with pity, and soon afterwards she gave birth to two sons, who were named Lava and Kusa.

Rama's Sons, Lava and Kusa

Sixteen years went past, and Rama's mind was troubled because he had slain Ravana, who was the son of Pulastya, the Rishi. So he resolved to perform the Aswamedha (horse sacrifice) to cleanse his soul of sin.

The horse was sent forth to wander through the land, and when it approached the hermitage of Valmiki, Lava and Kusa, the sons of Rama and Sita, took possession of it. They defeated the royal army and wounded Satrughna. Lakshmana hastened forth with another army, but he was also grievously wounded and defeated by the young heroes.

Then Rama himself went southward to wage war and recapture the horse. When his sons came forth against him, Rama wondered to find that they were so like to himself in countenance and bearing; his heart was filled with tenderness, and he asked them: "Whose children are you?"

Lava and Kusa greeted him with reverence and said: "Sita is our mother, but we know not the name of our sire."

Then Rama perceived that the lads were his own sons. . . . Valmiki, the sage, came towards him, and Rama said: "The people spoke evil things against Sita, and it was necessary to prove her innocence. Now let her be taken into my presence, for I know that these noble children are mine."

Sita's Departure

Valmiki returned to Sita and asked her to go with him before Rama, but for a time she refused to do so. The sage pleaded with her, and at length she walked forth from the hermitage with downcast eyes and hands uplifted.

In the presence of Rama and the people she then invoked the Earth and cried:

If unstained in thought and action I have lived from day of birth,
Spare a daughter's shame and anguish and receive her, Mother Earth!
If in duty and devotion I have laboured undefiled,
Mother Earth! who bore this woman, once again receive thy child!
If in truth unto my husband I have proved a faithful wife,
Mother Earth! relieve thy Sita from the burden of this life!

When she had spoken thus, all who heard her wept and sorrowed. And while they gazed upon her with pity and tenderness, the earth suddenly yawned, and from its depths arose a golden throne sparkling with gems and supported by four great serpents, as a rose is supported by green leaves.

Then the Earth Mother appeared, and hailed Sita with loving words, and led her to the throne, on which she seated herself beside her sinless daughter, the faithful and undefiled wife of Rama. . . . The throne thereafter vanished and the earth closed over it.

So passed Sita from before the eyes of all mankind. Rama flung himself upon the ground in an agony of sorrow. But Brahma appeared and spake to him, saying: "Why dost thou despair, O Lord of all? Well thou knowest that life is but a dream, a bubble of water. . . ."

Rama, however, even after the Aswamedha had been performed, continued to mourn until the celestial bird Garuda carne for him; then he ascended to heaven, as Vishnu and found Sita, who was the goddess Lakshmi, the incomparable Sri.

So endeth the story of Rama, whose fame can never die.

(1100 words)

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