Sita: In search of the lost glory


Chandrabati was the first female poet in Bangla who lived in the 16th century in the Mymensingh district of present-day Bangladesh. She is credited with telling Ramkatha from Sita’s point of view. Village women in Bangladesh today still sing parts of the Ramayan by Chandrabati for its lyrical quality and emotional effectiveness.

Sita returned from Lanka after the war. Ram is the king of Ayodhya now and she is the queen. Sita is sitting in the palace and her friends in the royal household ask her to tell her story. She believes that she has been unlucky since birth and that she has always suffered despite having Ram as her husband and a brother like Lakshman. She remembers: “About my luck, what shall I say, God created a victim for me since I was born.

She reveals her heart in front of the female audience. It is told in the Baromasi style – a monthly depiction of the incidents of his life during the last year of exile. Ram, Lakshman, and Sita reach Panchavati Forest on the banks of the Godavari River and decide to make their cabin there. She is kidnapped by Ravana and taken to Lanka to be kept in the Ashok Kanan. Then she tells the story of Hanuman’s arrival. She is consoled by Hanuman, who shows her Ram’s ring. She is convinced that her whereabouts are known to Raghavendra and she will be saved. She learns from the demons guarding her that Meghnad, Kumbhakarna and other warriors have been killed. Lanka is devastated, and Ravan and his clan have been destroyed by Ram’s arrows. Sita has found her Raghumani.

Sita’s voice must be heard. The removal of the book ‘Chandrabati’s Ramayana’, translated from Bengali by Nabaneeta Dev Sen, from the BA (Hons) English program at the University of Delhi shows the questionable attitude towards women. Ravana was the embodiment of physical, financial and military power. Indra, the king of the Devas, was a prisoner of war, living in a stable in Lanka and cutting grass for horses. Yama protected Lankapuri as the chief guard. Vishwakarma was the chief architect of the Golden Lanka. The Ashok Kanan was better than the Nandan Kanan of the heavens. Ravana said that Sita, if she wanted, would be his queen wife instead of Mandodari. But Sita rejected Ravana’s advances. She gave up food and adornments and lived as an ascetic. She wanted to die but lived because she wanted to be with Ram again. It was Sita’s strong will and character that defeated Ravana. The destruction of the Golden Lanka results from an insult to female power symbolized by Sita. It gives a message that great civilizations suffer irreparably if women are insulted.

And what do we see now? There has been a flurry of messages on WhatsApp lately, where Sita is not visible with Ram. What is the rationale for removing Sita from the heart of Hanuman? Hanuman’s heart only has the idol of Ram according to some WhatsApp messages. This is unacceptable. There can be no Ram without Sita.

Ram orders the exile of a pregnant Sita because her character is questioned by some wicked men in Ayodhya. Sita accepts her fate. She never blames Ram for his distress and exile in the forest. Nowhere has she cursed a man or a woman for her problems. Of course, she fears the curses of the desolate women of Lanka whose sons and husbands were killed in the war.

In exile, she gives birth to twins and awaits Ram’s call. She is invited to be a part of Yajna but again, she is asked to show her chastity in front of everyone by a test of fire. She is deeply hurt and makes it clear that she will not be coming back. She enters the burning flames never to return.

Sita is the hero of the Ramayana of Chandrabati and rightly so. Her ability to endure suffering and pain gives the character of Sita, as a hero of literature. The bards sang of the bravery shown in the Ram-Ravana war, while the punishments suffered by Sita are not appropriately mentioned.

Why hesitate to give women their due? What about gender equality? Ram Rajya’s well-professed concept struggles with Sita’s tribulations and there are uncomfortable questions about the treatment given to him. Maybe, there is a chance that people like Bali Rajya where there was ecstasy for all the people in his kingdom. There was no unrest and exploitation. Bali ensured the equality and dignity of women and men of all castes. King Mahabali (also known as Maveli) is still remembered every year during the Onam festival as an ideal king, who could banish troubles and sorrows.

The story of Sita of Chandrabati should be studied by all for the beauty of its verses and its human effect which is not eclipsed by emotions. Sita is the soul of India and her name and glory will last forever.

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