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Why did Lord Rama send Sita Devi in Exile?

Refer to this news on a man in India filing case against Lord Rama for sending Sita Devi in exile seeking, “court’s intervention for lodging of case against Lord Rama and his brother Laxmana, alleging that they had banished Devi (goddess) Sita Devi to a life in exile in a forest without any suitable justification for doing so.”

It is funny that so many Hindus do not know their own religion and epics!  Or I wonder, if there is a deliberate attempt to demean an ancient religion and their belief systems by people with vested interests! This article takes a look at why Lord Rama had to ask his wife Sita Devi to go on exile…

Sita Devi and Lord Rama

According to Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism), Lord Rama is believed to have ruled Ayodhya in the Treta Yug, the second of the Four Yugas (age of mankind). In Treta Yug, the bull that is depicted morality (Dharma Bull) stood on three legs, noting that the power and virtues of  humans slightly diminished. It is the beginning of the age where many emperors started to conquer worlds. It was also when various classes and cultures were born  and people started to be divided on those basis (this time could probably be considered as the birth of dualism).

According to Vedic culture of that time, it was paramount for the Kings and Queens and the ruling class to be exemplary citizens that not even rumors were possible about such kind of people.

Sita Devi was abducted by Ravana, the demon king, and was taken to Lanka. Even though there was no one more beautiful than Sita Devi on whole earth, Ravana never even touched her as there was a curse that forbade him from ever touching a woman against her will. King Rama may have known this for he being one of the incarnations of God for that matter. In fact, King Rama is Lord Vishnu himself and Sita Devi is Goddess Lakshmi as detailed later on in this article.

Although Sita Devi had already won the “test of fire” (agni pariksha) to prove her loyalty and purity towards the King and his kingdom, many people in the kingdom questioned King Rama still keeping Sita Devi as his queen and questioned her purity and loyalty towards the kingdom.

King Rama knew something was amiss in his kingdom after his return with Sita Devi by winning the war with Ravana and sought out a court messenger and demanded explanation as to what act he could have committed against his people for them to be so unhappy with him. He was informed about the rumors that Queen Sita has no rightful place on the throne and the people questioned her purity and loyalty while in abduction for so long by the demon king Ravana. Because they doubted Sita Devi’s loyalty, they also doubted the rightness of King’s judgment keeping her as his queen. It was told in Ramayana that, King Rama was so troubled by his people doubting his consort Sita Devi.

It was for that reason it became important for the King Rama to ensure that he and his queen prove their purity towards the kingdom and their commitment to it’s people. Only by doing so, the King and Queen could have remained pure and exemplary citizens which were commanded by the Vedic Culture of that time, Treta Yug.

What many people ignore are the following facts from Ramayana;

– If King Rama had indeed doubted his consort Sita Devi and had decided to disown her, he would not have gone to war with Ravana or would not have fallen into swoon hearing the news of Indrajit (the son of Ravana) chopping the head of an illusory Sita Devi.

– There is no instance in Ramayana where Lord Rama expresses his desire to give up on Sita Devi. Instead, there are numerous expressions that show his immense desire to get back his wife at the earliest.

– Immediately after winning the war, killing Ravana (Rama doesn’t kill Ravana at first, Ravana had to beg Rama to kill him so that Ravana could be released from a curse – that’s a different story altogether), Rama asks Vibhishana to bring Sita Devi. (Vibhishana is the younger brother of Ravana, but he was a noble person and always advised Ravana to return Sita Devi to Rama and to live a Dharmic life. Failing to do so prompted him to join Rama’s army and fight against his own brother to defend Dharma). It is said that people started to look down on Sita Devi as she started to walk with King Rama, as they doubted her purity. It was important that Sita Devi is respected, thus important for her to show she is pure by doing the “test of fire” in front of all the people gathered there – she was not a normal citizen, but the Queen and is thus duty bound to the kingdom and the people. The God of Fire carries her in his arms as she walked into the fire and present her to King Rama. Rama had never doubted her purity. But it was important to show it to the very people who doubted her purity and innocence. Sita Devi thus proved that she is purer than the fire itself in front of all the people.

– Lord Rama was not just the husband of Sita Devi, but an ideal King whose duty was to defend Dharma. It is important to understand Dharma at this point. “Dharma is not just about doing good or doing the right thing. Dharma is doing good things, in the right way, at the right time, with the right intention, for the purpose of creating a harmonious mind and a society.” And Sita Devi is not just any queen, but as explained in the Yuddha Kanda, the sixth book of Ramayana (117, Sloka 28) (see footnotes) – she is Goddess Lakshmi herself;

siitaa lakShmiirbhavaan viShNurdevaH kRiShNaH prajaapatiH
vadhaarthaM raavaNasyeha praviShTo maanuShiiM tanum||

(Meaning: “Sita Devi is no other than Goddess Lakshmi (the divine consort of Lord Vishnu), while you [Rama] are Lord Vishnu. You are having a shining dark-blue hue. You are the Lord of created beings. For the destruction of Ravana, you entered a human body here, on this earth.”)

So there was no question about Lord Rama who is Lord Vishnu himself (“atha yad viṣito bhavati tad viṣnurbhavati” – meaning “that which is free from fetters and bondages is Vishnu” and also, “the All-Pervading One” is Vishnu) doubting his consort, Sita Devi who is Goddess Lakshmi like most humans do (Goddess Lakshmi’s four hands represent the four goals of human life – dharma, kāma, artha, and moksha.). But it was all about teaching human beings about morality and ethics in public life and about being exemplary models for everyone.

Lord Rama and Sita Devi– It is also important to note that at the time of marrying Sita Devi, Lord Rama had promised her that he would take an “ekapatni vrta” (eka – one, patni – wife, vrta – vow) that he would not accept anyone else as his wife but her alone even though Kings were allowed to have multiple wives. He kept that vow all through his life even after Sita Devi’s exile. After the exile of Sita Devi, King Rama performed several yajnas which required him to have a Queen by his side during the yajnas. Even though he was under pressure to get remarried, he never did, instead, he made a golden image of Sita Devi and kept beside him as the Queen and performed all the yajnas. That only shows how much he revered Sita Devi while being principled as a King (Lord Rama is known as ‘Maryada Purushottam’, meaning ‘one who follows the rules ideally’. He was an ideal son to the parents, ideal husband to his wife, ideal brother to his young brothers, ideal King to his people, ideal protector of Dharma, ideal friend to the monkeys (Hanuman and his army of monkeys) and so on…)

– Lord Ram had to perform his duties as a family member, duties as a husband and duties as a King. Being the King who is ultimately a public servant, he had to exemplify detachment and perform his duty to regain the trust of his people. Also being the husband, he had to ensure that Sita Devi is taken care of…That is why he asked his brother Laskhmana to take Sita Devi to the forest and how she lived under the guardianship of Sage Valmiki and gave birth to two children – Lava and Kusha – who later on defeated Lord Rama’s own army! (Story is related to Asvamedha Yajna)

– It is also interesting to note that Sage Valmiki wrote Ramayana even before Lord Rama was born! So, there are so many interesting twist to this story!

Final Note: the story explained above is a summary of various things happened in Ramayana. We need to bare in mind that, there are many versions of Ramayana around, there is even one version that argues Sita Devi was never even abducted by Ravana! There is another argument that Sita Parityag (disowning Sita) was not written by Sage Valmiki who wrote Ramayana in the first place, however, it was later on added by someone (considered as Prakshipta – meaning ‘not authentic’) for whatever reasons. It is up to the reader to come to own conclusions, but it is important that we read Hindu epics in whole by keeping in mind of the time it was written, the kind of people lived at that time, the high moral standard they lived up to, the Vedic culture and the duties they’re bound by and various other situations instead of painting it with our limited understanding to feed vested interests.

On Yuddha Kanda: Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is written into six Kandas or books and they are;

  1. Bala Kanda ( Book of Youth) [77 chapters]
    2. Ayodhya Kanda (Book of Ayodhya) [119 chapters]
    3. Aranya Kanda (Book of Forest ) [75 chapters]
    4. Kishkindha Kanda (The Empire of Holy Monkeys) [67 chapters]
    5. Sundara Kanda ( Book of Beauty ) [68 chapters]
    6. Yuddha Kanda ( Book of War ) [128 chapters]