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Musings on sita's agni-pravEsam#8

From: sudarshan (
Date: Mon Nov 30 1998 - 08:59:01 PST

Dear Sri.S.H.Krishnan & others (who are following this thread),

When Sita is brought into the presence of Rama there is high-voltage
electricity in the air..... a palpable tension takes hold of the bystanders
who have flocked to witness the re-union of royalty. They are all looking
forward to what they hope will be a joyous occasion; soon they they sense
something is going terribly wrong; they feel it in the air. They begin to
suspect they are going to witness violence of volcanic intensity.  

Few encounters in the literature of the world .... not even those that have
become legend and proverbial as "great Greek tragedies" ..... can surpass
Valmiki in his graphic depiction of raw human emotion in this particular
scene of
the "agni-pravEsam".

"Not for your sake, woman, this war was fought; It was to redeem my
honour.....", Lord Rama says straightaway.

Throughout this scene we see the Lord use expressions like a whip-lash.
His utterances are vicious. They seem to be chosen swiftly but carefully;
chosen especially to cause extreme laceration on
a poor, unarmed feminine heart. The words inflict wounds and pain far more
searing than any arrow hurled by Rama did in the entire story of the

"tadarTham nirjithA may tvam yashaha pratyAhrutam mayA I
  nAsti may tvayyA-BhishvangO yaThEshtam gamyatAmitaha II"

"kaha pumAn hi kulE jAtaha striyam paragrihO-shitAm I
   tEjasvi punarAda-dhyAt suhrl-lEkhyEna chEtasa    II"

"Which man of noble stock, with longing,
  Will take you back ----
  You who have for a while 
   Lain on Ravana's lap".

"All the glory of pristine womanhood
  All the grace of purity, perfection
 all the fire of the true wife
 all have taken leave of you."    

(from the "SitAyana" of K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar)
       **********             ************        ****************

As the scene further unfolds, Rama continues in the same malevolent vein,
hurling a volley of verbal cataclysms, one after another, without cease, on
a hapless spouse.

"tadgachha hyaByanu-gnyAtA yaThEshtam janakAtmajE" I
Go away, Sita..... begone from me... wherever you like... as you like!

"EtA dasha dishO BhadrE kAryamasti na may tvayA I"   
"There are ten directions around you. Choose one and just fade away into
"kAryamasti na may tvayA ....".
I have no longer any need for thee....".

"nAsti may tvayyBhisvangaha ......"
"I desire thee not; nor do I long for thee...."

"prAptachAritra-sandEhA mama pratimUKhE stiThA I
 depO nEtrAturasyEva pratikoolAsI may driDam I"
I can't stand the sight of you, Sita .... you are revolting to
eyes flinch from you as if they were diseased and can't bear the glare of
Now, the last mentioned statement above of Lord Rama is a curious statement
indeed. It has all the prima facie colours of a great, monumental "Freudian
slip"...... it is also our resonant key to the melodic theme of Vedic
underlying this scene.... but we shall come to it later in the ensuing

      *************             *************         **************

Expressions of extreme cruelty... almost savage in intensity, we would be
tempted to say, had they been spoken by ordinary men.... the cruelest
ever to be possibly spoken by a man to wife are indeed spoken here by Lord
Rama to Sita-pirAtti. 

To crown it all, the ultimate humiliation He heaps on Her is in this
particular "shlOkA", commented upon variously by several
Ramayana scholars:

"lakshmaNe BharathE vA tvam kuru buDhim yaThAsukham I
 sugrIvE vAnarEndrE vA rAkshasEndrE viBhishanE I
 nivEshaya manaha sItE yaThA va suKhamAtmanaha II   (VI.118.22-23)

"Fix your affections on any one of the 4 ---- Lakshmana, Bharatha, Sugriva
or Vibeeshana ---- or any one else.... and depart, for all I care, with
your chosen one", He says.

This is undoubtedly the "unkindest cut of all".... in one, mighty, lethal
stab of a verbal dagger Rama plunges deepest into Sita's heart and 
shreds it to pieces. Valmiki uses exquisite poetry to describe this:

"tata-ha priyArha-sravNA tadapriyam priyAd-pasrutya chirasya maithhili I
mumOcha bAshpam suBrsham pravEpitA gajEndra-hastABhihatEva sallakee II"

"Yea, she was a creeper trampled upon
By an elephant in rut;
and 'twas heartless indeed he had raved
in the midst of so many."            (from the "Sitayana")

To suggest to Her to take Lakshmana and Bharatha as her paramours anew was
sordid enough.... to include Sugriva and Vibeeshana too ... sub-humans and
mere supplicants ... was indeed heaping a
suppurating wound... not with mounds of salt ..... 
but with gallons of virulent acid.    

                  *************    ********************   ****************
A hush of deepest misery and awe descended upon the gathering there.

Ape, "rAkshasa" and man alike stood stupefied by the emotional massacre
enacted before their very eyes. Lakshmana, Vibeeshana, Sugriva, even
Hanuman, the old Jamabavan of eternal wisdom..... not one raised his voice
in as much as a whimper of protest...... everybody quaked ..... everyone
drew his breath in, afraid to even respirate .... everyone turned his face
in another direction....

"na hi rAmam tadA kaschith-kAlantha-kayamOshamam I
anUnEtumathO vaktum drashtum vApyashakath-suhrth II "

In this distance of time now, we may well imagine the horror that must have
filled the hearts of all those who watched the encounter between the Lord
and His consort. We may imagine that some may have turned their heads away
unable to bear the painful event; others may have been simply
traumatised by the sheer savagery of Rama's castigation; others may have
away, perhaps, in the modern spirit of  "It's a quarrel between man and
wife.... it
should'nt be carried out in public like this. But then it is none of my

The womenfolk gathered there.... gentle,matronly souls like TrijithA, Anala
and Sarama.... they too being utterly dumbfounded by the event could hardly
do anything other than shed silent, helpless tears of feminine
commiseration for Sita. 

"Not a feeling eye in that vast concourse
 But was blind with flowing tears......"       ("SitAyana")
Everything in this scene about the helpless SIta-pirAtti recalls to us
indeed the
utter helplessness, that feeling of being utterly abandoned, that sense of
"cosmic orphanhood", which overcame Draupadi in the MahabharatA in that
moment of her disrobement in the assembly of Hastinapur.

In Draupadi's case it was the modesty of womanhood that was outraged. But
in Sita's poignant case, the outrage was at a profounder, deep and more
painful level....
it was outrage of the very purpose, the very essence of ideal
womanhood..... outrage by none other than ..... the Ideal itself. 

We shall continue further in the next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,