Caught between the dilemma of following the instruction given for her personal safety – ‘to stay within the Lakshman Rekha’, or being a good hostess and upholding the reputation of the Raghu clan as their elder daughter in law, Sita chose the latter. She saw no apparent danger and decided to step out of her hut to feed the hermit (demon king Ravana in disguise). Little did she know that her act of duty to protect the family’s reputation would in fact become the cause of the loss of her reputation as the queen of Ayodhya.
After much anticipation during which time her faith fostered her patience, Ram, her love and her pride came to rescue her from the demon king of Lanka, (rakshasa) Ravan. Having established peace in the kingdom of Lanka, Ram sent for Sita. As she emerged from the garden of Ashoka trees and made her way towards Ram, the crowd of demons and monkeys climbed to get a glimpse of Sita, for whom a battle of this magnitude was fought.
Having known Ram since the time of the yagna performed by Vishwamitra, Sita was unsure of how Ram would receive her. And when she finally came before him, she read his verdict even before he articulated it. Her Ram had given way to King Ram. King Ram announced that by killing the man (Ravan) who had abducted his wife, the scion of the Raghu clan had restored his family’s honour. He now forsakes his claim on her and renders her free to go wherever she wishes.
Sita then decides to prove her chastity; she lights up a bonfire and enters it. The fire god said that it only burnt impure things and since Sita was pure in thought and body, the fire god (Agni) refuses to burn her. Ram is relieved but it was not so much her purity that he had doubted, it was the stain on royal reputation which nagged him. But for the moment, they proceed home to Ayodhya.
As for Sita, after being told that she should have killed herself rather than stay under the roof of another man and that her presence was no source of joy, rather she was a grit in the eye of her beloved, what must her Diwali, her homecoming be like?
Sita’s Diwali marks the beginning of an eclipse in her life – an eclipse, which lasts for another 14 years and engulfs her happiness forever. After his coronation the couple was united at last. One exile was over but another one awaited them. Ram spends his in the palace…Sita, in wilderness.
Unable to stand the flood of street gossip surrounding the queen of Ayodhya, Ram decided to abandon her. Even though Sita was pregnant at that time, Ram could not carry the burden of her soiled reputation. She may have been pure in thought and body but she was not pure in her reputation.
After her abandonment, Sita found shelter in the hermitage of Valmiki, gave birth to her sons and spent time bringing them up to the best of her ability. She was beyond temptation and most indifferent to the young gandharava (musician) who offered himself to her now that she was no longer Ram’s wife.
As for Ram, his refusal to take another wife speaks volumes about his love for Sita. He is perhaps the only god in the Hindu pantheon of gods with just one wife. He had abandoned the queen of Ayodhya but he never abandoned his love, his Sita. Even during a yagna, he places a beautiful golden doll by his side, gold being a symbol of purity.
The story of Ram and Sita makes one wonder then – are rules, which are ultimately artificially constructed notions of appropriate conduct, really above human sentiments? Ram chose to appease and indulge the self-righteous ego of his subjects at the cost of four lives. It was a cruel choice with a sad end. The only good that came of it was perhaps a sense of repentance; people at least realised how wrong they had been in judging their queen and how magnanimous their king was in forgiving them.