Sita: The Damsel in Distress and a Means to an End
A huge amount of literature and opinions have come up in reference to Sita, her plight, and Ram’s action’s against her. It is thus not a new facet to us when I say that when Ram kicked Sita out, he lost the right to be called the ideal husband. And then there are other statements; if Sita were not kidnapped then Ramayan wouldn’t have happened and Ravan could not have been killed. That even when Ram sent Sita to exile, and eventually to her death, he pined for her and never married again. Then there is this, an excerpt of an article I read online
“She is not just daughter, wife and mother. She is also a sage. She quietly watches the toll that cultural rules and values take on her husband. . . . and ends up playing the ultimate victim. . . . observes how people judge her silence as weakness, not the patient and affectionate acceptance of people’s shortcomings that stems from her confidence that they need her, while she does not really need them./ Sita hears her husband and herself and realizes Ram is Vishnu, the dependable God, while she is Lakshmi, the independent Goddess. . . . She has the capacity to bear the burden of all consequences. She is like the earth from which Janaka ploughed her out.”
[Here’s a link to the full article ]
What did I see in the article that infuriated me to no ends? Once again I saw the same story repeated again : a woman as a damsel in distress.
The above article and many others like it attempt to portray Sita as a woman who was not weak, who did what she did for the greater good, but for how long can we hide the victimization of women underneath this pretext of the greater good? And who’s greater good are we talking about? People who did not think twice before calling her unfaithful. People today who don’t take a second to blame women for for the monstrosities of society itself. Why should a woman take a fall for them? Why should a woman be blamed for trying to feed a sadhu when she had no clue who he truly was. And rather than blame and correct the world which pretends to be something other than what it is we resort to blame the woman, we resort to blame Sita.
Who is Sita? Sita is Lakshmi, she is no ‘ordinary woman’, but she is. Even after being a form of Adi Shakti, the primordial energy herself, she sits at Vishnu’s feet. Lakshmi has no limits of power. But when Sita sits in Ashok Vatika, she does she not run away. She just waits so Ram can come kill Ravan and rescue her. But does anyone of you realise what Valmiki did? He sent a very clear message through his ‘epic. Sita is nothing but a means to an end. That is what women have become over the ages. The means to have children, the means to have a clean home, the means to take care of children, the means to make sure property passed on only to sons, the means to sacrifice. A woman’s existence is only a corollary to another purpose, most likely a man’s purpose. A woman can be a goddess or have the potential of one, but she should never use that wit, intelligence or strength that resides in her. She should simply wait, to be rescued, by a ‘dependable husband or a man’. Did anyone ever question Ram and the people’s acceptance of Luv and Kush? If Sita’s character was doubted then the children could’ve been Ravan’s. Why did she have to die to prove that the children were Ram’s? Because her job was done, nothing more could be extracted out of her and she could be sacrificed no longer; she had outlived her ‘utility’.
There are other versions of Ramayan that say Sita was Vedavati reborn (a woman who killed herself in an attempt to save herself from the lust of Ravan), to take revenge on Ravan. Or a rebirth of Manivati (whose asceticism is destroyed by Ravan), as the daughter of Ravan, who was left to die in earth when it was foretold that she would be the doom of Ravan. It was from there that Janak found her. But where does Sita actively do anything to destroy Ravan? She just sits by while Ram does the necessary.
So yes, Sita is the ordinary everyday woman expected to pass agniparikhsa not once, but at every turn of her life, only to be scorned at and doubted again. She has the ability to bear every consequence, and the men use it as an excuse to pile upon her every misdeed of their own. The Agnipariksha was not a test of Sita’s character, it was a test of Ram as a husband, and the test of the people of Ayodhya. Sita may have passed the test, but neither did Ram nor did the people. Sita is the symbol of what the world of men judges to be wrong in themselves, and what they try eliminate from themselves. And they fail, because Sita lived and lives on the fringes of society, reminding the people constantly of what is wrong within themselves. Till the time men don’t learn to accept their mistakes rather than putting them on the ‘Sitas’, there will continue to be attempts for every woman to be used, tormented, just like Sita. And every woman will be expected to bear it all.
At this point or any other, I refuse to be Sita. I will adamantly kick up a fuss any and every time someone dares to say to me “may you have a husband like Ram”. I will not be a means to an end. I will be myself. I will not suffer for the faults of someone else.
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