Friday, September 2, 2011

Why sita sings the blues ?

Anyone who grew up during the 80's in India, during the era of doordarshan (i.e pre cable tv era) , has definitely seen the epics of Hindu mythology, which were made into television shows on doordarshan, i.e the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Both were hugely popular shows, causing deserted streets, during the air times, because of their popularity. These epics have a very big significance in the Hindu religion, why I am not exactly sure, but I've been told that they are important.  Recently I happened to come across a narration of the Ramayana, through a different angle, i.e from sita's angle. It is an animated satirical documentary film, by Nina Paley called sita sings the blues (warning : it is mature subject matter) . It explains the story of ramayana through the eyes of sita, while also having a parellel narrative of an American couple and their split, eventually relating the story of sita to the modern woman. It got me thinking about the story of Ramayana, and in turn about most of hindu mythology and it's treatment of women, from an angle I hadn't given much thought to before.

For the uninitiated, here's the story of Ramayana . This was the only version I found, which was relatively short while covering the most important aspects of the story, easy to understand, and closest to what is generally understood as the story, although it does have some errors, but it's not a bad starting point for the clueless, I would suggest that those who don't have any idea about the story read the story given in the link, because without the reference of the story this post will not be fully grasped.

Ok, since this topic involves religion, I'm gonna tread with caution here, since religion can be a sensitive subject matter, and can ruffle feathers very quickly . I firstly have to declare, that even though I am a hindu, and call myself as such, I am not a devout Hindu, I am not very religious, and have varying degrees of discomfort with almost all the organized religions. The only reason, I still follow hinduism (somewhat) is because, it is habitual, not entirely out of devotion. I do partake in most of the religious occassions, mainly as a means of social interaction and fun, instead of, pure devotion, like I don't really celebrate diwali to rejoice on Rama's homecoming to Ayodhya, it's more about the lovely colors, and food, and new clothes, and food, and meeting friends and family and did I mention the you get the picture...right...

I would've loved to write about my views on all religions, but I decided against doing that since :

a.) The other religions don't affect me personally, and to each their own, and more importantly

b.) I have near zero knowledge of any religion (including hindusim) other than what I know through conjecture,  minor interactions with others and media projected versions of what those religions are like (which is rarely accurate) , so am no authority to speak about any of them, the only reason I can talk about hinduism, is because atleast I've seen it around me growing up, so have a slightly better idea of what it is supposed to be.

But, I digress, now back to the topic of sita.  Sita sings the blues is a documentary film, even though it is one person's expression of what she considers to be sita's plight, it holds true for many women's thoughts, upon reading/seeing/hearing sita's story. Ramayan has been praised by many hindu scholars, and Ram hailed as the ideal man (Maryada Purshottam) by one and all, isn't it logical and fair for women to want to question the actions of the this ideal man with regards to his wife.

One of my favorite scenes, is from a movie I love, called Lajja . The scene is where a stage actress is playing sita, but is also romantically involved with her stage partner Ram, and in her real life, that partner has voiced some suspicions regarding her character, she then uses the Sita agnipariksha (trial by fire, for want of a better phrase ) scene in the play as a way to argue her side to her lover. She (as sita) questions him on his character, when her character is doubted. She tells him, that she has given up things for him, which she didn't have too, like living in a palace, after all it wasn't she who was exiled, he was, and like laxman's wife she too could've stayed back. Also she says, that while Ram and Laxman, fought with an army or monkey's, she fought with Ravana alone in the garden where she was kept, and had she given in to his demands, Ram would've lost the battle, without ever beginning the fight. She asks him point blank, whether he loves her, and whether he personally trusts her (as it was said that the agnipariksha was for the subjects of the kingdom, who had doubts, not for ram himself)
I was lucky enough to find the clip of scene online, unfortunately it doesn't have subtitles though. (Please excuse the poor quality) :

I love this scene for many reasons. The questions asked by the protagonist in the scene are very relevant, pinpointed, and hard hitting. These are questions that the Ramayan doesn't answer, but every women who reads the Ramayan is sure to ask herself.

I think Indian society has a major hangover of the 'Sita' phenomenon. We expect all our women to be like Sita, virtuous, pure, obedient, and submissive.   Lack of any of these qualities in a woman, is considered bad, yes, these perceptions are changing, but it is a painfully slow change... A sita like the one shown in the clip above, who doesn't just grin and bear it, but opens her mouth to actually voice her opinion, and express dissent, would be considered a-sanskari (insolent) and promptly labelled a feminist even in today's India.

Indian mythology has always painted the women as the bad ones, the root of evil, whether it be kaikeyi asking Ram's father to send him to exile, or Sita not listening to Lakshman's advice of staying within the limits he drew out for her (which has deep meaning in many ways, as regards women staying within limits given to them by society or the men in their lives), or satyavati putting up a condition to marry king shantanu, about his son abdicating the throne, or even draupadi teasing duryodhan when he fell into the pond calling him blind like his father, in every case the blame is squarely put on the woman's shoulders and she is shown to be the reason that wars happen,  people die and all evil unleashes.

In each of the above cases the men were equally participant in the outcome, in case of Kaikeyi, it was also Dashrath's fault to make such an open-ended promise in the first place, and also his fault, to ever agree to such a ridiculous demand of exiling his own son, in case of Sita, it was also lakshman's fault to cut off surpanakha's nose in anger, which in turn made her provoke her brother for revenge, and anyway wasn't it the case that Vishnu had reincarnated as Ram mainly to kill Ravan, so it was inevitable one could argue, in case of satyavati, king Shantanu was equally to blame for being unable to control his feelings for another woman, and also the actual condition of Bhishma abdicating the throne was made by satyavati's father, not her, in case of draupadi too, the kauravas were always looking to kill, eliminate the pandavas, as they did not like them, and duryodhan wanted to be king, so a small joke by draupadi was hardly the reason for the mahabharat war.

I guess somewhere as a society, our image of the ideal woman is stuck in the times of 'Satyug' or the noble era, expecting the women of today to be a modern adaptaion of Sita, i.e a Sita who can put on a business suit and enter a board room confidently and then upon reaching home serve a tray of hot tea to her in-laws with a smile, the only two categories of women we like to put women in are 'Devi'  (Goddess) or 'Dayan' (witch) , there isn't much of a middle zone there for women, where we can just be human beings, flaws and all, we can't make mistakes (like dating the wrong guy just as an example, since any woman with multiple partners is immediately labelled as slut), have opinions, and a mind of our own, we are put on a pedestal and held to extremely or even impossibly high standards of virtous behaviour, and expected to live up to it, but we aren't given the freedom to commit our own mistakes and learn from them.
Ofcourse, men too are held to their own high standards, and they too have the huge burden of social expectations on them, no doubt, but in their case, a mistake or failure to comply to the high standards doesn't have as much of a bad reaction and judgement as it does for the women, and this is just a reality.
For eg : Many conservative families of India, who don't like their children having a love marriage, could possibly soften their stand if the child is a boy, especially if he threatens to break ties (not all parents, but some), but if the child is a girl, than the opposition is far stronger, and the struggle to convince the parents far longer.
I hope that future generation of Indian women manage to escape this Sita hangover of our society.

Coming to the documentary film Sita sings the blues, there is a website protesting the video, now they are fully within their rights to voice their displeasure by any peaceful means they want too. However, some of the objections and their explanations are just bizzare. Like calling the filmmaker anti-hindu for saying in the film that ravana was otherwise a good king, I dunno what's anti-hindu about that, and objecting to them showing sita wearing a ton of jewellery which she drops during her abduction, which is just meant to be funny, and isn't even really insulting to Sita.

Anyway, as I said, they do have a right to voice their protest if they find something insulting to their religious views, but as a woman I could see the point Nina was trying to make, which was actually through the parallel story, not sita's story. I don't find it an attack on hinduism, or on any of our multiple gods and goddesses, it's just relating sita's story in today's times.
How many women try to move their lives around, and give up everything for the man they love, or try to change themselves for the man in their life, be it clothing styles, haircut, food habits, whatever,  and still could be left in the lurch by the man, for no apparent fault of theirs, whether it is the boyfriend breaking off the relationship to his parents disapproval, or because he decided he liked another girl better and decided to cheat on his girlfriend,  and that there have been many sita's after the real sita, and there will be many more.....
That is why sita sings the blues in the video, it is not really Sita, but all the women, who were left by the man they love for no fault of their own, who are singing in the video, Sita is just the torch-bearer for those women.



  1. the fact that Sita decided to leave Ram at the end was a strong statement...people who read it with right mind set will only blame Ram and not Sita...and you are right the men are equally responsible...the unethical tactics used in the wars shows the men as bad...that is why in Mahabharata all the Pandavas went to hell....

    nice post :)

  2. Interesting indeed. Like you i'm not very religious, born and baptised Christian as a baby, but celebrating christian festivals as a habit, when people ask me if I go to church on Christmas day, or Good Friday, well the answer is no, the last time I went for such a service was as a kid when my christian class group was in the nativity scene, I was 12. Like you, it's the social aspect, and food and family, and fun of the holidays I enjoy.

    I have little knowledge of hinduism, but yeah it seems women have to be pious, devout, virtuous, pure and demured, even in today's India, I didn;t make the link to Sita though.
    Women in Christianity are also considered evil, and are forever hold responsible for Eve's original sin (eating the apple of the tree of knowledge), through ages it seems that women had to redeem themselves because of the one "sin" one lady (did eve even really existed?) comitted in the begining of Christian times. Like you said men have duties and values to uphold, but for some reasons if they slip it isn't as much a big issue as is for women to slip.
    I remember questionning the bible stories as a kid, and my feminist mother actually started questionning them too, my main question was of course the original sin thing, how could eating the fruit of knowledge be a bad thing? Having knowledge seems good, and she encouraged Adam to eat the fruit too and make him knowledgeable. Of course stemming from this question came all the middle age notions of women's place in society as I grew up, and when I was 15 and seriously protesting against the fact my parents wanted me to attend the classes leading to communion, I asked out flat out why should I just go through these functions when I had no belief in the system and texts that were quite macho in nature, my dad said it was for the sake of family tradition, my mom admitted that I had a point, and I was allowed to drop out :) around that same time, my mom explained that while God probably exist, religions, have all been created by men, and by men she meant MALES, and because men wrote the texts that were chosen to be compiled in the bible they wrote it from their point of view and in a way that would benefit them first.
    My other fundamental early age question and now thinking of it might have been the one shaping me the most was when I asked my mom what God looked like and my mom replied "Nobody knows what HE looks like" and me to ask "Well then how come we know he is a man?" The mind of a 7 year old works sometimes more logically than the one of a grown up LOL

  3. vow!! a very nice post Anjali...:) :)

  4. @SUB: the pandavas didn't really go to hell. It was a illusion to test yudhistar's righteousness. Or some such thing, if I recall correctly. But you are right, men are pigs, in general.

  5. Hey AAD great post! I don't know much about Hindu mythology (and what I do know is from academic books rather than first-hand experiences of the culture), but your post really got me thinking, especially re her 'double' role which mean women idealise/identify with her because a) she's the devoted beautiful wife everyone idolises and b) she's suffered unfairly at the hands of her suspicious husband. So she's a figure women can identify with in a culture which expects them to give up so much for men; but importantly, being so devoted and submissive for the main part, she is also a figure who women can identify with for suffering from the extremes of patriarchy without actually rocking basic Hindu patriarchal values. Now only a goddess could pull that off...

  6. The movie (Sita sings the blues) looks quite entertaining. A perfect Sunday afternoon watch ! I caught a quick glimpse and it seemed quite funny. And its free ! Thanks for sharing this.

    When I was a child, I clearly remember not liking Ram for doubting Sita. I didn't really like Ram or Ramayana that much, I was more a Krishna and Mahabharata fan. I am still amazed that people pray for a Ram-Sita jodi. Why would I want that ? Shiva-Parvathi maybe, or Radha-Krishna if you're the non-marital kinds ! But then again, most religious beliefs amaze me, not in a good or bad way, but more in a - you've got to be kidding me - way !

  7. u r was an illusion indeed....probably everything including heaven, hell, this world, men and pigs....:p

    BTW were u insulting men or pigs? ;)

  8. The whole Sita/Ram thing definitely bothers me, as a newcomer to a Hindu family. Luckily, I think my MIL likes Durga better, anyway.

    I particularly like your point about the businesswoman coming home to serve tea. Reminds me of American housewives in the 1950s. I've heard that the late 19th century expected women to be completely nurturing mothers, then the 1920s expected women to be completely vivacious and exciting wives...and then the 1950s expected women to be both, and they all started taking tranquilizers. There's no understanding that you can't just cherry-pick the qualities you want; qualities come as whole sets, and you can always work at your weaknesses, but you can't have it both ways.

    Thanks for the post!

  9. @ Sub : I agree that some might see Ram's fault, but they are by and large a minority, or maybe I haven't heard the right people talking about it..... :D

    @ Cyn, loved your comment overall, and glad to know there are others like me out there, who don't take religion too seriously... :-)
    About the connection to sita, she is the every-woman, the benchmark for all Indian women, supposedly, so like she unquestioningly followed her husband, kept worshiping him even when he left her, the whole concept of pati-parmeshwar started with sita, and even today women, no matter how modern on the outside, are expected to have a little sita in them, and be the 'Adarsh Bharatiya Naari'...
    BTW, loved your mom's pov about religion, it is the exact view I have, the exact, I too think that there may be a god, (and even if there isn't, I'd like to think there is ) but religion, a whole other ball game, I don't think any religious book out there is 'The word of God', no way...I truly believe that religion, all religions are the creation of men, and yeah by that I mean Males...and that's why all religions have some or the other level of unfairness towards women...that's how I see it..

    @ Sunita : Thanks...
    @ Sundar : I think what you are referring to is the portion where Yaksha tested Yudhishthir's virtues, by mock killing all the other Pandavas, and what Sub is referring to is that at the end of Mahabharat, all the pandavas and draupadi begin a journey to heaven by foot, where only the truly virtous would reach heaven, and one by one all the others die, and only yudhishthir reaches heaven in bodily reach heaven but upon death, not in bodily form...that's how I know yea, they didn't go to hell, but they weren't really virtous either, but what I don't get is why yudhisthir gets to go to heaven, after betting his wife in a game and also lying to his own guru in the war about the death of ashwathama...anyway, I don't give these tales much importance, they are just good, entertaining tales for me...that's all...

  10. @ Taswin : Agree, only a goddess can pull that off, problem is that when ordinary women like me question the status quo, they are promptly branded and aggressive feminists, who are ruining society with their views...

    @ Preeti, if you haven't seen it, you should, it's very entertaining, and funny too...
    I totally agree about the "you've gotta be kidding me " part...that's exactly how I feel too...LOL..

    @ Sub...LOL

    @ Sara : Exactly my point, that people always expect women to be like an ala carte menu that they can pick and choose the qualities from, and she is expected to live upto all the expectations placed on her, but we are human too, and have flaws too, and wanna be just considered human, please don't call us 'Devi or goddess', we just wanna be human thanks...

  11. is there any rama sings green kind of animation...just curious

  12. great post Anjali. very interesting perspective

    the stand Sita took is so representative of many women

    btw,who can ever forget the serials (esp Mahabharat) on DD! those were some days :)

  13. There was this book from Draupadis perspective, I am forgeting the name ...but u are talking about a movie, Right? Sounds interesting.

  14. Although I enjoyed your post thoroughly I however have to disagree with the statement that Indian Mythology blames woman for everything. I do agree, it is the general consensus of the public but if you do look at the actual story, it is not so.

    The concept of Lakshman Rekha was added in Tulsidas Ramayan, which is very recent as in 19th centuryish, the earlier version had different views of the kidnapping.

    Sorry to generalize here, but we usually always look at things from a feminist perspective. We never see, that despite what promise made to whoever, it was Rams choice to go to the Jungle, he could refuse as it was not his duty to obey his father. But he chose it, because he didn't want the royal family split over these petty differences.

    2nd, it was not Ram who asked for agnipariksha it was a Dhobhi, Ram had to listen to him because the Dhobhi was a subject and if the subject does not have faith in the queen, how can there be peace?

    We fail to acknowledge one fact in Ramayana that Ram was a ruler and the entire story is about keeping Kingdom corruption free. He tried hard (and had to suffer personally twice) to keep his kingdom intact. So it was never a reflection on Sita Chasity as it was seen during ashwamedha yagna after the banishment of Sita. Quickly, ill tell you what happened.

    People asked ram to marry second time, because Aswamedha yagna needs a wife to sit besides the king. He refused, he said I have banished the queen from the land because people did not have faith in her. She is/was/ and will be my wife and no one can replace her. He kept a mud statue instead besides him to perform yagna.

    So it was never his or Sitas or for that matter even Kaikais fault, it was all done to kept a kingdom safe.

    Not related to this, but one of my post can give a reflection on why Ram took certain decisions.


  15. Okay.. I am a follower after reading this! Good work!

  16. On the whole, a thought provoking post. The actual version or what really happened during Ramayan is somewhat unknown or have many versions... I will try to give some points here which I came across after I was bugged by the same doubts as to why 'Maryada Purshottam Ram' did such a thing...

    * Sita could have stayed in the Palace but she came to Jungle along with Ram - mostly because they(Gods) wanted a reason for war and eventually to Kill Ravan. If Sita had not gone there, Ramayan or the end of Evil Ravan wouldn't have happened. (Now don't ask me they could have setup something else to provoke a war. I am just giving my findings)

    * In one of the versions of Ramayan and even in one of the movies I had seen it is said that - Sita was not the one who went along with Ravan. (Yes! most of them don't know about this) I don't remember her name, but Sita actually goes with Agni Dev and a look-alike women (who is also a divine person) is sent who eventually goes with Ravan. (It is said that the Switch happens when Ravan comes as a begger with the plan of kidnapping Sita).
    Later, when the war is over and Ravan is dead, Sita's look alike was brought to Ram, and he doesn't accept her because she is actually not his wife. That is why the Agnipareeksha was setup. When the look-a-like Sita enters the Agni, Ram's wife Sita who was in safe custody of Agni-dev comes back.

    Now, I don't know to what extent this is true. But I couldn't get a source online. But if this is true, well then it answers the debate.

    The problem was, how the story was interepreted by the people. I know there are many women, girls question or even hate Ram's values. In my opinion, it is just one side of the story. People (especially men) made mockery of some parts of it and used the values wrongly. And so, women did had problems with it. The bottom line is, before blamming or questioning something, we should know the truth. Which is unfortunately, not widely known or available. And sometimes, it makes me wonder when people say - Krishna is lot better than Ram. Because theoretically, both are just different avataras of Lord Vishnu.

  17. Very well written... I second you on every point on your post.

    A friend told me that in one version of Ramayana, after the Agnipareeksha, after Ram accepts Sita, she asks him, why he did all this natak of agni pareeksha as it is obvious that people will misunderstand it and there will be lots of problems for women because of this. And for that question, Ram had no answer.
    In that version, Ram had other wives too when Sita was in Valmiki's ashram.
    To gain the respect of the people, Ram HAD TO send pregnant Sita to the forest and leave her there for her fate. Does any leader or king need to earn respect of the people by doing that? By doing that, will he gain the respect of the female citizens of his empire?

    Some questions have come up after reading Sunil's comment:
    Do gods need reasons to kill a demon?
    If they had to switch Sita with Vaidehi and was kept a secret from Ravan, why was it kept a secret for the people by doing the agni pareeksha drama?

    Beautiful post... Loved it..

  18. Just like you gave some examples, there are many versions of it and WHAT IS THE TRUTH, well we don't know isn't it? Everyone has their own version of truth. The point is, some versions made us believe RAM IS SANE and others MAKE HIS ACTIONS INSANE. I am not completely supporting Ram's action. On the outside, though it lookes insane, there could be an inside story which we are not aware of. Or atleast I am!

    Do gods need a reason to kill a demon? Raavan had got a boon that he can neither be killed by god's or demons. So Vishnu took human avatar as Ram and the entire plot was set up that way.

    And why was Sita & Vaidehi switch kept a secret, well I wasn't there at that time! or at-least haven't reserached much :P

    Ram abandoning Sita when she was pregnant comes in uttarakanda (last chapter) with which there were lot of questions as some say this wasn't written by the original author due to clear differences in style & narration.

    Bottom line is - a person doubting his wife's sanity, sending her to forest when she was pregnant for the sake of his dignity - is totally insane! But whether Ram has done this? Well, the original valmikhi written script is not available. So I'm not sure!!

  19. @ Alka : The book you're talking about 'Palace of illusions' is indeed from draupadi's perspective and I hear it's a great need, it's on my must read list as well...hopefully I'll read it soon...this post if about a different one, a documentary film called sita sings the blues.

    @ Siddhesh : Welcome to the blog, and appreciate your pov. All the points you've mentioned here, I have already heard from one source or another, in giving Rama's side on the issue, but the fact remains that whatever the reason, he put society before his wife...See Sita didn't have to follow Ram to the exile but she did, being a loving and devoted wife, so why couldn't Ram, leave the throne for the sake of his wife's honor , if he could do so to keep his father's wife, is his wife's honor not a good enough reason ??? He doesn't get a gold star from me for not remarrying after banishing sita, marriage is not about staying married on paper, it is about companionship and sharing your lives together, and that part was missing from their marriage after the banishment. Will be sure to check out your post too...thanks..

    @ aerosum : Welcome to the blog, and thank your for your kind words.

    @ Sunil: I'll reply to both your comments together . Very interesing points. The parts you mentioned about sita's body double, are actually known to me, and I've heard that story as well, but it is not verifiable, since there is difference of opinion on it, and we can't just pick and choose a version that suits our narrative better...Hindu mythology is anyways unverifiable, since there's no actual proof of any of it, so we have to go by the most popularly held concepts, since that is how they are followed in society...and in the popular version I have several I mentioned in the article and to my response to siddhesh...
    Like you also said in your second post, one can't truly be sure of any version, since there are many floating out there, but this is why infact I get even more irritated by the fact, that something which is so unreliable, unverifiable is actually taught in society as a 'moral code' and a benchmark for an ideal man a woman...until there's some historic proof to the same, we dunno what was the truth for sure...

    @ Preethika : Thanks for the lovely comment dear. Some very good points made, especially about how the female subjects would've reacted to rama's actions. I feel women and men have a very different reaction to Ram-sita's story. Women like you and me, find it unreasonable, and unjustifiable under any circumstances to treat one's wife the way sita was treated, but men seem to see some or the other hidden reasons behind Ram's actions, my husband also voiced his own perspectives on this post before I posted it ,and his pov's were similar to most men.
    Like I said in reply to siddhesh, if Ram wanted, he could have given up the kingdom to protect his wife's honor, saying that he cannot rule a kingdom where his wife isn't respected, since she is such an integral part of his life, if he could leave the kingdom to keep his father;s word, why not for wife's honor ?? Is his wife's honor that cheap ??
    Thanks for the comment.

  20. @ Alka, that was supposed to be "I hear it's a great read " not need...LOL

  21. @AAD
    I agree what Ram did may seem bad from Sitas POV, but think about it this way, he never left her side. Staying as the prince of the nation was his duty, if he would have left the nation. We could see people losing faith in Bharat. He himself never abandoned his wife but did it for the greater good. Even abandoning his father he did for the society and not for the father. Think from a kings perspective, we cannot relate it to the normal woman (although people do relate it) but a public servant has to put society before his wife.

  22. @AAD: Correct. The problem with society or anyone for that matter, people blindly believed whatever told to them. Lets say, it is fine to an extent if only the 'good values' were taken into consideration. Like in Ramayan there were many moral things which can be considered & practiced. But what about those which are incorrect? Those things should not be practiced. God gave us mind to think & do what is morally Right. If Ramayan, Mahabharat are the two epic histories of India, people should take the good points rather than the wrong ones. While I say this, there are things to learn even from the bad ones.

    Why can't we think like this. Ram did douted his wife & sent her to forest. What did he get? He wasn't happy. He couldn't see his childrens in one of their most beautiful phase of life. He lived alone and when he met her the next time, Sita chooses not to come to Ram instead goes back to where she came from. The earth. Ram then leaves his kingdom as his purpose of human life is over. Even this gives us some lessons! Who knows, Gods played such a role to teach something!! It makes me wonder at times when people say Ram wasn't good person... But it isn't true. He never said you should doubt your wife and practice the same what he did for several reasons. He had great values but he was human! And he did mistakes because of which he did suffer.

    My point is, all stories or say every mythology had good things & bad things. The story itself never told us, to follow the bad things! The way it was interpreted, preeched or even practiced had problems... During the Hindu wedding, the priest says you should be like Ram & Sita. Why?

    Ram - because for his "eka patni vrata" ideology.

    Sita - because to give her support in the good & bad times of life.


    Unfortunately, sometimes, we think too much...

  23. @ siddhesh : I don't believe in going around in circles, which we are doing right now...let's just agree to disagree :-). I don't agree to the flawed logic that what Rama did was the greater good, he completely abandoned his duties toward his wife, and not to mention children. I'm sorry I don't think that the kingdom should come before his own children, who he willingly brought into the world...So by your logic, say there is a minister, and his marriage is getting in the way of him doing his job right - again a wierd logic ...but say that was the case, would it be okay for him disown his wife and kids, without any form of child support, or anything ?????

    And anyway, I have one question...Did ram ever poll his subjects as to what the consensus was over sita ????? As per the story this whole charade of agni pariksha and her banishment is the result of 'one', just one dhobi saying something, and he wasn't even saying it to Ram !!! he was saying it to his own wife, so is it not possible that he was the only guy in the entire city who thought that way, and everyone else could've even though I really don't buy this twisted logic of ram doing what he did for his subjects...that;s just a cover-up IMO...for his lack of support to his wife...

    @ Sunil : Let me first make clear, that I find all religions and their religious texts ridiculous, that includes Hinduism, and also Ramayan....
    That said, I only watched the serials Ramayan/Mahabharat for the fantasy aspect.
    About the logic you're offering, that's only your opinion, I can bring ten different scholars of Ramayan on here, and they would have ten different interpretations of the same, so there's really no consensus....What matters is public perception, because that;s how it is seen, not what the 'facts' are, since all of this is mythology anyway, there's no way to verify any of the to prescribe the characters as an ideal by any version is unfair I feel...
    If Ram suffered, what about Sita ??? I'd be happy to 'suffer' like Ram anyday, not having to fulfill your responsibility towards raising your own kids, living in a grand palace, being a king, yea he suffered alright.
    Anyway I do appreciate your perspective, but I think any rational person, would see Ramayan for what it is, which is a very very unfair treatment towards sita, and no matter whatever excuse one gives for it, bottomline remains that Ram was unfair towards Sita and his kids, period....Where there is a will, there is a way, he seemed to lack the will to uphold his wife's honor, and be a father to his children. That's where it ends for me, no logic in the world, will ever make it okay for me...None...

  24. @AAD - Valid points. Let me make myself clear - I never said Ram was fair on his part & he suffered the same as Sita. On a simple logic percepective it is very unfair on Sita's part & his children. And personally, I won't be happy to 'suffer' like Ram even in my dreams! And I appreciate the percepective you have offered and what was shown in that movie too. I was only tring to make point - practicing the 'illogical' part of Ramayan just because it was done by Ram or was written in 'Ramayan' makes no sense. Take the good ones and ignore the bad ones was the essence of my comment.

    And, neither I am here to prove my point or impose my logics on others!! It is really good to have a discussion and I think I was just a part of it here...

  25. @ Sunil : I absolutely do appreciate your point of view, and appreciate the fact that you participated in a discussion even more, I just don't agree with all of your points.
    I understand that you tried to present in from your perspective of filtering out the unwanted and I just feel that such stuff that needs to be filtered out, needn't stay in the scriptures at all, they just create room for speculation, both good and bad.
    Anyway, thankyou for voicing your opinion, and making valid arguments.

  26. Really nicely written. I saw 'Sita sings the Blues' a few years back and loved it completely. Perhaps shocking to some, the narrative is interesting and unusual.

    As for Ram, Sita or Ravana, I think these are characters which exist within each one of us in varying degrees, which is just fine. Religious zealots prevents us from reinterpreting them in the present context, which is rather unfortunate. Everyone can argue, agree or disagree with the virtues of Ramayana and its characters, but they are/ were part of the world and would continue to do so. What's important is to discuss and debate and let the thoughts/ opinions develop furthehr...

  27. @ Siddhartha Joshi : Welcome to my blog and thanks for your comment !
    I agree that all of these charachters do exist in all of us to varying is the impossibility of expecting us to be exactly like either Ram, sita or ravan which is ridiculous.
    I agree discussion and debate is the best way to brainstorm on what is the best way forward.

  28. Although we find a lot of voices supporting Ram's actions, the fact remains that most Indians prefer to end Ramayana once Sita and Ram returned to Ayodhya. Even when Ramayana was aired on the national television, the director received letters from viewers to do the same. (And I think he did too.)

    The obvious injustice to Sita can be argued and justified, but how many are really convinced? Even today people of Mithila (Sita's hometown) have wedding songs where the daughter asks her father to find her a husband from any direction but from the direction where Ayodhya lies.

    And girls all over the country fast on Mondays for a husband like Shiva, not Rama. Rama is seen as an ideal man by those who don't include the being an ideal husband in being an ideal man.

  29. @ IHM: Thanks for dropping by the blog, and writing your views. Really appreciate them, and certainly did not know about the songs in Mithila, and I agree about the Rama's ideal man image, only for those who don't think one needs to be an ideal husband or even father (he had zero contribution towards raising his kids) to be an ideal man, can call him one...

  30. 'Sita sings the blues' was good, but I enjoyed the dialogues in Lajja much more.

    Loved your response to two comments!!

    //I get even more irritated by the fact, that something which is so unreliable, unverifiable is actually taught in society as a 'moral code' and a benchmark for an ideal man a woman//

    And, also about how Rama's female (most of them, if not all) subjects would have reacted to the treatment of Sita.

    I wish one would see Sita as a role model for Single parenting and for rejecting Ram's proposal to come back to Ayodhya.

    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.

  31. All the part in pink is in quotes, you can click on it to read where it is linked from.

  32. @ IHM : Excellent comment... I love those lines from Lajja too.... :-)
    I completely agree that it is Ram who comes across as the imperfect man that he was, and sita comes across as a symbol of strength, courage, and determination. You are absolutely right that she is the one who rejects Ram in the end, and rightly so.
    I'll follow the link and check out the source too...thanks.

  33. You're interpreting it the wrong way.

    In ramayana, it is "sita" who comes out victorious. Sita is a dutiful wife; not submissive.

    Rama rejects sita for political reasons. Sita rejects ram(in the end) completely. When rama makes his last demand at the end, sita does not refuse. Her acceptance of rama's final demand is actually a rejection of an ungrateful husband.

    Sita comes out clean. Rama's legacy is forever tainted.

    However, all of the above is a "micro" view. Rama and sita were both victims of society. After all, Rama was sent on earth to establish "ram-rajya". His primary responsibility(his purpose) was his kingdom; and not his wife. Now try to look at it from rama's side. He had a choice - his wife or his kingdom. In the epic, he chooses his kingdom. Imagine what would have happened if he had chose his wife? People would have said: - rama(the avatar of vishnu) who was sent on earth to establish order through his kingdom fell in love with a girl for whom he abandoned his purpose(his duty).

    The ramayana and the mahabharata are supposed to be tragic and ambiguous. The hindu characters are shown to mimic the flaws of human beings; they make errors of judgement. They are constantly bombarded with the concepts of karma and dharma to a point where they will have to make a sacrifice. These sacrifices of the characters is the beauty of these epics.

    Sadly, indian hindus are too simple minded to interpret the epics in their correct manner. On one hand, the fundamentalists have made rama their poster boy and on the other hand, modern day indians distort interpretations.

  34. Loved your post! I always had these issues with Ramayana. It makes no sense whatsoever that Rama is considered the 'ideal man' when so many things he did is far from ideal - especially when it comes to his wife. Sita certainly comes off far better than Rama.

    And, why would anybody want to have a Rama like husband? That is something that is beyond me.

    The tales are fine, as far as people stop expecting other to emulate Rama and Sita, in my opinion.

  35. Sorry, you have lost the game.

    It would be illogical to call these stories Mythological.

    Firstly, the word mythology comes from the word "Mythya or Mithya" from Sanskrit which means a lie or deception. Hence from the beginning you are adding some thing very wrongful to begin with.

    It has been an Abrahmic ploy to warp history , and people keep using the subtle manipulation which will destroy the foundations of Vedic civilization.

    Its best you become more aware of the destruction happening around you.Augadha

  36. I just love the song bahut wadiyaa!!

  37. beautifully written and the emotions so sensitively portrayed; love it


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