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Rama's treatment of Sita

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani)
Date: Wed Jan 17 1996 - 11:22:59 PST

I read with great interest Vidyasankar's and Sreekrishna's
notes on this subject.  I think both of you have explained
the situation quite well, in an abstract sense.  However, if
we look at Valmiki's text itself, Rama's treatment of Sita is
still very troubling in several ways.  From a purely emotional
standpoint, one cannot but feel deeply hurt for Sita.  Sri
V.S. Srinivasa Sastri, a great lecturer on Valmiki's Ramayana,
says that many a great bhakta have openly wept while hearing
these words of Rama.

But let's evaluate this from a rational standpoint.  When
Sita sees Rama for the first time after Ravana's death, there
is no joy, no exultation in Rama's eyes.  In fact, one may say
that he is detached to the point of being rude.  Yet there
is more than just this.  He says that Sita now has the option
of living with Lakshmana or Sugriva, as she is no longer fit
to be his wife, having lived with another man for so long.
It is not clear whether he is telling her to join Lakshmana
as the latter's wife, but giving even room for such doubt
is troublesome.

See here the deep mistrust and disgust in Rama's words.  I cannot
explain nor understand how he could be so cruel.  ``dharmo vigrahavaan''
yes, but is not part of dharma to be impartial, to weigh all
the evidence, and to have trust in someone as stainless as Sita?
At the end of the war, not a single person had any doubt in
Sita's fidelity. Not a single person, save Rama.  This situation
is entirely different from the one with the dhobi in the Uttarakanda.

To say that Rama was acting in character as a purely rational
being is also not correct.  After Sita's abduction, Rama was often
depressed to the point of being suicidal.  He wept deeply at the
loss of his love, and displayed emotions that any normal, righteous
human would.

I would like to know what great Rama-bhaktas like Govindaraja,
Periya Vacchaan Pillai and others have said on this topic.  It seems
that this is the biggest black mark on Rama's character.

[I set aside the Uttara Kanda abandonment as being a later addition
 to Valmiki's epic. I know this is like cutting the Gordian knot,
 but there is far too much textual evidence that indicates that this
 portion, though great poetry, was not written by Valmiki's hand.
 Dealing with Rama's behavior there is a separate problem.]