25% OFF on all LCI Courses. Offer valid till 5th Oct. Use Code: DUS25
LCI Learning

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share on LinkedIn

Share on Email

Share More

Swami Sadashiva Brahmendra Sar (Nil)     04 December 2010

Both abandoned their wives

Ram ousted his wife from home – Buddha left his wife and home.

Ram abandoned his wife for social and political reasons and Buddha for no reasons or for some unknown private reasons !


- Team Tripathi


 33 Replies

hedevil hydraheaded (non professional )     04 December 2010



Renuka Gupta

Gender Researcher 


[ Scorecard : 1273] 

Thank the Contributor 

Send PM

Leaving one's wife for political, social and private reasons are acts of domestic violence. Finally it is woman who remained oppressed, abandoned and humiliated. 

Very well said Md. Renuka. Women were always taken for granted. 


However, other things being equal-- both abandoned their wives-- Buddhism encompasses in its fold all, without discrimination to any..no Shudra in Buddhism, no Varna system, hence no untouchables and hence no need to call a section of population "Harijans". 


Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had said


My religious conversion is not inspired by any material motive. This is hardly anything I cannot achieve even while remaining an Untouchable. There is no other feeling than that of a spiritual feeling underlying my religious conversion. Hinduism does not appeal to my conscience. My self-respect cannot assimilate Hinduism. In your case change of religion is imperative for worldly as well as spiritual ends. Do not care for the opinion of those who foolishly ridicule the idea of conversion for material ends. "Why  should you live under the fold of that religion which has deprived you of honor, money, food and shelter? "



1 Like

hedevil hydraheaded (non professional )     04 December 2010

Sorry , Ms. Renuka Gupta. Typing error( Md. Renuka Gupta)  in the above posting regretted. 

Hemant Agarwal (ha21@rediffmail.com Mumbai : 9820174108)     04 December 2010

INTROSPECT  VERY VERY DEEPLY ON THE FOLLOWING,  (after drinking Boost or Bournvita)

The reality is that both  Ram & Buddha,  have conclusively proved that :


a)   a Lord, compelling the ordinary people to worship them

b)  gives you unlimited respect, life-long

c)  You can attain Nirvana,  Eternal peace  &  Containment,  If you "abandon"  your wives.

d)  You can escape from  Surffering, Disappointment, 498a & DVAct, Maintainence etc...

(contradictions challenged)


Keep Smiling .... Hemant Agarwal

1 Like

Bhartiya No. 1 (Nationalist)     05 December 2010

Below is the poem of Rastra Kavi Maithili Sharan Gupt,






1 Like

Bhartiya No. 1 (Nationalist)     05 December 2010

I do not have much in depth knowledge of how Budhism treats dalits, but other religions like Muslim, Christians, Sikhs etc. does not treat with them well. Those who gets converted does not wish to lose thier identity. Among dalits also there are so many sub-castes exists, and they lack unity, and maintain their separate identity.

The problem is with orthodox population of this country.

1 Like

Democratic Indian (n/a)     05 December 2010

"Muslim, Christians, Sikhs etc. does not treat with them well."

My knowledge about above three religions is very very negligible, I tried to find out if these religions tell to treat the women badly. I was not able to find when I tried to search internet. If somebody can help me specific instances where religion is telling that women should be treated badly.









Vishwa (translator)     05 December 2010

The Lord Buddha did not abandon his wife, he was merely separated while leaving on a higher quest. When he attained nirwana, he did return to his kingdom for a reconciliation. I think it is mostly bird-brained twits who have nothing better to do that indulge in such useless discussion.

Swami Sadashiva Brahmendra Sar (Nil)     05 December 2010

Dear Vishwa,

Did Buddha re conciliated with his wife and remained in home; or left it again ?

-Team Tripathi

Swami Sadashiva Brahmendra Sar (Nil)     05 December 2010

Returning to home after taking sanyaas was not permissible and it was considered very serious sin. Reason for it  might have been to preserve the high morals of sanyaas i.e. before proceeding for sanyaas, a person had to think again and again and to evaluate his will power and competency for sanyaas.

-Team Tripathi

1 Like

Arup (UNEMPLOYED)     05 December 2010


- Observation is good sharp and surprising!

- Mr Chipku, though good within his family, but not importent for rest of the world.

Swami Sadashiva Brahmendra Sar (Nil)     05 December 2010

One of our  team member is saying that Buddha had not sufficient will power therefore he might have returned to home and might not have successful in adjusting in Grihasth life and then again left the home !!!

  We are not sure what was the reason !!! It is minority view of our team.

- Team Tripathi

Swami Sadashiva Brahmendra Sar (Nil)     05 December 2010

Many members of this site,  in other threads, are alleging that Ramraj was cruel against women. We think that, women were very well revered at that  time. If allegations are evaluated , rather women were more cruel to men.

Example – Kaikeyee towards her husband and ram;

Sita towards Ram ;

Surpanakha towards Sita and Ram, Laxman.

These three characters were responsible for main episodes of Ramayan i.e. exile of Ram and war between Ram and Ravan.


Why Sita ? – Ram tried to convince Sita that there could not be a golden deer , it might be a robot or some devil in disguise. But ,  Sita was adamant to get skin of golden deer.  She compelled Ram to fulfill her desire and Ram surrendered before “stree huth” !


- Team Tripathi

Renuka Gupta ( Gender Researcher )     05 December 2010


Madhu Kishwar's article in Manushi

Madhu Purnima Kishwar is an Indian academic. She is the Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), based in Delhi, and the Director of the Indic Studies Project based at CSDS and Convener of a series of International Conferences on “Religions and Cultures in the Indic Civilization”. She has been a former student of miranda house.She is also Founder editor of Manushi - a Journal about Women and Society published since 1979). 

Yes to Sita! No to Ram !

The continuing popularity of Sita In India

I wish to clarify at the outset that I am going to focus primarily on the Sita of popular imagination rather than the Sita of Tulsi, Balmiki or any other textual or oral version of the Ramayan. Therefore, I deliberately refrain from detailed textual analysis. I have focused on how her life is interpreted and sought to be emulated in today's context.

However, there is no escaping the fact that in north India the Sita of popular imagination has been deeply influenced by the Sita of Ramcharit Manas by Tulsi. In most other versions of the Ramayan, close companionship and joyful togetherness of the couple are the most prominent features of the Ram-Sita relationship rather than her self-effacing devotion and loyalty which have become the hallmark of the modern day stereotype of Sita. The medieval Ramayan of Tulsi marks the transition from Ram and Sita being presented as an ideal couple to projecting each of them as an ideal man and woman respectively.

As a maryada purushottam, Ram's conjugal life has to be sacrificed at the altar of "higher" duties. Sita is now portrayed in a highly focussed manner as an ideal wife who acts as the moral anchor in a marriage, and stays unswerving in her loyalty and righteousness no matter how ill-matched be her husband's response. The power of the ideal wife archetype in Tulsi's Ramayan overshadows the happy conjugal life of the couple prior to Ram's rejection of Sita.

The Sita image indeed lends itself to diverse appeals which is perhaps why it has continued to hold sway over the minds of the people of India over the centuries. For instance, in a study carried out in Uttar Pradesh, 500 boys and 360 girls between the ages of 9 and 22 years were asked to select the ideal woman from a list of 24 names of gods, goddesses, heroes, and heroines of history. Sita was seen as the ideal woman by an overwhelming proportion of the respondents. There were no age or s*x differences1 That was a 1957 survey. However, Sita continues to command similar reverence even today, even among modern educated people in India. This paper is a preliminary exploration into why Sita continues to exercise such a powerful grip on popular imagination, especially among women.

A Slavish Wife?

I grew up thinking of Sita as a much wronged woman - a slavish wife without a mind of her own. And precisely for that reason she was not for me a symbol of inspiration, but a warning. She was all that I did not want to be. I naively believed she deserved her fate for being so weak and submissive. It was not as though I were deliberately and consciously rejecting Sita as an ideal. Fortunately, she was never held up as an example for me and, therefore, she did not seem an important reference point - positive or negative - in my life. Sita forced herself on my consciousness only after I began working on Manushi. The articles and poems that came to us, especially those for the Hindi edition, showed an obsessive involvement with Sita and her fire ordeal (agnipariksha).

My impression is that 80 to 90 percent of the poems that came to us for the Hindi version of Manushi, and at least half of those for English Manushi, revolved around the mythological Sita, or the writer as a contemporary Sita, with a focus on her steadfast resolve, her suffering, or her rebellion. Sita loomed large in the lives of these women, whether they were asserting their moral strength or rebelling against what they had come to see as the unreasonable demands of society or family. Either way Sita was the point of reference - an ideal they emulated or rejected. I was very puzzled by this obsession, and even began to get impatient with the harangues of our modern day Sitas.

And then came the biggest surprise of all. The first poem I ever wrote was in Hindi, and was entitled, Agnipariksha. I give some extracts in a rough translation:

I too have given agnipariksha,
Not one - but many
Everyday, a new one.
However, this agnipariksha
Is not to prove myself worthy of this or that Ram
But to make myself 
Worthy of freedom.
Every day your envious, dirty looks
Reduced me to ashes
And everyday, like a Phoenix, I arose again
Out of my own ashes ... ... ... 
Who is Ram to reject me? 
I have rejected that entire society 
Which has converted 
Homes into prisons. 

Not just me, even my former colleague, Ruth Vanita, who is from a Christian family, wrote many a poem around the Sita theme. Her recent collection of poems has several poems that revolve around the Sita symbol. It took a long time, but eventually I became conscious that this obsession with Sita needs to be understood more sensitively than I was hitherto prepared for. Therefore, I began to ask this question fairly regularly of various men and women I met over the years: who do they hold up as an example of the ideal man and ideal woman? Young girls tend to name public figures like Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, Indira Gandhi, and Mother Teresa as their ideals. But those already married or on the threshold of marriage very frequently mention Sita as their ideal (barring the few who are avowedly feminist). At this point of their life, the distinction between an ideal woman and an ideal wife seems to often get blurred in the minds of women. That includes not just women of my mother or grandmother's generations but even young college-going girls - not just those in small towns and villages, but also those in metropolitan cities like Delhi.

Even among my students in the Delhi University college where I teach, Sita invariably crops up as their notion of an ideal woman. She is frequently the first choice if you ask someone to name a symbol of an ideal wife. When I ask women why they find this ideal still relevant, the most common response is that the example Sita sets will always remain relevant, even though they may themselves not be able to completely live up to it. This failure they attribute to their living in kalyug. They feel that in today's debased world it is difficult to measure up to such high standards. However, most women add that they do try to live up to the Sita ideal to the best of their ability, while making some adjustments keeping present day circumstances in view.

Importance of Being Sita

Since I don't have the space to quote extensively from the large number and variety of interviews I have done on the subject, I merely give the gist of what emerged out of these interviews.

It is a common sentiment among Indian women (and men) that the ideals set in bygone ages are still valid and worth emulating, though they admit few people manage to do so in today's world. This attitude contrasts sharply with the popular western view that assumes that people in by-gone ages were less knowledgeable, were far less aware and conscious of their rights and dignity, had fewer options, and therefore were less evolved as human beings. This linear view of human society makes the past something to be studied and kept in museums but is not expected to encroach upon the supposedly superior wisdom of the present generation. In India, on the other hand, Ram and Sita are not seen as remote figures out of a distant past to be dismissed lightly just because we are living in a different age and have evolved different lifestyles. They are living role models seen as having set standards so superior that they are hard to emulate for those living in our more "corrupt" age, the kalyug.

My interviews indicate that Indian women are not endorsing female slavery when they mention Sita as their ideal. Sita is not perceived as being a mindless creature who meekly suffers maltreatment at the hands of her husband without complaining. Nor does accepting Sita as an ideal mean endorsing a husband's right to behave unreasonably and a wife's duty to bear insults graciously. She is seen as a person whose sense of dharma is superior to and more awe inspiring than that of Ram - someone who puts even maryada purushottam Ram - the most perfect of men - to shame. She is the darling of Kaushalya, her mother-in-law, who constantly mourns Sita's absence from Ayodhya. She worries about her more than she does for her son Ram. As the bahu of Avadh, she is everyone's dream of an ideal, loving daughter-in-law. To the people of Mithila, she is far more divine and worthy of reverence than Ram.

Her father-in-law, Dashrath, and her three brothers-in-law dote on her. Ram has at least some enemies like Bali who feel wronged and cheated by him. Ram can become angry and act the role of an avenger. Sita is love and forgiveness incarnate and has no ill feelings even for those who torture her in Ravan's captivity.

In many folk songs, even Lakshman, the forever obedient and devoted brother of Ram, takes Sita's side against his own brother when Ram decides to banish Sita. In one particular folk song, he argues with Ram: "How can I abandon a bhabhi such as Sita who is like food for the hungry and clothes for the naked? She is like a cool drink of water for the thirsty. She is now in full term of pregnancy. How can I cast her away at your command?" (Singh, 1986)2 He is in such pain at having to obey and carry out such an unjust command of his king and elder brother that he does not dare disclose the true intent of their trip to the forest. Squirming with shame, he leaves her there on a false pretense.

She is a woman who even the gods revere, a woman who refuses to accept her husband's tyranny even while she remains steadfast in her love for him and loyalty to him to the very end. People commonly perceive Sita's steadfastness as a sign of emotional strength and not slavery, because she refuses to forsake her dharma even though Ram forsook his dharma as a husband. Most women (and even men) I have spoken to on the subject refer to her as a "flawless" person, overlooking even those episodes where she acts unreasonably (e.g., her humiliating Lakshman with crude allegations about his intentions towards her),whereas Ram is seen as possessing a major flaw in his otherwise respect worthy character because of the way he behaved towards his wife and children.

When gods go wrong

Sita's offer of agnipariksha and her coming out of it unscathed is by and large seen not as an act of supine surrender to the whims of an unreasonable husband but as an act of defiance that challenges her husband's aspersions, as a means of showing him to be so flawed in his judgement that the gods have to come and pull up Ram for his foolishness. Unlike Draupadi, she does not call upon them for help. Their help comes unsolicited. She emerges as a woman that even agni (fire god) -who has the power to destroy everything he touches - dare not touch or harm. Thus, in popular perception Sita's agni pariksha is not put in the same category as the mandatory virginity test Diana had to go through in order to prove herself a suitable bride for Prince Charles, but rather as an act of supreme defiance on her partIt only underscores the point that Ram is emotionally unreliable and can be unjust in his dealings with Sita, that he behaved like a petty minded, stupidly mistrustful, jealous husband and showed himself to be a slave to social opinion. Most women and men I interviewed felt he had no right to reject and humiliate her or to demand an agnipariksha.

Rejection of Ram

The refusal of Sita to go through a second agnipariksha - which Ram demands in addition to the first one that she had offered in defiance - has left a far deeper impact on the popular imagination. It is interpreted not as an act of self annihilation but as a momentous but dignified rejection of Ram as a husband. It is noteworthy that Sita is considered the foremost of the mahasatis even though she rejected Ram's tyrannical demand of that final fire ordeal resolutely and refused to come back and live with him. It is he who is left grieving for her and is humbled and rejected by his own sons. Ram may not have rejected her as a wife but only as a queen in deference to social opinion, but Sita rejects him as a husband. In Kalidasa's Raghuvansha, after her banishment by Ram, Sita does not address Ram as Aryaputra(a term for husband that literally translates as son of my father-in-law) but refers to him as 'King' instead. For instance, when Lakshman comes to her with Ram's message, she conveys her rejection of him as her husband in the following words: "Tell the king on my behalf that even after finding me pure after the fire ordeal he had in your presence, now you have chosen to leave me because of public slander. Do you think it is befitting the noble family in which you were born?" (Kalidasa)3

His rejection of Sita is almost universally condemned while her rejection of him is held up as an example of supreme dignity. By that act she emerges triumphant and supreme, she leaves a permanent stigma on Ram's name. I have never heard even one person, man or woman, suggest that Sita should have gone through the second fire ordeal quietly and obediently and accepted life with her husband once again, though I often hear people say that Ram had no business to reject her in the first place.

Despite the Divorce

Ram may have forsaken Sita, but the power of popular sentiment has kept them united. Her name precedes Ram's in the popular greeting in North India: Jai Siya Ram, as also in several bhajans and chants. He is seen as incomplete without her. He stands alone only in the BJP's propaganda and posters. Otherwise he is never worshipped without his spouse. There is no Ram mandir without Sita by his side. However, there is at least one Sita mandir that I personally know of where Sita presides without Ram. I was introduced to it by the workers of Shetkari Sangathana. This is in Raveri village of Yeotmal district in Maharashtra. The people of the village and surrounding areas tell a moving story associated with the Sita mandir in the area about how that temple came to be. When Sita was banished by Ram, she roamed from village to village as a homeless destitute. When she came to this particular village, she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy. She begged for food but the villagers, for some reason, did not oblige. She cursed the village, vowing that no anaj (grain) would ever grow in their fields. The villagers say that until the advent of hybrid wheat, for centuries, no wheat grew in their village, though plenty grew in neighbouring villages. The villagers all believe in Sita mai's curse. Her two sons were both said to have been born on the outskirts of the village, where a temple was built commemorating Sita mata's years of banishment.

Apologia for Ram

The injustice done to Sita seems to weigh very heavily on the collective conscience of men in India. Those few who try to find justifications for Ram's cruel behaviour towards Sita take pains to explain it in one of the following ways:

  • Ram did it not because he personally doubted Sita but because of the demands of his dharma as a king; he knew she was innocent but he had to show his praja (subject) that unlike his father, he was not a slave to a woman, that as a just raja he was willing to make any amount of personal sacrifices for them.
  • It was an act of sacrifice for him as well. He suffered no less, and lived an ascetic life thereafter;
  • He banished only the shadow of Sita. He kept the real Sita by his side all the time.

Shastri Pandurang V. Athavale's interpretation typifies the far-fetched apologia offered by those who wish to exonerate Ram. They even drag in the modern day holy cow of nationalism in an attempt to explain away his conduct: "What we have to remember is that it was not Ram who abandoned Sita; in reality it was the king who abandoned the queen, in the performance of his duty. He had to choose between a family or a nation. Ram sacrificed his personal happiness for the national interests and Sita extended her full cooperation to Ram. To perform his duty as a king, Ram had sacrificed his queen, not his wife.... At the time of performing Ashvamedha Yagna, many requested Ram to marry another woman [which could be done according to the command of holy scripttures] Ram firmly replied to them: 'In the heart of Ram there is a place for only one woman and that one is Sita.'"

Athavale is at pains to point out that Ram's abandonment of Sita was a symbol of the highest self sacrifice. "Sita was dearer to Ram than his own life. He had never doubted the chastity of Sita ... For had it been so, he would not have kept by his side the golden image of Sita during the sacrificial rites [Ashwamedha Yagna]." (Athavale, 1976)5

However, even a passionate devotee of Ram like Pandurang Shastri finds it hard to give a totally clean chit to Ram:

"Once Ram appeared callous, even cruel. Upon the death of Ravan, after the battle of Lanka, Sita extremely happy appears before Ram. Sternly Ram says to her, 'I do not want you who has been looked at and touched by another person. You may go wherever you want to. You may go either to Bharat, Laxman, Shatrughan, or Vibhishan and stay with any of them.' We do not know for what purpose he was so harsh, or what he intended to convey to Sita by these words, but it is equally certain that they were terrible words ... Even the people who heard Ram saying such bitter words wept. Everyone felt the bitterness of those words, the injustice that was done, but none dared to protest or plead."6

The most powerful indictment, however, comes from the people of Mithila, the region which is the parental homeland of Sita. We are told that Sita's being is part of the very consciousness of Mithila; she is all pervasive in the land, in the water, and in the air of Mithila. "Her pain sits like a heavy stone on the hearts of Mithila's people." (Khan, 1986) 7

This sentiment comes through numerous folk songs of the region. An account of what the injustice done to Sita means to the people of Mithila is poignantly evident in several accounts by leading Hindi writers published in the form of a joint travelogue. This project was organised by the don of Hindi literature, Sachidanand Vatsayayan, whereby a large group of Hindi writers travelled through the region connected with Sita's name starting from her birthplace Sitamarhi on to Janakpur, Ayodhya and ending their journey in Chitrakoot. The purpose of this project was to delve into the secret of why and how the Ramayan, the story of Ram and Janaki, and the locales associated with their names, have become part of people's consciousness and how it has influenced the value system of the educated as well as the illiterate and defined their cultural identity. (Singh, 1986)8

Sita is not just the daughter of Janak in this region but a daughter of all Mithila because, as the folk songs of this region testify, popular sentiment maintains that, had Raja Janak by chance not gone to plough the fields that particular day, someone else from any other jati might have gone and found her. In that case she would have become that person's daughter. Therefore, Sita is treated as a daughter of every household in Mithila. In Mithila the entire village is considered as naihar (parental home) not just one's actual father's abode. (Khan, 1986)9 Therefore, various folk songs show the entire people of Mithila grieving over Sita's fate.

In some folk songs women of different strata plead with their respective husbands to go and fetch her back to her home after her desertion by Ram. However, Sita in her pride and dignity refused to return and brought up her two sons all on her own. Various writers of this anthology describe how the dignity with which Sita suffered privations after Ram's painful rejection has remained alive in people's consciousness as if this injustice was undergone by their own daughter. "Even today, people of Mithila avoid marrying off their daughters in Marg-Shish because that is the month Sita got married. Even today, people of Mithila do not want to marry their daughters into families living in Avadh, in fact anywhere west of Mithila.

They repeatedly recite Sita's name in marriage songs but Ram's name is omitted. At the end of the song there is usually one line which says "'such like Sita was married into Raghukul [the family name of Ram]'"(Dalmia, 1986)10 . There is a beautiful folk song of Mithila quoted by Usha Kiran Khan in which a daughter tells her father what kind of a groom he should find for her. After describing various qualities she is looking for, the daughter advises her father: "Go search in the north, go south, or get me a groom from the east. But don't go westward, O father, get me a groom from the north." (Khan, 1986)11

This daughter of Mithila has a status higher than that of Ram in her own region. In various polemical songs, Ram is shown as inferior to Sita. (ibid)12 At the time of marriage Shiv Parvati songs are more popular than Sita songs. In this context it is well worth remembering that Ram had to prove himself worthy of Sita before her father offered his daughter to him. This is how one of the folk songs of this region describes it: "Everyday Sita used to clean and smear cowdung in the temple courtyard. One day her father Janak saw her lift the heavy Shiv dhanush (bow) with her left hand while smearing with her right hand the floor where the dhanush was kept. At that very moment he vowed that he would marry his daughter only to such a man who had the valour to break that dhanush into nine pieces. Hence, the condition of swayamvar that Sita would only be given in marriage to a man who could demonstrate such exceptional strength."13 People of Mithila still believe that though Ram passed the initial test for winning her, he failed to prove a worthy husband.

Another writer, Shankar Dayal Singh, commented on how he sensed the all pervasive sentiment of anguish and pain in the collective consciousness of the people of this region at the injustice done to Sita. He goes on to say:

"This region has taken a strange revenge in a silent way. From pauranic times, everywhere, in every village and small town (kasba) are found Shri Janaki mandirs where Ram and Lakshman are also present along with Janaki. But the temples are named after Sita as evidence that somewhere the pain of Sita is still hurting the folk sentiment consciousness as though saying: 'Ram, you made our Sita walk barefoot in the forests. Ravan challenged your manhood and forcibly abducted Sita. Though this mother of the universe (Jagajannani) went through the fire ordeal to prove her innocence, you abandoned her. Our daughter, our sister was treated thus by Ayodhya. But we are careful of our maryada (honour). That is why O Ram, we will keep your idol in the temple. We will even worship it, but the temple will be known in Sita's name.' That is why the whole area is littered with Shri Janaki mandirs. There are Sita legends attached to every spot, even treesand ponds." (Singh, 1986)14

Vatsayan comments on how in Chitrakoot people offered them leaves from a tree believed to be the ones which the abandoned Sita used to eat in order to still her hunger. What is the proof offered? The leaves tasted sour and if you drink water after chewing some, the water tasted sweet. So the lore has it that Sita mai used to drink water after filling her stomach with these leaves and that sweet aftertaste helped sustain her through days of destitution. Thus, her memory is kept alive in every aspect of the natural as well as the cultural landscape of Mithila. As writer Lakshmi Kant Varma sums it up: "Sitasahanshilta (quality of dignified tolerance) is written on every leaf of Balmiki Nagar" - the ashram where she spent her years of banishment. (Varma, 1986)15

The Television Ram

Even in the rest of India, very few people endorse Ram's behaviour towards Sita. He has not been forgiven this injustice through all these centuries, despite his being a revered figure in most other ways. In this context, I am reminded of the time when Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan was being telecast over Doordarshan. As the story began approaching the point when Sita was supposed to undergo her agniparikshathe serial makers were flooded in advance with so many letters of protest against the depiction of Sita going through the fire ordeal that Sagar was forced to deviate from his text and show the agnipariksha to be a mock one. The TV Ram was made to clarify that he did not doubt Sita's chastity.Clearly, Ram's injustice to Sita has hung so heavily on the collective conscience of Indians that they are willing to demand that a sacred text be altered. In this new text, determined by contemporary devotees, maryada purushottam Ram was being ordered to behave better.

Disqualified Husband

The final rejection of Ram by Sita has come to acquire a much larger meaning in popular imagination than one woman's individual protest against the injustice done to her. It is a whole culture's rejection of Ram as a husband. For instance, people will say approvingly: "He is a Ram-like son, a Ram-like brother, or a Ram-like king." But they will never say as a mark of approval, "He is a Ram-like husband." If Ram had not been smart enough to win Sita for a wife by his skill in stringing Shiv's bow, if instead Janak had decided to match their horoscope and it had predicted that Sita would be abandoned by him, I doubt that Ram would have ever found a wife. No father would have consented to give his daughter to a man like Ram - his claims to godlike perfection notwithstanding. Most people I talked to echoed this sentiment: "Ram honge bade admi par Sita ne kya sukh paya?" (Ram may have been a great man, but what good did it do Sita?)

It is significant that pauranic descripttions of Shiv show him as the least domesticated and the most rebellious of all the gods, one whose appearance and adventures border on the weird. He is so unlike a normal husband that Sati's father never forgives her for marrying Shiv. Yet Hindu women have selectively domesticated him for their purpose, emphasising his devotion to Sati/Parvati as well as the fact that he allowed his spouse an important role in influencing his decisions. At the same time these women conveniently overlook the many very prominent and contradictory aspects of his life and deeds.

Interestingly, Parvati is not just seen as a grihalakshmi, as someone whose reign is confined to the domestic sphere. She often also controls and guides Shiv's dealings with the outside world, constantly goading him to be more generous, compassionate and sensitive to the needs of his bhakts.

While there has been a lot of discussion and analysis of the demands put on women in the Hindu tradition, the sacrifices expected of ideal wives, we have failed to evaluate the demands put on an ideal husband. TheHindu tradition might valourise wives who put up with tyrannical husbands gracefully but it does not valourise unreasonable husbands. On the contrary, it places heavy demands on them and expects very high levels of s*xual and emotional loyalty from them if they are to qualify as "good husbands". Shiv, for instance, is perceived as someone who cannot live without Parvati. He is said to have no desire for other women. He is supposed to have roamed around the world like a crazed being carrying Parvati's dead body on his shoulders after she jumped into the fire to protest against her father's insult to her husband.His tandava threatens to destroy the whole world and he rests only after he has brought her back to life. However, most women realise that a Shiv like husband is not easy to get. Therefore, they need other strategies to make husbands act responsibly.

There are several practical reasons why Sita-like behaviour makes sense to Indian women. The outcome of marriage in India depends not just on the attitude of a husband but as much on the kind of relationship a women has with her marital family and extended kinship group. If, like Sita, she commands respect and affection from the latter, she can frequently count on them to intervene on her behalf and keep her husband from straying, from behaving unreasonably. Similarly, once her children grow up, they can often play an effective role in protecting her from being needlessly bullied by her husband, and bring about a real change in the power equation in the family, because in India, children, especially sons, frequently continue living with their parents even after they are grown up. A woman can hope to get her marital relatives and her children to act in her favour only if she is seen as being more or less above reproach.

Most women realise that it is not easy to tie men down to domestic responsibility. You need a lot of social and familial controls on men in order to prevent them from extra-marital affairs which can seriously jeopardise the stability of a marriage. Thus, they think it is best to avoid taking on the ways of men. To respond to a husband's unreasonableness or extra-marital affair by seeking a divorce or having an affair herself would only allow men further excuses to legitimise their irresponsible behaviour. Thus, it is a strategy to domesticate men, to minimise the risk of marriage breakdown and of having to be a single parent, with its consequent effect on children. A man breaking off with a Sita-like wife is likely to invite widespread disapproval in his social circle and is therefore, more likely to be kept under a measure of restraint, even if he has a tendency to stray.

While for women Sita represents an example of an ideal wife, for men she is Sita mata (jagjannani), not just the daughter of earth but Mother Earth herself who inspires awe and reverence. By shaping themselves in the Sita mould, women often manage to acquire enormous clout and power over their husbands and family.

I am grateful to my friend Berny and my colleague Dhirubhai Sheth for their helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper.

This article has been extracted from a longer paper presented at a conference organised in January 1996 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

1 Like

Arup (UNEMPLOYED)     05 December 2010

Ramraj was cruel against women

- it is a view of a group of two/three persons. there view not correct.

Leave a reply

Your are not logged in . Please login to post replies

Click here to Login / Register  

Start a New Discussion Unreplied Threads

Popular Discussion

view more »

Post a Suggestion for LCI Team
Post a Legal Query