by Helen M. Johnson | 1931 | 742,503 words
This page describes Abandonment of Sita which is the thirteenth part of chapter VIII of the English translation of the Jain Ramayana, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. This Jain Ramayana contains the biographies of Rama, Lakshmana, Ravana, Naminatha, Harishena-cakravartin and Jaya-cakravartin: all included in the list of 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.
The headmen of the capital, who had the sole responsibility of reporting the true news of the city, went to Raghunātha. They were Vijaya, Sūradeva, Madhumat, Piṅgala, Śūladhara, Kāśyapa, Kāla, and Kṣema. After bowing, they stood before Rāma, trembling like the leaves of a tree, but they did not speak. For royal brilliance is hard to endure. Rāmabhadra said to them: “Gentlemen, elders of the town, do not be afraid to speak, you who say only what is beneficial.” The first among them, the elder Vijaya, spoke with the approval of all, confident from the lord’s speech.
“Master, if something that must be reported is not reported, then the master would be deceived; and the report is very painful to hear.
Majesty, there is slander against the queen. Though difficult, it is taking place. For whatever is justifiable from suitability, that must be believed by an intelligent man. For instance Jānakī was taken all alone to his house by Rāvaṇa, who had kidnaped her because he was infatuated, add she lived there a long time, lord. Sītā, whether in love or not in love, would surely be injured by enjoyment by voluptuous Daśāsya, either with consent or by force. The people say thus. We say likewise: that the rumor is in accord with probability. Do not endure it, Raghūdvaha. Do not stain your fame won from birth, spotless as your family, by enduring this slander.”
Learning that Sītā had become the guest of a stain, Rāghava became silent from grief at once. Generally, affection is very hard to abandon. Recovering firmness, Kākutstha said to the elders: “You did well to tell me. Devoted persons are never indifferent. Certainly I will not endure dishonor for the sake of a mere woman.” With this promise, Padma dismissed the elders. At night Kākutstha left his house secretly and listened to the people’s talk here and there. “Sītā was taken away by Rāvaṇa and remained for a long time in his house. Sītā has been brought back by Rāma and he thinks she is a ‘good wife.’ How would it be possible that Sītā was not enjoyed by Rāvaṇa in love with her? Rāma has not thought about this. In love, he sees no fault.” After hearing such censure of Sītā, Rāma went home and instructed his best spies to listen to it again.
Kākutstha reflected: “Has this happened to her for whose sake I made cruel destruction of the Rakṣas-family? I know that Sītā is a virtuous wife; Rāvaṇa is lustful; my family is spotless. Oh! What is Rāma to do?” Quickly the spies listened to the censure of Sītā outside and told it very clearly to Rāma and his younger brother and the king of the Kapis and the king of the Rakṣases.
Lakṣmaṇa, angered, said: “I shall be the death of the people who blame Sītā, a virtuous wife, making up faults from motives.” Rāma said: “I was told about this before by the town-elders. I heard it myself and a similar report has been made by the spies. They (the elders) heard it, came to me and said openly, ‘Do not let the people speak ill about the abandonment of Sītā as about the claiming of her.’” Lakṣmaṇa said: “Do not abandon Sītā because of the people’s talk. However she is slandered, that is because the people are loose-mouthed. The people, even when well-off in the government, are devoted to the faults of the king. If they are not punished in that case, they must be disregarded by kings.” Rāma said, “That is true. The people are like that always. But the hostility of the whole people must certainly be avoided by an illustrious man.”
With these words Bala told the general Kṛtāntavadana, “Sītā, though with child, must be abandoned somewhere in the forest.” Falling at Rāma’s feet, weeping, Lakṣmaṇa said, “Abandonment of Sītā, a virtuous wife, is not fitting.” “In future you must not say that,” told by Rāma, Saumitri went weeping to his house, his face covered with a veil.
Rāma instructed Kṛtāntavadana, “Take Sītā into the forest under pretext of a pilgrimage to Sammeta. For that is a pregnancy-whim of hers.” The general told Rāma’s command for a pilgrimage to Sammeta, seated Sītā in a chariot, and set out quickly. Even amid bad omens and inauspicious signs Sītā, seated in the chariot, went a long way, unterrified because of her simplicity. After crossing the mouth of the Gaṅgā and going into the forest Siṃhanināda, Kṛtāntavadana stopped and reflected a while. Seeing his face dark with tears, Sītā said, “Why do you stand so, low-spirited, as if suffering from sorrow?” Kṛtānta spoke with difficulty:
“How can I say a thing cruel to say, after doing a cruel deed, corrupted by being a servant? Blameless queen, you have been ordered abandoned in this forest by Rāma who is terrified by the censure originating among the people because of your living in the Rākṣasa’s house. When this censure was reported by spies, Lakṣmaṇa, red-eyed from anger against the people, restrained Rāma eager to abandon you. Restrained by Rāma, whose orders are executed, he left weeping and I was sent on this task. Oh, queen! I am wicked. Abandoned by me in this forest filled with wild animals, sole abode of death, you will survive only by your own ability.”
Hearing that, Sītā fell from the chariot to the ground in a faint and the general wept, considering himself wicked, with the idea that she was dead. Sītā recovered consciousness somehow from the forest-wind and again fainted and again regained consciousness. After a long time she recovered and said, “How far is it from here to Ayodhyā or where Rāma is?” The general said, “What is the use of asking how far Ayodhyā is? Enough of talk about Rāma whose commands are cruel.” Hearing this, she, devoted to Rāma, said again: “Sir, by all means tell Rāma this message of mine: ‘If you were afraid of censure, why did you not make a trial? In a case of suspicion, the people, all of them, accept the ordeal, et cetera. I, unfortunate, shall suffer in the forest the consequences of my own acts; but you did not act in accordance with discrimination and the family. Do not abandon the religion taught by the Jinas because of the speech of wrong-believers as you abandoned me instantly because of the speech of mischievous people.’” With these words she fell to the ground in a faint. When she stood up, she said, “How will Rāma live without me? Alas! I am killed. Tell Rāma, ‘Good luck’ and give my blessing to Lakṣmaṇa. May your paths be fortunate, friend. Go to Rāghava.”
“Though fate and husband are behaving in a contrary way, she alone who is of such a kind is first among virtuous wives.” Thus reflecting, Kṛtāntavadana bowed deeply and returned somehow without Sītā.