Sita’s Trial by Fire

After hearing these harsh and hair-raising words spoken by Rama, Sita became greatly distraught. Hearing her husband’s terrible accusations for the first time in a large gathering, the Princess of Mithila became bowed with shame. As if pierced by those arrow-like words, she drew her limbs within herself and shed profuse tears. Then, wiping her tear-stained face, she slowly spoke to her husband with a chocked-up voice:

“Why do you address me with such jarring, rough and unbecoming words, O valiant one, as a common man would a common woman? I am not as you think, O strong-armed one. Trust Me! I swear by my own character! Because of the conduct of certain women, you are doubtful about women as a whole. If you were just testing me, then give up this doubt! When I came into contact with Ravana’s body, I was helpless, my lord. It was not my choice to do that. Destiny is to blame in that regards. What is under my control, my heart, that always abides in you. Being unprotected as I was, what was I to do with my limbs when they were under the control of someone else? If you could not know me after growing up intimately with me and living with me, then I am completely finished.

“When the great hero Hanuman was sent to find me, why did you not reject me while I was still in the city of Lanka, O king? I would have given up my life right in front of Hanuman as soon as I would have heard that you had rejected me. Then you would not have undertaken this useless enterprise, putting your life in danger, nor would your friends have undergone such unnecessary difficulty. Moreover, You, O tiger among kings, like a little man prone to fits of anger, have given singular importance to the general nature of women. I am known as the daughter of King Janaka not because I took birth from him, but because I came out of the ground itself at the sacrificial arena. Neither did you give much importance to my conduct, O You who knows what good conduct is. Neither did you consider as valid the fact that you accepted my hand in matrimony in our youth. You have turned your back on all my devotion and good disposition.”

While speaking in this way with a voice chocked up with tears, Sita said to Lakshmana, who was disheartened and absorbed in thought: “O son of Sumitra, prepare for me a pyre, the only remedy for this calamity! Agonized by these false rumors, I cannot bear living. I shall enter a blazing fire, the only course left for me now that I have been rejected in a public gathering by my husband who is not pleased with my qualities.” When requested in this way by Sita, Lakshmana, who was overwhelmed with indignation, looked at Rama. Recognizing Rama’s mental pleasure displayed by His physical appearance, the valiant Lakshmana raised a pyre in accordance with Rama’s wish. While Rama stood with His head hanging down, Sita circumambulated Him and approached the blazing fire. Bowing down respectfully to the gods and Brahmanas, Sita joined her palms, approached the fire and said:

“As My heart never turns away from Rama, may the god of fire, the witness of the world, protect Me on all sides. Since Rama considers Me polluted, even though My character is pure, may the god of fire, the witness of the world, protect Me on all sides. In as much as I have never been unfaithful to Rama by action, thoughts or words, let the god of fire protect Me. Since the sun-god, the wind, the directions, the moon, the day, the twilights, the night, the earth and others know that I am endowed with good qualities, may the god of fire protect Me.”

After saying this, Sita circumambulated the fire respectfully and then entered into the blazing flames with an undisturbed mind. The large crowd there with children and elderly people saw the Princess of Mithila enter the fire. Adorned with sparkling god ornaments, She shone like freshly melted gold. In the presence of everyone, She threw Herself into the blazing fire. Then all living beings saw the highly fortunate Sita, who was glowing like a golden altar, enter into the fire. All the women screamed when they saw Her falling into the fire, like an unbroken stream of clarified butter offered with mantras into a sacred fire. All the three worlds of gods, gandharvas and danavas saw Her falling into the fire, like a goddess cursed to fall from heaven to hell. As She was entering the fire, from the rakshasas and monkeys rose a loud cry of shock that was really strange.

Thus completes 116th Chapter of Yuddha Kanda of the glorious Ramayana of Valmiki, the work of a sage and the oldest epic.

Sriman Moola Rama Vijayate