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20090917-11 The Ramayana, day 2 (Group 1)

Page history last edited by Elizabeth Cooney 11 years, 4 months ago



     Our class lecture on September 17 continued to develop the arguments concerning dharma that Rama presented to his family when they attempted to keep him from leaving the kingdom. These arguments also served as lessons for the audience, informing the people how they are to abide by their religion. Laksmana claimed that Rama deserved to be the next king, and even threatened the king, their father. Rama countered Laksmana by saying prosperity (artha) and pleasure (kama) follow dharma, and that he will eventually receive the riches Laksmana claims Rama deserves, if he honors his father's wishes. Then Laksmana, like Kausalya, wishes to leave with Rama. Rama insists that he stays to take care of the mothers, displaying that devotion is a part of dharma. Laksmana says that Bharata will look after the mothers, and Rama is satisfied.  When Sita learns that her husband must go, she argues with Rama to let her leave with him. Rama reasons with Sita to make her stay, he tells her she must remain in the kingdom and serve the people. She uses his own argument with his mother against him--wives need to serve their husbands. This leads us to believe that Rama may have been testing his wife's devotion, much like the epic hero, Odysseus, who tested people that he was close to.

     The comparisons between the different heroes we have read about in separate texts was another theme for the class. The class also touched on how religion has a stronghold in society and how it structures relationships, especially between men and women and within family. 


Word Count: 264



pg. 734 Sita's arguement

You mentioned the righteousness of serving your people: but, your father's command that you should go to the forest demands I should go, too; I am your half: and because of this, again I cannot live without you.  In fact you have often declared that a righteous wife will not be able to live seperated from her husband.  And listen!  This is not new to me: for even when I was in my father's house, long before we were married, wise astrologers had rightly predicted that I would live in a forest for some time.

Sita wants to go into the forest with Rama but he argues that she must stay behind to care for his father and kingdom.  Earlier Rama's mother, Kausalya, tells him that she too will go into the forest with him.  Rama counters her attempts by stating that a woman must serve her husband, therefore Kausalya will stay behind to serve the king while Rama goes into the forest.  Sita uses this same arguement, a woman serves her husband, to go with Rama.  Sita's duty, by law of dharma, is to serve Rama, and how could Rama, who lives by dharma so strictly, deny that Sita should go with him.  In the end, Sita does follow Rama into the forest. 


p. 742-43 Laksmana and Sita

     In the hermitage, both Sita and Laksmana heard the cry.  Sita believed it was Rama's voice.  She was panic-stricken.  She said to Laksmana: "Go, go quickly: your brother is in danger.  And, I cannot live without him.  My breath and my heart are both violently disturbed."  Laksmana remembered Rama's admonition that he should stay with Sita and not leave her alone.  He said to her: "Pray, be not worried."  Sita grew suspicious and furious.  She said to him: "Ah, I see the plot now!  You have a wicked eye on me and so have been waiting for this to happen.  What a terrible enemy of Rama you are, pretending to be his brother!"  Distressed to hear these words, Laksmana replied: "No one in the three worlds can overpower Rama, blessed lady!  It was not his voice at all.  These demons in the forest are capable of simulating the voice of anyone.  Having killed that demon disguised as a deer, Rama will soon be here.  Fear not."  His calmness even more annoyed Sita, who literally flew into a rage.  She said again: "Surely, you are the worst enemy that Rama could have had.  I know now that you have been following us, cleverly pretending to be Rama's brother and friend.  I know now that your real motive for doing so is either to get me or you are Bharata's accomplice.  Ah, but you will not succeed.  Presently, I shall give up my life.  For I cannot live without Rama."  Cut to the quick by these terrible words, Laksmana said: "You are worshipful to me: hence I cannot answer back.  It is not surprising that women should behave in this manner: for they are easily led away from dharma; they are fickle and sharp-tongued.  I cannot endure what you said just now.  I shall go.  The gods are witness to what took place here.  May those gods protect you.  But I doubt if when Rama and I return, we shall find you."  Bowing to her, Laksmana left.  

In this passage, Rama has left to go after the beautiful deer (Marica in disguise).  Sita and Laksmana think that they hear him call out to them, but it is the demon.  Sita, convinced that Rama is in danger, implores Laksmana to go after him.  He refuses at first since he must follow Rama's orders to look after her while he is gone.  Sita then accuses him of being an enemy of Rama and wanting her for himself.  He is insulated by her insinuation that he would go against his brother.  He responds to her by saying that women don't understand dharma, and they are constantly being led away from the right path. This is a small example of how women were viewed in society.  Since she is higher up than him, he can't answer back, but he leaves her alone to go find Rama in order to follow dharma and once again prove his loyalty to his brother.


p. 757 Rama tests Sita

Rama's heart was in a state of conflict, afraid as he was of public ridicule.  Hence, he continued: "I wish to let you know that all this was done not for your sake, but for the sake of preserving my honor.  Your conduct is open to suspicion, hence even your sight is displeasing to me.  Your body was touched by Ravana: how then can I, claiming to belong to a noble family, accept you?  Hence I permit you to go where you like and live with whom you lie- either Laksmana, Bharata, Satrughna, Sugriva, or even Vibhisana.  It is difficult for me to believe that Ravana, who was so fond of you, would have been able to keep away from you for such a long time."

     Sita was shocked.  Rama's words wounded her heart.  Tears streamed down her face.  Wiping them, she replied: "O Rama, you are speaking to me in the language of a common and vulgar man speaking to a common woman.  That which was under my control, my heart, has always been yours: how could I prevent my body from being touched when I was helpless and under another person's control? Ah, if only you had conveyed your suspicions through Hanuman when he came to meet me, I would have killed myself then and saved you all this trouble and the risk involved in the war."  Turning to Laksmana, she said: "Kindle the fire, O Laksmana: that is the only remedy.  I shall not live to endure this false calumny."  Laksmana looked at Rama and with his approval kindled the fire.  Sita prayed: "Even as my heart is ever devoted to Rama, may the fire protect me.  If I have been faithful to Rama in thought, word, or deed, may the fire protect me.  The sun, the moon, the wind, earth and others are witness to my purity; may the fire protect me."  Then she entered into the fire, even as an oblation poured into the fire would.  Gods and sages witnessed this.  The women who saw this screamed.  

In this passage, it seems that Rama would rather place "calumny" on his wife, then let it fall on himself. Rama must test Sita to ensure that she has remained chaste and loyal to him.  Sita is incredibly shocked that he would even doubt her heart and devotion throughout the time they have been apart.  Rama must test her in order to preserve his honor and reputation in the public eye. Even though Sita is humiliated and insulted by him suggesting that she has been unfaithful and having to undergo this test, she would rather die than be accused of letting another touch her body.  Odysseus also tests Penelope in The Odyssey to make sure that she has remained faithful to him while he was away. 



  • Ascetic- self-denying, giving up one's own prosperity
  • Calumny- grievous insult or shame
  • Paradox- a difficult situation where two "good decisions" are available to choose from; one answer is somehow better than the other

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