Matru Devobhava, Pitru Devobhava, Acharya Devobhava, Pathaka Devobhava
Sri Gurubhyo Naham
The Legend of Sita
In this post, I attempt to decode incidents related to Mata Sita, from her birth to the decisions that influenced her life and how she dealt with the unfair nature of life. I believe it is important, today more than ever, to understand this epitome of womanhood to rid ourselves of false sense of feminism and view the subtle nature of man-woman relationships in a new light.
Throughout Indian history, over the ages, the stories of Lord Ram and Mata Sita are imprinted into our psyche. There is no village, town, city in India that does not have a temple of Sri Ram. The troika of Ram, Sita and Lakshman , standing in that order, whilst Hanuman kneels, at the feet of Ram, in veneration- these are the images that most of us have grown up with. And in every retelling of Ramayana, we see how Sita dutifully follows her father’s instructions first and then her husband. To the extent of leaving the comforts of the Royal Palace and walking bare foot, alongside Ram in barely inhabitable forests.
We are now privy to many versions of the Sri Ramayan and many many more interpretations of this great legend. Some have said it is a myth, some that it is mythology, some that it is an old bard’s tales even as more and more evidence emerges that it indeed happened. Most of us though believe it is our history.
Readers must know of Mr. M Amerthalingam, a botanist, who presented the paper “Plant Diversity in the Valmiki Ramayan” – in which he talks about the 182 different varieties of plants described in precision, across the Indian subcontinent which are unique to the specific locations to this day, described in the Ramayan. How is it possible that Sage Valmiki, sitting cross legged, deep in meditation, in his ashram, is able to describe the precise varieties of Flora and Fauna across India and their exact usages? How is this possible?
Questions are good. They keep our mind alert and open. And so we must ask as many questions as possible, before we dive into the subject to find the answers. Let’s examine some more questions. What was happening in the rest of the world when Sage Valmiki was composing the Ramanayan in India?
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The Gregorian calendar puts Ramayana in an Era ranging from 8th Century CE to 4th Century CE. Let’s try to understand what life of a human, living in that Era, would be like in the world at large. We know from research that the society was broadly divided into classes, such as Craftsmen, Small farmers and Aristocrats (who owned large portions of land) and at the bottom of the ladder were slaves. Women had lesser rights than men and were often treated as domestic slaves. This was the scenario in most of the world.
If you google Ramayan, you will be confronted with the information that it happened sometime around 3000 BC. But what did our own Rishis say about the timelines when Ramayan was happening. In order to understand, exactly how we evolved, we need to calculate time as per the Indian Astrological methods. And so, our division of time was and continues to be as follows. You may now think, this is definitely not how we calculate time today? Yes and No. In our day to day lives, we have stopped referring to our traditional calendars. But, to this day, all marriages, birth related rituals, death related rituals, most rituals, are performed in consultation with our traditional calendar. Our festivals too are determined by our traditional calendars.
Readers will be amazed to know just how detailed and fool proof the Vedic calculation of time is.
From the smallest unit of time
1 paramanu = 60750th of a second
1 truţi = 29.6296 microseconds
1 tatpara = 2.96296 milliseconds
1 nimesha = 88.889 milliseconds
45 nimesha = 1 prāņa 4 seconds
6 prāņa = 1 vinādī 24 seconds
60 vinādīs = 1 nadī 24 minutes
60 nādīs = 1 ahorātra
To the largest
yuga human years ratio
krita-yuga 1,728,000 years 4
treta-yuga 1,296,000 years 3
dvapara-yuga 864,000 years 2
kali-yuga 432,000 years 1
1 chatur yuga (mahayuga) 4,320,000 human years
Please refer here for further reading about the vedic concept of time.
Now here’s a question – if days and nights, days of the week, full moon and new moon and months of the year are cyclical, what about years? Is time linear or cyclical? And did our Rishis know of the cyclical nature of time. The answer is a definite yes. In the Indian Astrological calculation there are 60 years that keep repeating themselves in a cycle and each year is given a name. The year we are in currently is “Vikrama Naama Samvatsara”.
Yet another question faces us now. Who is Sage Valmiki and why did he want to compose the Epic account of the life of Sri Ram and his consort Mata Sita? Who were Lord Rama and Mata Sita.? Were they mere mortals or Devine? Let’s get to the most intriguing of these questions first.
In the Bala Kanda of Ramayana, when Sita’s character is introduced, Rajarshi Janak, uses the word “Ayonija” to describe Sita to Sage Vishwamitra. Ayonija can be broken up as “A” +”Yoni”+”Ja”. The word “Ayonija” denotes a person born sans womb. Rajarshi Janaka further explains that when he was ploughing the sacrificial land with a plough, he found Sita in a furrow and hence the name. Sita, simply means fettered – one found while drawing a line on a field. Here, Sage Valmiki offers no further explanation regarding Sita’s conception or birth.
Below, is the verse describing Sita’s birth.
अथ मे कृषतः क्षेत्रम् लांगलात् उत्थिता मम || १-६६-१३
क्षेत्रम् शोधयता लब्ध्वा नाम्ना सीता इति विश्रुता |
The essence of Sita’s origin is in the words explained here. Uththitha means to rise, risen or rising. Ghoshayataa= proclaimed, naamnaa= her name, Sita= Sita, Labdhva= thus gotten.
Rajarishi Janaka, tells Sage Vishwamitra, that as he was ploughing the field, stuck by the plough, this girl rose from the earth. Further to this, he says this girl proclaimed her name as Sita and came to be known thus.
Yes, I know. The questions are all coming in a flood. Where did she come from? How did she get there? How can an infant rise by herself? How did she proclaim her own name, when she can’t even speak? Was she even human? These questions, as I mentioned earlier are essential and shall be answered in the forthcoming blog.
I will tell you this though – the answers to all these questions will be found in The Ramayana itself.
Jai Sri Ram.
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