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Sita's "agni-pravEsam"

From: sudarshan (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Mon Nov 02 1998 - 09:01:17 PST

Dear Sri.S.H.Krishnan,
I quote from your recent post:
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"....Now if I am looking through Mata's angle all the episodes are painful.
Because of no mistake of hers, she had to leave the Bhagwan, How painfull
it would be, with the demons ! Then, to be TESTED  for purity ! Above all,
finally to be forsaken by the God Himself !
At this point, the obvious thing which comes to mind is " Is Seetha Matha
who is none other than the Universal Mother always at the mercy of the
Lord? "
( In that case, it becomes the DUTY of the Pathi to protect His Patni under
ALL circumstances, which I, wrongly , somehow, feel Sri Rama was unable to
do , when She was taken away by the Rakshasa.)
Now, where is the Karunyam of the Lord towards Her ?.........
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Over the ages, dear Sri.Krishnan, many great minds, both religious and
literary, have reflected upon the "agni-pravEsam" of Sita-pirAtti. In terms
of sheer dramatic profundity that particular scene in the "yuddha-kAndam"
probably has no parallel anywhere in the literature of the world. The
pathos of that moment in Valmiki's Ramayana truly overwhelms the human
heart ..... It is a sombre moment when both the frailty and glory of the
human condition is starkly revealed .... the moment when humanity, as it so
often happens in the course of events in life, finds itself stranded and
desolate at moral cross-roads.....    

Therefore it is not surprising, dear Sri.Krishnan, that like many before
you who have read and cherished the Ramayana, you too who have obviously
been thinking deeply about this wrenching episode in the Ramayana, cannot
help the dark and ambivalent feelings rumbling in your heart.... Believe
me, to this day I too feel the same way as you do... everytime I read the
"yuddha-kAndam"....

Readers' feelings of ambivalence alternating between indignation for Lord
Rama's act and sympathy for Sita's predicament are indeed understandable.
In fact they are all to be expected. Sage Valmiki, the great literatteur
that he certainly was, must have surely anticipated the intense and complex
feelings he would be arousing in the minds of readers as they followed the
dramatic sequence of events in this part of the "yuddha-kAndam". Truly
great literature of the world .... and the Ramayana is amongst the tallest
of them all .... all great literature of the world have this singular
capacity to produce amalgams of emotions in us which we can neither fathom
ourselves nor explain to others. 

When we are filled with indignation, even moral revulsion for what Lord
Rama did to Sita, it is also natural for us to feel, in equal measure,
deeply guilty. Guilty, because we cannot bring ourselves to see Lord Rama,
the God verily descended amongst us on earth, appear in such poor light. It
makes us feel we have caught Him off-guard and have discovered his faint
but nonetheless "true colours"; that after all He too like us possesses
only feet of clay! We then feel cheated, short-changed and deeply betrayed
.... like we always do when we see as much as the pale shadow of human
frailty fall upon and eclipse, even if only partly, the lustre of what we
consider lofty, sacred and divine. 

Similarly, when we find ourselves overwhelmed with feelings of sympathy for
Sita-pirAtti, we also sense a tinge of outrage simmering inside us that one
so noble and heroic in nature should yet have allowed herself to be reduced
to such abjectness ... to the fatalism and failure of common womanhood. 

These are all feelings which naturally beset one as one reads the final
passages of the "yuddha-kAndam". 

However, the enjoyment of truly great literature, dear Sri.Krishnan, should
not cease with mere indulgence in the natural feelings it evokes in the
human heart.

Instead we should seek in great literature, especially in a work of
"itihAsA" as hallowed as the Ramayana, we should seek in it instead the
means to transport ourselves from the plains of mere emotion to the summits
of moral truth.  

The "agni-pravEsam" of Sita-pirAtti should stir up not only strong emotion
in us. More importantly it should awaken us to a higher order of moral
sense.... the higher order where "dharma" shapes human values and
enlightens man's consciousness.

We will continue in the next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu dAsan,
sudarshan