Sita Devi सीता देवी

Having sought the blessings of our Mother, the sweet, pure and gentle Sitamma Thalli, we begin reading her Caritam as presented by Valmiki in his Ramayanam. We start with the part of the Balakanda which describes Sita’s wedding with Sri Rama and the story of Siva‘s bow! Valmiki himself alternately titled the Ramayanam as Sita Caritam and Paulastya Vadha.

Rama and Sita with Lakshmana and Hanuman

Rama and Sita with Lakshmana and Hanuman

Sri Rama and Lakshmana led by Viswamitra Brahmarshi reached the kingdom of Mithila. Raja Janaka received them with honour and offered them hospitality.

66th Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition) : Raja Janaka inherits Siva’s Bow (Siva Dhanus): The next day, at dawn, King Janaka, honoured them again as per the prescribed rites and asked Viswamitra to command him. Viswamitra said that the princes had heard of the wonderful bow in Janaka’s possession and would like to see it. Janaka raja first told them the story of the bow.

It was the bow that Rudra threatened to use in the Daksha Yajna, because the Devas had not set aside a share of the havis for him. The devas begged him not to be angry and treated him with due honour. Then Siva was pleased and he gave them his bow. They in turn gave it to Devarata, the eldest son of king Nimi and Purvaja (the one born before) of Janaka.

(A note: Purva-ja is aword that simply means born before. It can refer to anyone from an elder brother or cousin to an ancestor, but it is nearly always translated as ancestor by conventional translators.)

Janaka finds baby Sita in a furrow: Soon after that, when Janaka was ploughing a Kshetra (a field), he found a baby girl in the furrows and named her Sita (which means furrow.) Sita, who was thus not born from a mother’s womb (ayonija), grew rapidly. Janaka reserved her hand in marriage for a suitor who would win her by his valour. Many kings asked for her and were refused by Janaka.

(It is possible Sita was a Naga baby that was left in the field for Janaka to adopt.  In the end of the story Dharani Devi accompanied by Nagas, comes to take Sita away. ‘Parumaka naguliya lene’ is the cave in which Sita Devi was kept in Sri Lanka for sometime as per their tradition. They connect the word Nagali both with plough and with Nagas.

There is also a legend that Sita was the incarnation of Vedavati (Lakshmi) and that she first appeared in Sri Lanka to fulfil a vow to destroy Ravana and it was Ravana who abandoned her against his family’s wishes. These stories are not found in the Valmiki Ramayanam)

Kings battle for Sita’s hand: Then the kings came to Mithila, all together and asked him how they could prove their Viryam (valour). Janaka showed them Siva’s bow and asked them to lift it. The rulers could not even hold it properly, let alone weigh it in their hands. So Janaka rejected them all. The kings got angry and laid siege to Mithila. In about a year (Samvatsara), there was a famine in the city. Janaka felt extremely unhappy and appealed to the Devas. The Devas gifted him a fine army of 4 divisions. (Chaturanga). With that army, Janaka defeated the evil kings.

After telling them the story of the bow, Janaka said that if Rama were to lift the bow, he would be given Sita in marriage.

(The word Samvatsara meaning the first of a 5 year cyle is referred to in the Srimad Bhagavatam as well. It is a Yuga of the Sun and the Moon. Nowadays the word samvatsara is used to refer to any year in modern Indian Languages.)

67th Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition): Sri Rama breaks Siva’s bow: Viswamitra then requested for the bow to be brought. At Janaka’s order, fifty hundred of his men, brought the divine bow, adorned by sandal paste and flowers in a huge chest with eight wheels. Janaka showed them the bow that neither the devas, nor the asuras, nor the gandharvas, kinnaras, nagas and yakshas could string. He wondered if a manava (mortal/man) would be equal to the task.

(There is a colonial theory that sandalwood was brought to India after 0 BC, from other countries, but our literature indicates that it was used both in Sri Rama’s time and Sri Krishna’s time, well before 3000 BC. South Indian history holds that sandalwood was native to India. The Sanskrit word for sandal is Chandana (lovely) is related to the word Sanda (means lovely in spoken Kannada) which leads to Santalum.)

At Viswamitra’s injunction, Sri Rama then not only took the bow out of its case, but tossed it from hand to hand and strung it and bent it. With that the powerful bow broke into two with a thunderous sound. And the delighted Janaka then addressed Viswamitra. “Please permit me to send my manthris (advisors) to King Dasaratha in Ayodhya so that I may give my daughter in marriage to Rama and she will bring glory to the Kula (dynasty) of the Janakas. My word that Sita would be a ViryaSulka, (one whose bride-price is valour) has come true today”. Viswamitra agreed to send the Mantris to Ayodhya.

(It is the reason that he brought the princes to Mithila in the first place.  Note that the popular folklore talks of a swayamvara (self-choice) and also talks as if all the other kings came to a competition. None of those details are present in the Balakanda. – Satya)

Raja Ravi Varmas painting of Sri Rama breaking the bow!

Raja Ravi Varma’s painting of Sri Rama breaking the bow!

68th Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition):

Janaka’s proposal to Dasaratha : The manthris travelled for 3 days and nights from Mithila to Ayodhya, resting on the way because their horses were tired. There they saw the aged Dasaratha who looked like a Deva. They conveyed to Dasaratha that Raja Janaka in front of an Agnihotra (Sa agni hotra purah krutah), with due respect and using sweet words had enquired after Dasaratha’s welfare and the welfare of his advisors and subjects. They quoted Janaka on his resolve to give his daughter as a ViryaSulka and how so many kings had failed and had to be sent back. They finally submitted to Dasaratha that Sri Rama had broken the famous bow of Rudra and that Janaka wanted to give Sita to Rama in marriage and that Viswamitra and Satananda (the son of Gauthama and Ahalya) agreed with this decision.
Dasaratha then spoke to Vamadeva (one of the Vedic Rishis) and Vasishtha and other mantris and said “My sons and the Viswamitra are in Videha. Janaka has decided to give his daughter to my son after seeing his Virya. Let us go to Mithila, the capital of Videha at once, without any delay”. All the rishis and mantris agreed with Dasaratha and they decided that the journey would begin the next morning. Janaka’s mantris spent that night at Ayodhya.

69th Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition):

Dasaratha and retinue reach Mithila: The next morning, Dasaratha talked to Sumantra and made arrangements for the journey. He took gifts of precious stones and his army of 4 divisions (horse, chariot, elephant and infantry – caturanga bala). The brahmanas, Vasishtha, Vamadeva, Jabali, Kasyapa and the long lived Markandeya (Dirgha-ayu) preceded him. It took them 4 days to reach Videha. King Janaka received them with delight and honour and said “At the end of tomorrow morning’s worship (Yagnya), let us celebrate the wedding, O King!” Dasaratha said, “It is the giver who decides the gift, we shall do as you say, O Janaka”. Janaka slept happily having prayed for his daughters.

70th Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition):

Vasishtha asks Urmila for Lakshmana: The next morning, Raja Janaka sent for his brother Kusadhwaja to come from Sankasya – post-haste!  Kusadhwaja came at once and them the brothers called upon the best of the mantris Sudamana to invite Dasaratha and his people to the court. Dasaratha and the others came and Dasaratha named Vasishtha as the spoke person for the Ikshwakus. Vasishtha then described the Ikshwaku lineage and at the end suggested that Janaka’s daughter Urmila be given in marriage to Laksmana at the same time as Sita was given to Sri Rama.

71st Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition):

Sudhanva fights Janaka for Sita and loses: Then King Janaka described his own decent from king Nimi. He also told the story of how King Sudhanava of Sankasya had laid siege to Mithila in order to get Rudra’s bow as well as Sita’s hand. Raja Janaka killed Sudhanva in a battle and placed his brother Kusadhwaja on the throne of Sankasya. Then he happily offered to Dasaratha, Sita and Urmila for Rama and Lakshmana respectively. He suugested that the godanam (gift of cow accompanying samavartana (return from gurukula) ceremony be performed for Rama and Lakshmana, followed by the Pitrukaryam (ceremony for elders)). On that day the Magha Nakshatra was in the ascendant. He set the wedding date as the day of the Uttara Phaluguni Nakshatra, on the 3rd day from that day. And he said that charity should be given which would bring good fortune to Rama and Lakshmana.

72nd Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition):

Vasishtha asks for Mandavi and Srtakirthi for Bharata and Satrughna: At that time, Viswamitra, accompanied by Vasishtha spoke and suggested that the worthy and beautiful daughters of Kusadhwaja, Mandavi and Sruthakirthi should be offered to Bharata and Satrughna, who were brave and handsome. Janaka considered himself highly blessed by this proposal. He said that the second of the two days of  PoorvaPhalguni and Uttara Phalguni where the Bhaga (deity) was Prajapathi, was recommended by the wise for marriage. He suggested that all four weddings take place on the same day.

(Note: Vasishtha himself was the author of a work on astrology which helped to select muhurtams – this is called ‘electional astrology’ by modern astrologers. Today a Muhurtam is a period of 48 minutes. The selection of an appropriate su-muhurtam is considered very important for auspicious events like marriages, upanayanams etc. Notice here that there is a talk of nakshatrams but not of rasis. The Prajapathis were the mental or physical sons and grandsons of Brahma. The nakshatrams were considered daughters of Daksha Prajapathi and the wives of Chandra Deva. (Moon). Each Nakshatram was assigned or dedicated to a different Vedic luminary (eg Agni) or Indian hero (eg Indra) and much later to a graha).

Janaka offered excellent asanas (seats) to both the rishis and showed them much respect and gratitude. King Dasaratha also expressed his joy at the alliances, and took leave of the assembly so that he could perform the sraaddha karma in the evening. Next morning he performed the Godana ceremony for his sons and gifted 100,000 cows with their horns decorated by gold, and bell-metal milk vessels, to the brahmans for the welfare of each of his sons.

(The word Sraddhaa means care and focus, the word sraaddha in modern usage relates to karma done for ancestors, I don’t know if it had any other meaning at that time).

73nd Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition):

Kaikeyi’s father wants to see Bharata: On the day of the Godana ceremony, Kaikeyi‘s brother Yudhajit (the prince of Kekeya) arrived at Mithila. He told Dasaratha that his father was very eager to see Bharata, the son of Kaikeyi and his own grandson, so he sent Yudhajit to Ayodhya. There he heard that Bharata and others were at Mithila so he rode out to Mithila. Dasaratha welcomed him.

Photo Credit: Satya Sarada Kandula: All Rights Reserved: This scene shows the Kanyadanam, where Janaka gifts his daughter Sita to Sri Rama

Photo Credit: Satya Sarada Kandula: All Rights Reserved: This scene shows the Kanyadanam, where Janaka gifts his daughter Sita to Sri Rama by transferring the Mantraputa Jala from his hand to Sri Rama’s hand.

Vasistha prepares the wedding Vedi: The next morning, everyone got ready and performed their morning duties. The princes dressed in wedding attire and reached the wedding place during the ‘Vijaya’ Muhurta, with Vasishtha leading.  Janaka welcomed them as if it were their own home and requested Vasishtha to start the procedure. Vasishtha and Satananda (Gauthama’s son) prepared the Vedi (often called Vedika nowadays sort of meaning ‘stage’)  for the wedding. They decorated it with sandal paste, flowers, gold plates, many coloured jars with spouts, earthern ware pots, incense vessels and conches serving as vessels. They arranged large wooden ladles for pouring ghee in the sacred fire, pots with water to offer deities and pots with akshatas. Vasishtha then placed Darbha grass of equal length on the Vedi, placed the sacred fire on it and poured ghee into the fire while reciting Veda Mantras.

(Vijaya Muhurta is auspicious for weddings and leads to victory. Akshatas refer to unbroken rice grains. In modern times it is taken to mean pounded polished rice is mixed with turmeric powder. This inspite of the words that follow Akshatan, Dhavalan (white), Divyan (divine). I remember  my sanskrit teacher (Smt Kunda) telling me that rice was distributed in this way. Visitors left a few grains of rice near the doorstep of houses they visited.)

Panigrahanam, holding hands: Then Janaka brought Sita well adorned by ornaments and made her sit in front of the fire, facing Raghava (Rama). Then Janaka said to that ‘one who increased the joy of Kausalya’ (Rama)  “This Sita, my daughter, is your sahadhramachari (one who practices dharma with you). Accept her, may good befall you, hold her hand in your hand. She is a Pativrata (devoted to her husband), mahabhaga (fortunate one) and will follow you like a shadow. Having said this, Janaka transferred the Mantraputa Jala (water consecrated by Mantras) from his hand to Sri Rama’s hand. Then the Devas and the Rishis said “sadhu, sadhu (good, good)” and there was the sound of the deva-dundhubi and a rain of flowers. Then in turn, Janaka called Lakshmana and his younger brothers and gave his daughters to them one by one, with no loss of time.

Sita Devi weds Sri Rama : This garlanding ceremony is not described in the balakanda but is present in all the bhakthi movement versions. Sita was a ViryaSulka, she did not have a swayamvaram. The garlanding was possibly a gandharva tradition that has pervaded Indian culture, no where does Valmiki refer to it.

Sita Devi weds Sri Rama : This garlanding ceremony is not described in the balakanda but is present in all the bhakthi movement versions. Sita was a ViryaSulka, she did not have a swayamvaram. The garlanding was possibly a gandharva tradition that has pervaded Indian culture, Valmiki never refers to it.

(To hold hands in the olden days signified marriage. Even in my childhood, it was very unusual for a woman and a man to shake hands.. a namasthe was the order of the day. .. Popular lore holds that Sri Rama and Sita Devi showered pearls on each other’s heads in place of the traditional Akshatas. Since Sri Rama was Nila (Dark or Blue) and since blue is more fun than black, Sri Rama is nearly always coloured blue in drawings. So the white pearls in his hands are said to have looked blue. Since Sita was so fair, that when she blushed you could see the redness of her cheeks, the pearls looked like rubies as they fell down her face and in the palms fo her hands. This beautiful tale is not a part of the balakanda of Sri Valmiki’s Ramayanam).

Triragnim, thrice around the fire: Now, at Vasishtha’s instance, Sri Rama and his brothers did a pradakshina (going round something, keeping it to your right) of the fire, the Vedi, Janaka and the rishis. The Deva Dundhubhis (kettle drum) sounded again and the gandharvas danced and there was a rain of wonderful flowers. The brothers went around the sacred fire thrice, holding the hands of their brides and were thus married. Then the brothers with their wives went to their respective tents and the kings and rishis and others followed suit.

(Pradakshina means going around something, keeping it to your right. Notice the word Triragnim instead of Saptapadi, in modern days, the emphasis is on 7 steps or in some areas, seven phere (rounds) of the sacred fire.)

Seetha Kalyana Vaibhogame (Thyagarajaswamy)

After the wedding of Sita and Sri Rama, Viswamitra left for the Himalayas. Janaka showered Dasaratha, his sons-in law and his daughters with gifts. The gifts included cows, horses, elephants, chariots, gold, pearls and corals. He then took leave of Dasaratha and left for Mithila. Suddenly there was a solar eclipse, a big gale, trees fell, birds shrieked and the deer ran right. Vasishtha interpreted these as a mixture of bad and good omens. Other than the rishis, Dasaratha and his sons, everyone lost their consciousness…

****For what happened next see Parasurama.

(Colonial historians insist that Indians did not have horses in ancient times, but they are present in all our literature including Vedas).

Sita comes to Ayodhya: 77th Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (This Version)

After Parasurama left, Dasaratha ordered his army to move quickly. They reached Ayodhya where the streets were sprinkled with sweet smelling water (so that the dust would not rise), the streets were decorated with flowers and auspicious trumpets and other instruments were being played to welcome them.

The citizens and the brahmins came forward to greet them. All the queens, Kausalya, Sumitra and the slender-waisted Kaikeyi as well as the other women of the royal family welcomed the new brides, Sita and her sisters. Then all of them worshipped the Places where Devatas come (Devatayatana – temples) and worshipped them.

See full size imageThen, the princesses showed respect to all those worthy of respecting, and entered their homes as lustrous as Kubera’s own home. There they gave gifts of cows, wealth and grain, to the brahmans. Then they were happy in the company of their own husbands in privacy.

The competent princes spent their time serving their father and carrying out his commands. After sometime, Dasaratha called Bharata and reminded him that Yudhajit, his maternal uncle and the prince of Kekeya was waiting to take him to see his maternal grandfather, right from the time of their wedding. Then Bharata, who obeyed his father without any fuss, left for Kekeya with his younger brother Satrughna.

Sri Rama and his brother Lakshmana, served their father, their mothers and their gurus, in a timely way doing their work for them and attending to their needs. Sri Rama attended to his people and attained fame as great as Svayambhu (the self born – Brahma. This term can also be applied to Siva or Vishnu), who attends to all living things (Bhutah).

Sri Rama spent many seasons (Rtu – each rtu is two masas (months) long), devoted to Sita and keeping her always in his heart. While he loved her as he bride given to him by his father, he loved her all over again, because of her beauty and her excellent qualities.

Sita loved her husband doubly. All the thoughts that were born in their hearts, they communicated to each other. Sita was equal to the Devatas in beauty and in form like Sri herself (Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, the wife of Vishnu). They shone in each others company like that lord of the Suras (Devas), Sri Vishnu, and Lakshmi his consort.

Bharata and Satrughna left with Yudhajit to visit Bharata’s grandfather at Kekeya. Sri Rama conducted himself in a dutiful way that demonstrated his kingly virtues. With a desire to see Sri Rama installed as a king during his life time, Dasaratha invited all the leaders (kings and chieftans of  Kosala) and sought consensus for making Sri Rama, Yuvaraja (Crown Prince).  Then Arrangements were made for Sri Rama’s coronation as a crown prince and Dasaratha sent for Rama to tell him about his coronation. After the public announcement, Dasaratha sent for Sri Rama again privately, to discuss the ritual procedures and the precautionary measures that Sri Rama and Sita Devi had to take on the night before the coronation.

Kausalya heard the good news through Sri Rama’s friends and sent for Sita to join her in prayer and meditation. Sumitra and Lakshmana also came there as soon as they heard the good news. As Sita stood in readiness to wait on Kausalya, Rama came there and received Kausalya’s blessings. He declared to Lakshmana that they would share the good royal fortune together. Then Sri Rama took leave of Kausalya for himself and his wife and they left for their palace to spend the night in austerity and caution as Dasaratha had advised. They fasted, slept on mats of Darbha grass and they were gaurded on all sides by Sri Rama’s friends.

…The story of Sita from the moment of her second exile when she was pregnant with Kusa and Lava to Sita’s oath-taking at the Aswamedha Yajnam and her departure from Ayodhya, with her mother Dharani Devi and the Nagas to Rasatala, as it is told in the Uttarakanda, is explained by me in Kusa and Lava. Please read it there.

 

Authorship and Copyright Notice: All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula


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