Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

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Read about Sita at Wikipedia

SITA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] 'A furrow.' In the Veda, Sita is the furrow, or husbandry personified, and worshipped as a deity presiding over agriculture and fruits. In the Ramayana and later works she is daughter of Janaka king of Videha, and wife of Rama. The old Vedic idea still adhered to her, for she sprang from a furrow. In the Ramayana her father Janaka says, "As I was ploughing my field, there sprang from the plough a girl, obtained by me while cleansing my field, and known by name as Sita (the furrow). This girl sprung from the earth grew up as my daughter." Hence she is styled Ajoniya, 'not born from the womb.'

She is said to have lived before in the Krita age as Vedavati, and to be in reality the goddess Lakshmi in human form, born in the world for bringing about the destruction of Ravana, the Rakshasa king of Lanka, who was invulnerable to ordinary means, but doomed to die on account of a woman.

Sita became the wife of Rama, who won her by bending the great bow of Siva. She was his only wife, and was the embodiment of purity, tenderness, and conjugal affection. She accompanied her husband in his exile, but was carried off from him by Ravana and kept in his palace at Lanka. There he made many efforts to win her to his will, but she continued firm against all persuasions, threats and terrors, and maintained a dignified serenity throughout.

When Rama had slain the ravisher and recovered his wife, he received her coldly, and refused to take her back, for it was hard to believe it possible that she had retained her honour. She asserted her purity in touching language, and resolved to establish it by the ordeal of fire. The pile was raised and she entered the flames in the presence of gods and men, but she remained unhurt, and the god of fire brought her forth and placed her in her husband's arms.

Notwithstanding this proof of her innocence, jealous thoughts passed through the mind of Rama, and after he had ascended his ancestral throne at Ayodhya, his people blamed him for taking back a wife who had been in the power of a licentious ravisher. So, although she was pregnant, he banished her and sent her to the hermitage of Valmiki, where she gave birth to twin sons, Kusa and Lava. There she lived till the boys were about fifteen years old.

One day they strayed to their father's capital. He recognized and acknowledged them and then recalled Sita. She returned and publicly declared her innocence. But her heart was deeply wounded. She called upon her mother earth to attest her purity, and it did so. The ground opened, and she was taken back into the source from which she ahd sprung. Rama was now disconsolate and resolved to quit this mortal life.

Sita had the appellations of Bhumija, Dharanisuta, and Parthivi, all meaning 'daughter of the earth.'

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM