“We have no right to ask the question, ‘why did this happen to me’ unless we ask the same question for every joy that comes our way”
– Lord Rama (in the Ramayana)
“But is Sita not a citizen also? How could he give her pain? Should Ram not protect her?”
Yes, and that’s why he didn’t banish her.
While Ram was banished by Kaikeyi to go to the forest infested with wild animals and demons, Ram did not harshly expel Sita. He cared for her. The truth is Ram sent her to Valmiki rishi’s ashram where many-even women- lived in a spiritual atmosphere of care. She was well protected there, and in the company of many saintly women who attended to her needs, she nourished herself spiritually, and like Ram who cried in separation from his beloved Sita, she too wept feeling the pangs of separation.
While Ram’s exile was a result of an evil ploy, Sita being sent to ashram was Ram’s sincere attempt to balance his different dharmas.
Mother Sita’s response
Moreover her response to the decision also needs to be considered.
If Ram’s exile earlier was a life of uncertainty, Sita’s banishment now was a life of devotion, and loving remembrance of Ram in separation. Although Ram was banished unjustly, he nursed no grudges against his evil doers; he worshipped his step mother and thanked her for this order. Similarly Sita accepted the decision with grace and maturity, knowing the intricacies of dharma.
Additionally Sita was not a timid, emotionally abused woman who was forced to toe her husband’s line of thought. She was independently thoughtful, and assertive. She acted not helplessly, as the pseudo intellectuals would like us to believe; rather she knew the complexities of kingly duties. Therefore she was gracious, and soberly accepted the situation as the inevitable twists and turns of life, on which we have little control.
Earlier, it was her decision to accompany Lord Ram to the forest. When Lord Rama persuaded her to stay back at Ayodhya, arguing that forest life is fraught with dangers, she lost her patience. She admonished Ram for being weak-hearted, and wondered if her father had married her off to a woman who was in the guise of a man. These are harsh insults on warrior kings, yet Ram, seeing her determination, took her along.
Sita knew her Dharma
After killing of Ravana, Ram cried as he announced his decision to Sita that he had nothing to do with her. She was furious; it was her decision to invoke fire and enter it to prove her chastity. The incident was orchestrated by the Lord to present to the world Sita’s glorious quality of purity. This is confirmed in Koorma Purana; Sita was under the care of God of Fire, and through the fire test, she was returned to Ram. In the entire Ramayana, this was the only incident when Lord Ram spoke harshly to Sita. But she spoke more than once, without mincing words, and fully expressed her anger at her husband. She very well knew her duties, and she chose to follow her dharma. If Ram’s decision to send her to the Ashram was a wrong one, she would have refused to honour it, just as years ago she refused to stay back at the palace when he told her to.
In another instance, when Hanuman told Sita to hop on her back so that he could take her safely to Ram, she again revealed her clear thinking and decisive action. There was little time to lose, and Hanuman was offering her a great chance to escape from Ravana’s Lanka. Yet she refused, insisting that it was the duty of her husband Ram to come and fight Ravana, and take her honourably from Lanka. Also this is the only instance when Sita mildly admonished Hanuman, calling him a monkey, and gave logical reasons for dismissing his proposal.
To be continued…