Sita continues to be abandoned
The following short piece, due to my father, appeared in The Mathrubhumi feature -- Ramayana in my view (06 August 2005) [Link].
Sita parityaga that continues even today
by N.V.P. Unithiri
I have read Valmiki's Ramayana many times, some times in its entirety, selected portions some other times. The very first time I read the [Malayalam] translation by Vallathol [Narayana Menon], later, many a time, the original in Sanskrit. For me, the most poignant part of The Ramayana is Sita parityaga -- the abandonment of Sita. Even today reading that chapter makes my eyes water.
In the 42nd sarga of Uttara Kanda, we see Rama, Sita, and others entertaining themselves singing and dancing, on great food and liquor. Rama asks Sita, who is pregnant, what her wishes are. She tells him her desire to go for sightseeing in the forests on the banks of the Ganges. Rama promises that they could go on the very next day. Soon after, a spy named Bhadra intimates Rama that fabricated stories about Sita are spreading everywhere, in junctions and markets, in the gardens and the forests. Rama now tells his brothers about his decision to abandon Sita. Rama also remembers Sita's undergoing the test of fire in Lanka, and says: "in my mind though, Sita is chaste and pure."
But Rama's concern was whether he would lose his reputation. He says: "What the society thinks is important. The Gods too look down upon ill fame, and fame brings respect everywhere. Does not every noble man yearn for it? I fear dishonour, oh, learned men, I'll even renounce your company and my own life, if needed, for the sake of honour. Sita has to be deserted. Understand my state of mind, I wasn't sadder on anyday before. Lakshmana, tomorrow you take Sita in Sumantra's chariot and leave her at our border. Abandon her near the holy Ashram of Sage Valmiki on the banks of the Tamasa river, and get back here soon."
A helpless Lakshmana leaves Sita in the forest, and tells her about what had happened. Unable to get over the shock, Sita loses consciousness and faints down. Valmiki sees Sita, and takes her to his Ashram and looks after her. Months later, Sita gives birth to two sons -- Kusa and Lava. In fact Valmiki composes the Ramayana in order to teach them their story.
Who wouldn't be moved by Valmiki's portrayal of the Sita parityaga?
Today, in one way or the other, in worse forms, this story continues. Indeed an instance that speaks volumes of the powers of prescience of the first poet.