Sita's happy hours in Ram's court in Ayodhya, before
her exile to Sage Valmiki's hermitage.
A TALE FROM RAMAYANA
‘Wait for me .I shall return in a short while’ , Sita told Soudhanya as she got down in front of the door of Ram’s court.
Soudhanya, the charioteer, who brought Sita from Valmiki’s hermitage to Ayodhya, was surprised : Why Sita would return to the chariot? Would not she move into the palace after her meet with Ram and return to the empty space in Ram’s throne, refreshed and in queen’s attire?
Sita knew her husband much better than Soudhanya and the ardent readers of Valmiliki’s chronicle. This morning, when she saw the chariot from Ayodhya without the usual royal entourage, she knew her foreboding of last evening was correct. She knew she would have to return to ignominy. She was determined to handle the situation, this time, her way.
* * * * * *
Her last evening in sage Valmiki’s hermitage.
This was her dwelling for more than fourteen years…..nowhere else she stayed longer than this in her adult life. A simple cottage , nothing like the palace where she should have been as the queen of Ayodhya. She would bid farewell to this dwelling of hers next morning. She would not return to Sage Valmiki’s hermitage ever in her life !
Sita sighed as she stepped into her cottage and sat in the favourite corner of her own room. From here she could have a glimpse of the ground where Lav-Kush used to practice archery. A small garden across her room filled her cottage with a fragrance she would miss from tomorrow.
Tomorrow , a chariot would come at her doorstep from Ayodhya’s palace. Ram had sent an invitation to the mother of Lav-Kush , an invitation to be present in the royal court of Ayodhya. This afternoon, this evening be would her time for reminiscences.
Her time for decisions.
The three men in her life!
Ram, the handsome young warrior in her father’s court, quiet determination and self-confidence in his body language , easily lifted the bow of Lord Shiva , put the string across and pulled it so hard that it broke. While her father JanakRaj and others applauded, Sita looked at Ram with a pride in her heart . She also sensed that her friends were looking at her with envy. Later, after her marriage with Ram, when she was melting in his embrace, Ram asked her when Sita fell for him : before or after he lifted the bow. She kissed Ram ,first ever kiss from her side, but, did not reply. She was not sure herself.
She could recall vividly all the moments of affection and passion she shared with Ram while she traveled with him through the forests during the period of Ram’s banishment. And also his anxious look when he went out from their cottage in that fateful day to catch the golden deer .
She never found that ‘Ram’ later when they were together after her rescue from Lanka. The boyish charm, the deep, deep love of nature, his joy in sharing the small pleasures of life with Sita. Sita remembered Ram’s attitude when she met him for the first time after Ravana was dead. His face had deep lines and his eyes did not smile. He was rude in front of Lakshman , Hanuman and other characters she never met earlier. Sita decided not to think about the other details of those traumatic moments of her life.
Later on, when in Ayodhya, Ram was a busy King, occupied with the task of running his court .He had a load of social obligations too, commitments to his seniors and dependents. Ram had no time ….and no intention…. to make her forget the humiliation Ram inflicted on her through Agnipariksha.. Though Sita did not realise at that stage, but, now she felt : when alone in their palace, even in the most intimate moments, there was a thorn in Ram’s heart. She never shared this feeling of hers with Valmiki . She thought : let Valmiki write the chronicle his way. She would not influence him at all. The morning of to-morrow would tell the world if she could read Ram’s mind rightly.
JanakRaj, the man who shaped her life. His affectionate smile, the brush of his beard as she hugged him as a child when he returned from the day-long work in the field and in the court. His teachings had been with her in all her difficult moments : interpretation of scripture , telling her about godliness, explaining what ‘
That brought the memory of the third man of her life to her mind : Ravana.
Strong, sophisticated yet impatient, lustful. Eloquent he was , talking about his triumphs, his wealth, his invincibility and his virility. Ravana thought he was the most desirable man in the universe and would become abusive when ignored. She witnessed that proud and arrogant person losing the treasures of his life ….one by one….. because of his infatuation , his blind desire to possess her. In spite of his knowing that Sita was beholden to Ram for ever. During the last few dark nights at her Ashokban cottage, Sita would realise that Ravana was facing defeat and very likely death in this battle which was raging beyond the boundary of that city of palaces. Shrieks and sobs of women, who lost their sons and husbands and brothers, would stab her ears , her heart , her cocoon every night. How hard it was to live in hope of early end of her captivity yet among the people whose nemesis she was, waiting for the death of her captor.
Long after the sunset, Sita sat in her room without getting up to light a lamp. Her mind was wandering, perhaps in a vacuum, when Shruti, a young girl from the hermitage brought a tray containing a few lamps and flowers. Deferentially, she bowed to Sita, placed the flowers and a lamp in the corner where she meditated daily after sunset. Then, she proceeded to leave a lamp in each of the other rooms and spaces . She then noticed a blank look on the face of Sita. She enquired ,’ Devi, is everything alright?’ Sita replied, in her composed voice, ’Yes ,my dear. Why do you think it is otherwise ?’
Sita got up , washed herself, changed her dress and mediated. She chanted the mantras Janakraj had taught her for a long time. Then she asked herself : what would happen to-morrow in the court.
Sita believed she could guess the answer. Sita believed, Ram would stand, once again, on high moral pedestal. His climb to this pedestal started when he killed Ravana. Or perhaps, when he signed a treaty with Sugriva and agreed to eliminate
Sita decided that she had suffered enough for a lifetime She had suffered . the horror of abduction and anguish of a life of isolation in Ashokaban of Ravana’s palace. And the humiliation of suspicion of her husband and a section of his subjects till the other day !
Another question or even one dark hint about her character in the royal court and she would move away from Ayodhya , far from her dear sons, Sage Valmiki’s hermitage and Ram’s court.
Will Ram be able to conquer the shadow of Ravana during her lifetime ?
* * * * * *
The meet was disappointing. And, in line with Sita’s premonition .
Next day, as Ram said, ‘If Sita is pure, let my affection for her be blessed’, Sita , inspite of all the mental preparation she had, she felt crestfallen. What a cold and impersonal address, devoid of emotion, spirit of welcome ! Ram did not meet her eyes, he did not convey one word of regret about her sufferings or her raising their sons single-handed!!
All the kind words of Valmiki, Agastya and other honourable persons present in the court did not reach reach Sita’s ears. Time to go away far from Ram’s life, from royal court and
Ram was surprised by the tone of this question . He replied : ’You have just to mention it.’
Sita stared at Ram’s face. She found age, power of royalty and politics le ft a mark on his personality and posture. She was calm and composed, her voice dignified : ‘I know you do not disappoint a person who comes to this court with a wish. My wish is a life away from this court, in the lap of Mother Earth from where I emanated. I would request you to grant me a chariot, bare essentials and two guards to escort me to the boundary of your kingdom. Please do not ever try to invite me to your court , your life. ‘
Sita then turned to Lav-Kush : ‘Bless you, my sons. I will not hug you. Then I will be weak. When you grow older , you will understand what I went through in my life. You will realise why I am walking away, without giving you two the last hug .’
As the court heard her in stunned silence, Sita looked at Valmiki, her eyes red yet dry , very much unlike the many descriptions of her penned by him. ‘You have penned me as a soft woman, always tearful. From to-day, I shall not shed any more tears. Oh great Poet, let that Sita face her end at this court. Stories about the other Sita would be written by future generations beyond this ‘Treta Yuga’. Please bless me from your heart !’
Sita raised her head , looked around the court taking in , absorbing all the details , murmured ‘Adieu’ when her eyes met Ram’s for the one last time and then walked away……into a legend .
And …..into our heart.