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Musings on Sita's "agni-pravEsam" #15

From: sudarshan (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Thu Dec 17 1998 - 02:29:00 PST

Dear members & friends who are following this thread,

In the rather quaint anecdote related by Mukkur Swamy,
"anumAna" led people to believe, as we saw in the last post, that simply
because the "vaidika brahmin" on Usman Road was seen to enter a wayside 
restaurant, he was also a profound profaner of Vedic rectitude and a
disgrace to his brethren of the faith.

The anecdote sharply illustrates how the human process of "rational
inference" --- "anumAnam" --- a process virtually idolized by the
scientific man of the modern age into an infallible aid in his efforts to
understand the truth about the world around him and about himself .... how
such a process of "anumAna" very often leads to anything but the Truth.

It is the fallibility of "anumAna" as a valid means ("pramANa") of
attaining Truth ..."para-brahm-ic" truth ..... it is that human fallibility
that is implied in the phrase used in the "purusha-suktam" which
proclaims to us, "nAnyafpanthA vidyatEyanAya......".

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The same fallibility of "anumANa" is equally well illustrated in the scenes
scripted by Sri.Valmiki and which lead to the "agni-pravEsam".   

If you go back a few weeks to look up Musing#7 in this series you will see
how in it is described the scene where Vibeeshana goes to Asokavana to
fetch Sita-pirAtti. The "rAkshasa" king conveys to Her the desire of
Sri.Rama that She should present Herself to Him .... duly bathed,
groomed and be-jewelled.

Sita on hearing this strange request of Sri.Rama is perplexed:

""EvamuktA tu vaidEhi pratyUvAcha vibeeshaNam I
     asnAthA drashtu-micchAmi BhartAram rAkshasADhipa II"

She tells Vibeeshana,"I'd rather first see Him as I am --- soiled, grimy,
grief-stricken and tear-ridden.... Why does He want me to appear before Him
bathed and bejewelled? To appear as though I have been leading a gay life
these several months? Let Him see me, Vibeeshana, let Him see me, please,
as I am, exactly as I have remained these many months of separation
here......pining away for my Lord".  

Vibeeshana of course demurs and insists Sita better carry out Her husband's
desire. 

And hence She is given a royal bath, dressed up in silks, decked with
jewellery.... and carried on a palanquin by courtiers amidst much pomp and
pagaentry through a great concourse of Vibeeshana's subjects and
Sugriva's warriors.... and eventually She is let into Sri.Rama's grim
and smouldering presence.....

We described that vivid scene in fair amout of detail in Musing#7.

In recalling that scene of extreme pathos we speculated too on what might
have been the outcome of events in the "yuddha-kAnda" if Sita had been
allowed to present Herself to Sri.Rama in the same state in which She had
been living in Asokavana:

"........should Vibeeshana have yielded to Her", we asked ourselves, "had
he yielded when Sita pleads with Vibeeshana to let her go to her Lord in
the same state in which she'd lived all those lonely months in
Ashokavanam..... if only she'd been allowed to go to Rama looking exactly
as Vibeeshana had found her ......pale, forlorn, grimy and unkempt....
if only Vibeeshana had yielded.... would the "agni-pravEsam" ever have
occurred?".

"And again", we asked,"would not the sight of a wretched Sita.... as She
really was....would it not have been, at once and forever, more than ample
testimony to Sri.Rama, and to the whole world at large, of Her pristine
virtue.... of her innocence... of her supreme nobility...?".
 
 *************           *******************         ******************

Now, when we begin to so reflect on the sequence of events in this
"sargA" we are indeed hard-pressed to satisfactorily explain to ourselves: 

(a) why should Sita have been prevented from appearing in Her natural state
and condition before Rama? 

(b) why was She forced, as She Herself plaintively wondered, to appear
before Her Lord in a state of sartorial elegance designed to surely give
anyone watching Her, in that vast assembly of men, of "vAnara" and
"rAkshasA",
the impression, nay, the strongest suspicion that She "had perhaps been
leading a gay life all along in Ravana's Lanka ?..... 

(c) why this deliberate attempt by Valmiki to create deeply misleading
appearances which only serve to  prejudice and slur Sita-pirAtti's image
and characterisation?

Yes, it is indeed very, very, very difficult to explain Valmiki's
intentions here......just as it was equally difficult in the Mukkur Swamy
story... we may well imagine... just as it was difficult to tell, at first
sight, why that poor "vaidika brahmin" strode into that wayside
restaurant on Usman Road without a moment's thought or caution....!!

But what IS however crystal clear in these scenes is only this:

The Truth of Sita's pristine sinlessness.... the lustre of that Truth which
Rama Himself inadvertantly described as "blindingly splendorous" ("depO
nEtrAturasyEva
pratikoolAsI may driDam")....(words not dissimilar to those of the Veda
which too
described the Truth of "para-Brahmam" as "aaditya-varnam
tamasas-parastAt").... that Virtue, that Truth of Sita remained well out of
the grasp of the those in Lanka witnessing the scene of Her
re-union with Sri.Rama.

........."Out of grasp" because they were all merely using their frail and
fallible "anumAna" to fathom and to judge the Truth of Sita's lofty
character......

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"vAkya-vArinA".... "veda-vAkya" or "sabda-pramANA"..... we will take up in
the next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,
sudarshan