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Re: Rama's treatment of Sita
Date: Wed Jan 17 1996 - 15:05:02 PST

Mani wrote:

> we look at Valmiki's text itself, Rama's treatment of Sita is
> still very troubling in several ways.  From a purely emotional

Beyond a point, we have to put up with some amount of misogyny
present in all our ancient literature, I think. In Valmiki's
Ramayana, the women are consistently represented as subordinate and
in some places, quite inferior to men. Sita and Rama are no exceptions
to this. From the point of view of our modern sensibilities, this
strikes us as wrong. But we can't pretend that this supposed inferiority
of women to men is not present in Skt. literature. 

> 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?

I agree. Rama's words to Sita at the end of the war do strike one as
unnecessarily cruel. One way of understanding them is to view them as
setting the background for the agni-parIkshA that Rama asks Sita to 
undergo. He could not have asked her to go through the agni-parIkshA 
without initially being cruel to her, right? Another rationalization 
would be to view the episode as one where some of Sita's prArabdha-karmas
were being worked out. In that case, Rama has no choice but to be cruel,
in order for the karma to take effect.

On the whole, the working of dharma in the Valmiki Ramayana is very rigid. 
There is no room in Valmiki's poem for the "avanum nokkinaan, avaLum
nokkinaaL" romance of Kamban. There also do not seem to be any instances
of the working of karuNA in Valmiki. The concept of right duty dictates
the relationship between husband and wife also. Except for Rama's anguish 
at losing Sita, there are not many depictions of tenderness between them.