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Saturday, November 10, 2012
Lord Ram Never Banished Ma Sita
Ramayana, Rama’s journey or Rama’s way was originally told to the world by sage Valmiki. Valmiki is revered as Adi Kavi, i.e. world’s first poet, for he wrote Sanskrit’s first shloka. Valmiki authored Ramayana which is called Valmiki Ramayana, one of the two greatest epics of Bharat (India). In Valmiki Ramayan, Rama is not referred to as God but is called ‘The Supreme Man’ (narapungav). Valmiki tells the story of Prince Rama of Ayodhya, who leaves claim on the throne in order to obey his father and goes to live inside the forest where his wife is abducted by mighty king of Lanka, Ravana. Rama raises an army consisting of monkeys (Vanara Sena) and other animals of the forest, invades Ravana’s Lanka and brings his wife back after killing Ravana in a battle. Valmiki Ramayana does not tell anything like Ram abandoning his wife Sita later in his life.
It is said that Great Sage (Maharishi) Valmiki was contemporary to Rama. It is said that his original name was Ratnakara who was reformed and did great penances taking Lord’s name. He was lost in such deep penance that an anthill grew around him and hence he is called as ‘Valmiki’, literally meaning ‘one who sits in an anthill’ in Sanskrit. Rama met Valmiki during his period of exile and had interaction with him. Later on, Valmiki taught Ramayana to Lava and Kusa, Ram and Sita’s sons.
There is a popular perception that Rama abandoned Sita and sent her to live in the forest because people had started to put doubts on her purity since she had stayed for many years in a faraway land of Lanka inside captivity of Rakshanas King Ravana. But the matter of fact is that Valmiki does not tell anything like this. Also, great scholars have called this perception of exile a piece of imagination.
I would quote noted scholar and freedom fighter C. Rajgopalachari in his book ‘Ramayana’; Epilogue; from Pages 475-476:
“I have followed the story of the Price of Ayodhya as told by Vaalmeeki. There was a legend current among people that after recovering Seeta, for fear of scandal, Raama sent her away to live in the forest. This pathetic episode must have sprung from the sorrow-laden imagination of our women. It has taken shape as the Uttarkaanda of Raamaayana… how can we comment on a work composed thousands of years ago and coming down to us in palm-leaf manuscripts subject to corruption?”
- R. Sundararajan, professor of theology at St.Bonaventure University in New York, writes in his book “Hindu Spirituality: Vedas Through Vedanta, Volume 1”, Page 106-107 [here]:
“Uttara Kaanda is considered by scholars to be a larger addition to the orignial story of Valmiki, possibly added during the third century AD. many scholars also believe that there are interpolations in the first book, especially those passages which depict Raama as a human manifestation of the god Vishnu, which could be assigned to the first century AD. It is generally held that Ram in the “original” Valmiki epic was depicted only as a human hero and that those passages, mainly in the Baal Kaanda, where his divine roots are traced and his links with Vishnu emphasized, are to be considered later additions to the story. However, these interpolations, which were made shortly after the period of Valmiki, show us something signigicant about the Hindu perception on Rama. Ram is no ordinary hero; rather he is superhuman and his story, the Ramayana, is a sacred story.”
Several versions of Ramayana exist because characters of Ramayana became part of people’s life and consciousness and all creative writers, poets, and artisans tried to present the characterizations in different shades and forms using their creativity. During the 12th century AD, Kamban wrote Ramavataram in Tamil basing his text on Valmiki Ramayana. During early 14th century Saptakanda Ramayana was written in Assamese by Madhava Kandali. Valmiki’s Ramayana also inspired the Sri Ramacharit Manas by Tulasidas in 1576, an Awadhi language epic written in Bhakti tradition. Gujarati poet Premanand wrote a version of Ramayana in the 17th century and Ramayana was also written in Marathi by Sridhara in the 18th century. Not even Hindus, but Muslims have ‘Mappila Ramayana’ which deals with the story of Sri Rama, part of Mappillapattu, a genre of songs popular amongst the Muslims in Kerala and Lakshadweep. Buddhist have their own variant of Ramayana, with story as curious and fictitious as saying Ram and Sita were bro-and-sister, which perhaps was used to propagate their own ideas like denouncing marriage, etc. There is also a Jain Ramayana. But the fact remains that all others were written after Valmiki Ramayana. Some authors and poets only elaborated and developed the characters from Valmiki’s epic, while some totally changed the story or added completely new portions, which were at times not much appreciated by some others.
Many Hindus, like the followers of Vaishnavism, consider the entire section of Uttar Kand in Ramayana to be interpolated, and thus they do not accept the authenticity of the story claiming that Sita was banished. A general narration of Ramayana does not state it so. It says that Sita later lived in her father’s kingdom of Mithila with her sons Lava and Kusha as per the North Indian (especially in present day Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) custom that children be brought up in their nanihaal, or maternal grandmother’s place. Sita and her sons later lived at Valmiki’s ashram for the boys’ education and military training.
The whole of Valmiki Ramayan is presented in translated form at the website: http://www.valmikiramayan.net/ This website also quotes a book by Ramakrishna Mission and mentions:
While stabilizing the original text of Ramayana, historians surmised that portions of two Books [Kaandas], namely Book I, Bala Kaanda and Book VII, Uttara Ramayana (not listed above) are later additions – “The first and the last Books of the Ramayana are later additions. The bulk, consisting of Books II–VI, represents Rama as an ideal hero. In Books I and VII, however Rama is made an avatara or incarnation of Vishnu, and the epic poem is transformed into a Vaishnava text. The reference to the Greeks, Parthians, and Sakas show that these Books cannot be earlier than the second century B.C……” [The cultural Heritage of India, Vol. IV, The Religions, The Ramakrishna Mission, Institute of Culture]
Two other very good points are mentioned at this [blog]:
There are two proofs that Uttar Kand in Valmiki Ramayan is not the original part of Ramayan and it has been added later:
1) Fal-Shruti evidence: Fal-shruti of a book (of religious importance) describes that what spiritual or other benefits one can get after reading that book or chapter. Exactly fal-shruti is either given at the end of a book or at the end of each chapter in some books. In valmiki Ramayan we can see that fal-shruti is given at the end of yuddh kand and not after each chapter. And that also describes the importance of reading whole RAMAYAN not yuddh kand alone. It means that the whole book ends with the end of yuddh-kand. But when the fal-shruti describes the benefits of reading RAMAYAN and Ramayan ends with it, why would the book proceed again with Uttar Kand?
(2) Difference in language: When linguists tested the language of Valmiki Ramayan, they stated that there is a clear difference in the language of uttar-kand and the language of rest of the Ramayan. It seems that there is a difference of minimum two centuries between them.
While going through many references and texts and reading what great scholars like C. Rajgopalachari have said after having first hand experiences of reading authentic religious and historical texts, I would like to conclude personally that Uttar Kand seems clearly a later addition to the original text and we should not criticize anything basing our arguments on the stories mentioned in it.
Tulsidasa’s Ramcharitmanas also does not mention anything like Sita’s Exile
In this context, it would be interesting to know that even Tulsidas didn’t mention anything like Sita’s alleged exile and abandonment by the hands of Ram. Tulsidas’s Ramcharitamanas ends with the coronation of Ram and his glorious rule with Sita and Lakshman by his side. He does not mention anything like alleged Sita’s abandonment. First poet Valmiki had written Ramayana in Sanskrit, while Tulsidas made it available to the common folks with his work in Awadhi language. Both are wonderful creation of literature and helped shape this world’s consciousness. But the point remains the same, that Sita’s exile never happened.
You can read Tulsidasa’s Ramcharitmanas here: http://tulsidasji.net/contentofraamcharitmaanas.html
The seventh Kaand named as ‘Uttar-Kaand’ is the Finale of the Maanas. All the results of Shri Ram’s adventures as well as the results of devotion to Shri Ram are explained here. Hence, the word ‘Uttar’ which means ‘result’ or ‘answer’ has been applied by Tulsidas. In the opening passages of Uttar-Kaand, Tulsidas narrates the meeting of Hanumanji with Bharat and the conveying of the message of Shri Ram’s return to Ayodhya. The story of Shri Ram’s arrival and his coronation is then described. Tulsidas then describes the account of Shri Ram’s reign in Ayodhya. Tulsidas briefly mentions the birth of Lav and Kush and the birth of the children to the other three brothers. He then closes the story of Shri Ram and ends his adventures through the dialogue between Lord Shiva and Parvati.
Note: Views are personal and do not represent views of any organization associated with the author. [Detailed disclaimer]