Diwali: Celebrating The Return of Princess Sita

Friday, November 5, 2010

Update: This article is selected for Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards
Now you can read this in Hindi too: दीपावली: राजकुमारी सीता का स्वागतोत्सव

Princess Sita
 (The only picture of Sita holding a bow. Modified from a picture on this page)
Diwali, the festival of lights, is intrinsically related to the Hindu epic, Ramayana. According to a newer version* of the epic, called Sita Charita Manas, on this day, Princess Sita returned to Mithila after killing the demon queen Mandodari, and was welcomed by her subjects with lit diyas or tiny earthen lamps amid great festivity.

Continuing this tradition, Hindus in India and abroad celebrate Diwali in the month of October or November according to the lunar calendar by decking out their homes with decorative lights and burning firecrackers. Here is a brief summary of the grand saga as given in Sita Charita Manas.

Princess Sita is born to Queen Sunayana of Videha from one of her three husbands. She is not an ordinary girl, but an incarnation of the supreme Goddess, who has descended from the heavens to wipe out evil from the world. Queen Sunayana was childless for a long time and only after performing a fire sacrifice known as Putri-Kameshti Yagna, was she blessed with four daughters, Sita being the eldest. Sita studies all types of science and arts, including the art of governance and warfare in a gurukula. When she reaches marriageable age, she attends Prince Rama’s swayamvadhu, a ceremony where girls compete with each other to win a groom. On this occasion, Princess Sita, not only fulfills the condition of stringing a mighty bow, but also breaks it. Prince Rama chooses her as his bride. Sita  marries him and takes him to Mithila.

Being the first-born daughter, Princess Sita is the rightful heir to the throne of Videha. To prevent her from inheriting the queenship and to make his own daughter the heir, her jealous stepfather throws a tantrum demanding Sita’s exile for fourteen years.

Though Queen Sunayana doesn’t want to part from her dear daughter, Sita, considering it her duty, leaves the comforts of the palace and departs to the forest. Her devoted and loyal husband Ram Chandra accompanies her, saying "The forest where you dwell is Mithila for me, and Mithila without you is a veritable hell.” Her sister, Lakshita, is so attached to her that she also joins them, leaving her own husband behind.

Back home, Queen Sunayana dies grieving for her daughter, and Bharati, for whose coronation her father had ousted Sita, does not ascend to the throne, but rules only on Princess Sita’s behalf, placing her kangans (bracelets) on the throne.

Sita, Lakshita, and Rama travel towards north and live on the produces of the forest. One day a demon tries to seduce the sisters. Lakshita, the short-tempered one, cuts the nose and ears of the demon. The demon goes and complains to her sister Mandodari, the mighty ten-headed queen of Lanka. To avenge her brother’s mistreatment, the queen abducts Rama Chandra by treachery, and then pressures him to marry her. But the ever-loyal Rama doesn’t even lift his eyes to see her.

Sita and Lakshita try to find Rama. In their venture they befriend a monkey tribe. One member of that tribe named Hanuwati becomes Sita’s lifelong loyal servant. Together they invade the castle of the demon queen. After a lengthy fight, Sita is able to kill Mandodari and free Rama Chandra.

Since Rama had lived in the demon’s captivity, Sita asks him to prove his purity by taking a fire test. Rama willingly jumps into the fire and comes out unharmed.

Rama's Agnipariksha
 (Modified from a picture on this page)
Sita, Lakshita, and Rama now return to Mithila in an aircraft, and the jubilant crowd celebrates the first Diwali ever.

Sita is crowned the queen of Mithila and she lives happily with Rama. But in the coming days, people of Mithila start pointing fingers at Rama’s chastity in spite of his earlier ordeal by fire. To appease her subjects, Queen Sita banishes Rama to the forest. He also takes away their newborn twins with him and lives in the ashram of a holy woman named Valmika.

After many years the grown up twins appear in the court of Queen Sita and recite the story of Rama’s exile before her. On hearing it, Sita is filled with remorse. Valmika then produces her husband before her. But Rama prays to mother earth to take him away, who obliges and he is gone for good. Later Sita realizes that her mission in this world has been accomplished and she too returns to her celestial abode.

This epic tale exemplifies ideal behavior for everyone, especially for men. During their bachelorhood, they should obey their mothers, and after marriage, they should be loyal and subservient to their wives and mothers-in-law.

Everyone should own a copy of Sita Charita Manasa. Just placing it in your temple will purify the surroundings. Reading it twice a day with complete faith and devotion will bring peace, prosperity, and happiness in your lives.

Jai Devi Sita! Wish you all a very happy and prosperous Diwali!

* This newer version called Sita Charita Manas is published by The Grist Mill (All Rights Reserved)

Related Links:
Valmiki Ramayana text with meaning 
Srimad Bhagvadgita, Hanuman Chalisa, and Ram Charita Manas by Gita Press
The other versions of Ramayana
Update1: NINAPALEY.COM: Yes to Sita, No to Ram! by Madhu Kishwar via Indian Homemaker 
Update 2: Sita Sings the Blues A movie (1:21:31) by Nina Paley via rindojustrindo

43 comments:

  1. ROFL trust GB to come up with something as witty and hilarious as a Sita Charita Manas. Excellent! Jai Srimati Sita! (sounds lame but I was trying to create something along the lines of a Jai Shri Ram :P)

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  2. I loved reading it.. was smiling all the way!
    Great imagination, and what, a post as tribute to woman power? :P

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  3. :D
    There should be a 'namikaran' for swayamvar. :P

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  4. Awesome! Really hilarious, great work. Happy Diwali. :)

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  5. This is awesome! Superb creativity and imagination. And what a twist in the tale. :P :D

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  6. Loved it!! Sharing it where ever it can possibly be shared.

    Please submit it for The Blogscars.

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  7. Where did you get these original pictures from? Your art work on the 'not so original' pictures?

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  8. Excuse my last comment... loved your art work.

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  9. The second last para takes away the prize :-) Happy Diwali to you too.

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  10. Brilliant twist to Ram Charit Manas... thanks IHL for tweeting it!

    The punchline is: "Everyone should own a copy of Sita Charita Manasa. Just placing it in your temple will purify the surroundings. Reading it twice a day with complete faith and devotion will bring peace, prosperity, and happiness in your lives."

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  11. Loved it!!!!

    If only this 'true' story was allowed to come out, women in India wouldnt have suffered this much :(

    Reminded me a lot of 'Da vinci code' :)

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  12. What was that you wicked, adorable woman!!! Just loved it. Rushing off to grab a copy of Sita Charita Manas before it disappears off the shelves!!!

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  13. Thanks Sammy, Sandhya, Sangeeta, Sugandha! What alliteration!
    Sugandha, Nisha: Welcome!!
    Tanay, Prateek, Harsh, Debby: You are all so brave!
    Purba, Puja……….thanks for your affection and support.
    IHM, Thanks for the encouragement. The captions on the pictures were confusing. I have changed them now :-)

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  14. Came through IHM's Gbuzz.
    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU...

    You gave me good way to shut someone's over sensitive so called religious intellect.

    Loved the punch line "Everyone should own a copy of Sita Charita Manasa. Just placing it in your temple will purify the surroundings. Reading it twice a day with complete faith and devotion will bring peace, prosperity, and happiness in your lives."

    Oh, did you forget to add reading it twice a day will beget you a kind and Sita like bride?

    Peace,
    Desi Girl

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  15. Oh yes, Desi Girl--thanks for reminding--faithful young men will sure get a bride like Princess Sita!

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  16. Hilarious! The last two paras are the best. I always wondered why it was that only Sita hasd to give Agnipariksha and not Rama. Do publish Sita Charita Manas. I'm sure there'll be many takers! :)

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  17. http://pujathakur.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/wonder-if-this-was-how-it-had-really-happened/

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  18. You can only do this in our very own tolerant India and to Hinduism. Try doing that to any other and you will have a fatwa on hands. Sometimes we take our freedom for granted.I only hope that freedom of the written word remains...just hope so!

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  19. Super duper kick ass ! Totally awesome :)

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  20. Thanks Ritu and Ajay :-)
    @Kislay: Welcome!!
    @IHM: Interesting article! Thanks! I have posted the link above.
    @krsnaknows: Of course Hinduism is a tolerant religion, otherwise there would have been fatwa on Goswami Tulasidas ji for tampering with Valmiki Ramayana.

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  21. Awesome!!!! This is a must read for every Indian (aka chauvinistic) male!!! Though I would have loved to see a Rama who did not emerge unharmed (from the fire)!!

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  22. Brilliant!

    And yes, Nina Paley's "Sita Sings The Blues" is quite a movie. Hilarious, and it takes Sita's side. A highly recommended watch, it is.

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  23. @Restless: Ideas? All of us, including the pickpockets and the God's messengers, get from the same place :-)
    @Pallavi: We need to say he was innocent therefore emerged unharmed otherwise men will stop following the right path.
    @Monika and @Rindo : Welcome! Thanks for the nice words!
    @Mayank: Thanks :-)

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  24. Reading this post felt like, standing on my head,as the world as I see it, jus went topsy turvy!!! certainly encouraging for people like me,who would vote anyday for a matriarchal world..BUT a strong arguement surfaces here.why is feminism understood to be such a competition between genders when in reality all it seeks is equality?? and more importantly, why do the power feminsists( anyone who cares to speak out vis a vis the victim feminists) are avenged only if they feel more masculine?? with respect to your post, why does Sita has to give up her feminity n behave like the caricature of Ram??? WHY can't she be doling up in beautiful jewellery n fine clothes and still have a SITA CHARITRA MANAS written as an ode to her??Have we been fighting for equality or have we been struggling to become perfect replicas of the not so fairer sex?? Isn't it almost like becoming someone who we have been fighting all throughout. Iam baffled.

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  25. You are almost right, Gita! We don’t want to be like anyone. Each person in this world is different and special. Please don’t be baffled by my blog posts. I keep on doling out great pieces of advice, but the biggest advice is not to follow my advice. Follow your own heart!

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  26. Your post din't do anything to confuse me,so you're free of any charges whatsoever:-))it's jus tht i'have seen it happen in the real world so many times... but anyhow i'll take ur advice,al Presto!

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  27. Here from IHM's. Awesome post! Re-telling this version a several thousand times, will go down as an epic. Let me start by handing down this story to my son:)

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  28. Hi Vidya thanks for your visit :-)

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  29. AWESOME! For some reasons, while the original devis have enough following (Lalitha Sahasranam, Kanakdhara stotra, AshtaLakshmi stotra), avatars hardly get any recognition. I'm sure this would please them!

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  30. Just remembered this post while discussing blogs that make us smile (actually laugh, rofl) - and thought I'd take another look at beautiful, original pictures in this post :)

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  31. Hey IHM, thanks!! Looks like my pictures have revisit value :-)

    @Smrithi: Good observation! Never thought that way.

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  32. I hereby promise to read Sita Charit Manas twice a day. what an original story! Loved it.

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  33. Thanks for reading and your lovely comment, Zephyr :-)

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  34. @Anonymous: I wish more readers like you read my lame blog :-)

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  35. Congratulations :) This post in one of the winners of 'Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards - 2011' (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).

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