“No ancient story, not even Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey, has remained as popular through the course of time. The story of Ram appears as old as civilization and has a fresh appeal for every generation.
– David Frawley (The oracle of Rama)
Many educated Indians, mostly Hindus, are confused about the character of Lord Rama. One of the most common challenges I hear is:
“Ram was a selfish person; he was more interested in his own reputation than to protect his chaste wife, Sita.”
The proof, they claim, is his banishment of mother Sita. He abandoned his devoted wife because he heard a washer man disown his wife when she stayed with another man one night. The washer man levelled the charge, “I am not like the coward, infatuated Ram, who would accept a wife even after she stayed with another man.”
Thus, the argument: ‘Ramayana teaches values that are out dated and inhuman’.
If Ram was a coward he wouldn’t have fought a bloody war; if he was infatuated or selfish he certainly wouldn’t have sent away Sita from the kingdom of Ayodhya. He loved her dearly, and in the Ramayana- spanning over 25,000 verses- Ram’s fondness and affection for his wife is described in great detail. When she was kidnapped, Ram was inconsolable. He was as devoted to her as was she.
The Uttara Khanda of Ramayana describes Ram as forlorn and devastated at the prospect of losing his beloved Sita. He cries to Lakshman that he’d know no peace and happiness without Sita. So acute was his pain of separation from his wife that he refused to remarry. Although it was a common tradition then for kings to have many wives-his father had more than three hundred- Ram chose to rule for the next ten thousand years without a wife. He cried and suffered in separation from his dear Sita.
Ironically, Ramayana reveals Ram as a sensitive, emotional person who deeply loved his wife-a stark contrast to what is made of him by the Indologists and modern historians. The descriptions of Ram’s lamentation after losing his wife are heart-wrenching. Valmiki rishi has devoted four chapters to describe Ram’s intense separation from his wife (Aranya Khanda-chapters 60-63). Again in the next section (Kishkindha Khanda- chapter 27) when Ram and Lakshman are at the Parsvana mountain, Ram remembers his beloved Sita and anguishes at his loss. While he breaks down, his dutiful brother Lakshman encourages him to give up his despondency and pursue his duty. Ram’s tender-hearted nature also comes out in his loving reciprocation with Lakshman, Jatayu, Hanuman, Guha, Sugriva, and many others.
Therefore the basic premise-Ram is a chauvinist, and Ramayana, a product of a culture that breeds on macho bigotry- is wrong. Ram’s attitude was exemplary- he was noble hearted, affectionate, and a selfless leader, who willingly gave up his own pleasures, to follow the path of righteousness.
But the question remains: why did he banish mother Sita?
To be continued…..