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Today morning I got up to see a link to a video on the Facebook Page by a member, Varsha Gokhale. The video is from some Indian TV serial on Rāma, and I started to watch it just like any other link. I started watching it with no expectation, after all it is some TV serial, which they are making dime a dozen on bhakti these days. But while watching, so many thoughts ran through the mind, outpaced only by the feelings in the heart, that this post had to be written.

Many times we only use our brain, but sometimes, it is okay to use our heart, and feel things. Even if we are men. Before you see the video, I want to set the right background, for those who do not know the (details of the ) story of Rāma.

Brief storyline.
Rāma is the eldest prince, and his coronation for tomorrow has even been announced. His stepmother Kaikeyī calls due the rain check on the boons her husband had given her for saving his life in the battlefield someday in the distant past. Kaikeyī, brain washed by her hunchback maid Mantharā, asks for Rāma to be exiled (can not enter any human settlement, not just Ayodhya) and the throne for her own son Bharata. Everyone opposes this; Lakṣhmaṇa even suggests taking the empire by force. But Rāma leaves, saying that snatching the throne against elders’ wishes will set a bad example to people.

When Sītā and all the citizens ask to accompany him, he says it is his sentence to fulfill, not theirs. But Sītā follows giving the argument of 'a wife must never leave her husband' (Till death do us part?) and Lakṣhmaṇa becomes his ‘slave’ and hence a master must take his servant.

He spends many years in the jungle, helping people, learning about the land, making bonds with forest dwellers. Sītā is kidnapped by Raāvaṇa by force and kept in Laṅkā. Rāma, who was banished from entering any civilized settlements, with the help of Sugrīva and Hanumān and their army, fights the mighty sorcerer Rāvaṇa and his brothers, his armies, and finally wins. Rāvaṇa was invincible by the boon of Brahmā the Creator not be killed by anyone but humans and animals, so Rāma, the human avatāra of Lord Viṣhṇu, was finally able to kill Rāvaṇa.

The Fire test.
After that, still in the battlefield, he says to Sītā, "I have cleared my name as a warrior who could rescue his wife. Now you are free to go anywhere you wish, and marry anyone you wish." Everyone is shocked by this, for the months long battle with heavy casualties was fought to get Sītā back. Even the Creator Brahmā himself tells Rāma, "Have you forgotten O Lord, that you are Viṣhṇu himself, and have descended to earth only to deliver it of the tortures of sinner. Now that is over, why are you not seeing your own consort Lakṣhmī standing in front of you?"

Sītā, thus humiliated, asks for the pyre to be built and says if she is pure, fire would not harm her. Indeed, Fire God Agni comes and delivers her with a certificate of purity.

Rāma says, "I knew all along, you were pure and will always be and fire could not harm you. But how would I have convinced all these people, who don't understand your divinity? Words would not have sufficed to clear your name."

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In later additions to the story over ages, it is further added, that even while she was expecting, upon hearing a washer-man's allegations against Sītā, Rāma sends her to the āshrama of Sage Vālimīki, where she stays and gives birth to twins.

Here is a video, from one of the TV serials in India, the story is after pregnant Sītā has left the palace for āshrama. Sītā is needed for the fire ritual, yajña (यज्ञ). The only way out is to have a statue of hers sitting next to Rāma during the ceremony. Being emperor, of course it has to be a golden status. In the video, he is talking to the sculptor, who is blind. Sculptor requests Rāma to tell how Sītā looks, what is like, so he can make the statue. I agree that much more could be said about Sītā, but for once, look at Rāma, not as divine, but as human, that he portrayed all along.

Imagine yourself in his position -

- Heir to the greatest empire of its time, everyone loves you, respects you.
- You are eldest of four brothers, have been recently married to the most beautiful girl in the world.
- You are going to be the crown prince tomorrow.
- Because of the instigation of the hunchback maid of your step mother, she asks you to leave for 14 years of exile and throne goes to your step brother.
- You take everything smiling and leave, even when your mighty bother is ready to fight and take by force, even when your repentant father asks you to imprison him and overrule him.
- You spent life in one long camping picnic, interspersed with fighting demons and fetching water from pure flowing river, taking afternoon naps after a sumptuous lunch made by your dear wife, with whom you spend most of the time, since there is nothing else to do, you discuss matters of polity, culture, relationship, administration and everything.
- She is kidnapped.
- You weep like a madman, asking plants and birds to give you a clue.
- You make some allies.
- You find out she is on an island, trapped by the most powerful demon, who has defeated even the gods.
- You fight, help others, get help, and make the longest man-made bridge out of stones thrown in the ocean.
- You fight the master of deception, master of arms, and sorcery and one by one, with casualties on both sides, win the war.
- You are dying to meet your wife, for who you have done all this.
- You are forced to say to her 'You are free to go anywhere and marry anyone, for I know not what your character has been', while knowing very well that she is pure and you, as the new king, can very well afford to not care about anyone in the world thinks.
- She proves out to be pure, you return to be the king.
- She is expecting, there are rumors, and you once again let her go.
- Now you need a statue made of her for some ritual that requires it.
- And the blind sculptor asks you to describe her to him.


Let us watch the video. For once leave aside all logic, brains, and feel with your heart, the pain of a man bound by his duties, principle, and yearning for his love of life.

When the sculptor asks to describe Sītā, he starts saying she is the best woman, best daughter, best wife, best daughter-in-law.
And then he quivers with sorrow, remembering that she was expecting when she left the palace. And he remembers all the wonderful time they had spent during their extended forest camping of fourteen years. Imagine today, how much time do we give our spouses in a 24 hour period? Spending all your time together would have made the bond all that much stronger!

Then he describes Sītā to the sculptor in verse. I am giving the Hindi words for those can read, and meaning for those who cannot. Subtitles are also there on the video.
परिचय कर सौन्दर्य सृष्टि से Get introduced to the creation of Beauty
देख सिया को मेरी दृष्टि से See Sītā through my eyes
वरदानी चरणों से गति ले Take nirvāṇa (gati) from boon-giving [auspicious] feet
मूर्ति बनाने की अनुमति ले Take permission to make her statue
कटि कोमल कर-कमल सुहाने Slim waist, enticing hands soft and pink as lotus
बाहों का हार बनाना जाने Knew how to make a garland of the arms
है देदीप्यमान मुखमण्डल Her face has a divine brilliance
गहरे नयन-श्याम, बिन काजल Deep eyes are black without applying kohl
मस्तक पर सूरज की प्रभा है Forehead stands tall and shining like the Sun
केशों में घनघोर घटा है In her tresses are the deep rain bearing clouds
हर नाते की हर छवि प्यारी Every memory of every interaction is dear
मन से देवी, तन से नारी A woman by body, a Goddess by heart
जब यह मूर्ति बना लायेगा When you will bring the finished statue
तू भी अमरता पा जायेगा You too will attain immortality
यज्ञ, मूर्ति रख होगा पूरा The ritual will be complete only with the statue
सिय बिन राम रहेगा अधूरा Without Sītā, Rāma will be always be incomplete.

Listen at 3:45 minutes, when he says 'mastak par sooraj ki prabhaa hai', he pauses at 'mastak par ....' - 'on the forehead...' lost in the memories of her company. I think thanks to the TV serials, we can reach out to him as a human, else his character has been so exalted, we never tend to see his side of the story as a man separated from his wife.

"Sometimes I feel I know Sītā very well, and the very next moment I think I don't know her at all." - what dilemma, what yearning, what drama!

Would you have been able to carry out your duties as a noble king, without faltering? Or would you have simply given up everything in disdain and remorse? What would be more difficult, leaving all this, or bearing all this? Not even remarrying, when it was not unusual for kings to have many wives.

Many - who do not understand much about anything, much less understand poetry or the mass psychology of society, or a scripture written thousands of years ago - have maligned Rāma. There is one classic example used by detractors with agendas - of him asking Sītā to take the fire-test (agni-parīkṣhā). Interestingly, he never asked her to take any test. She understood and took the test on her own accord to prove herself innocent. People do not realize that what Rāma did was not a male dominated woman-oppressing action, but he took all the blame of possible allegations away from her and onto himself.

As a husband, as a king, as a leader he took all that personal sacrifice onto himself. We may be angry at him, upset at him for behaving thus, but no one has ever said a single word against Sītā. That is because what Rāma did. Knowingly. It is not easy to do that when you have just won the war and got your wife back, and no one is expecting you to doubt or leave her. He did this as a preemptive action against possible blemish for her later on. Is that not the epitome of manly love? If there really was women’s oppression then any one of Dasharatha, Rāma, Lakṣhmaṇa could have killed the hunchback maid or Kaikeyī the step-mother.

When you have given up a trillion dollar empire at the whims of a stepmother who is under the spell of a hunchback woman, left everything and lived like a warrior monk in the jungle for over a decade, lost your wife to a kidnapper, never took any other woman to your heart or even with your eyes, gathered an army of alliances, fought the war against the most powerful of all being at the time, then, only then, and surely then, you have the rights to decide whatever you think is right.

And anyone who dares to belittle that, is not even a dust particle, wishing to be in the same time-space zone as the greatness of this soul, the perfect man - Maryādā Pusuṣhottama Rāma.

May your life be guided by his examples, and may you seek answers when in doubt, rather than drawing wrong conclusions.