“I don’t want to live in a world where women are not respected”

Oinam Nabakishore Singh
The words of ultimate abhorrence and revulsion for the world where women are not respected were uttered by Sita, considered to be a Goddess and incarnation of Laxmi herself-I don’t want to live in a world where women are not respected, when she was once again asked to swear on her chastity and purity by Lord Ram. She said these words when she made up her mind that this world is not fit for her and she prayed to Mother Earth to take her in her laps so as to leave everything behind and leave the world for good. The incident described here is from Ramayan directed by Ramanand Sagar in the TV Serial.
In Ramayan, Sita was asked to prove her chastity or purity on more than one occasions. It is natural and common for the people to speak ills of women. Given a choice, character of women is questioned over that of men. In a patriarchal society, women are always at the receiving end. Nobody would question if a man has strayed away from his marriage. It is the woman’s conduct which catches the attention first. Having been asked to swear on her purity by her Lord, Ram in front of the Kings, Gurus, elders and others, Sita announced that Ram was the only person in her mind and thought, and no other person had a place in her mind. If her statement is true, she implored Goddess Earth to give her shelter in Her lap. Hearing these true statements, Goddess Earth appeared on the scene and said that her laps are always open for the daughter.
Sita must have contemplated that her dignity is more important than the love for her husband and sons-Luv and Kush. She did not want to tolerate any more humiliation of proving her chastity.
What led to the utterances of such strong and forceful words, which have their relevance across time and space, where inequality between genders is pervasive ? Sita in Ramayana had her good share of suffering and agonies. Despite persuasion from husband, Ram, not to accompany him in his journey to Van (Forest) in exile for 14 years considering the hard life in Forest, Sita decided to face all hardships, come what may. After being kidnapped by King Ravana of Lanka and kept in isolation in Ashoka garden, Sita sustained her life in contemplation of her husband, Ram, whom she accepted as her Swami (God). She was crying and hoping to be rescued by Ram.
Ramayana reflects the socio-cultural structure of the society of that period, which is more than 2000 years old. When Rama performed Aswamedha Yagya, a murti (statue) of Sita is seated next to him in the absence of Sita in the Forest (Van) where she was left to fend for herself. Having the murti of Sita was to fulfill the requirement of both husband and wife together at the Puja. How can a murti replace a real person ? Can God accept a murti for the real person ?
There has been sea change in the attitude and perception of chastity of women in the urban areas of the country. Live-in arrangements between the couples before marriage has been accepted as norm rather than exception in cities, where the couple has the benefit of anonymity.
With the sea change in attitude of younger generation towards chastity and purity, we see a lot of families accepting brides without any question as her past relationships. So long as there is no baggage from the past relationships of boys or girls, we see liberal behavior among the people in Manipur. Anyway, if the couple is happy with relationship and marriage, why should anybody question the relationship. Only thing that should get adequate attention should be about sexually transmitted diseases.
Perhaps, liberal thinking is a by product of democracy and freedom of choice. Lord Ram being an ideal person (Maryada Puroshottam), he justified his action of leaving his beloved wife, Ram, in the Forest by saying that he was observing Raj Dharma. Ram’s action may be analyzed from different perspectives. Should Ram be acting on the basis of what his subjects say ? Were his subjects right in criticizing Sita and her character ? In the end, one should take one’s own decision based on one’s belief and conviction. It will be inappropriate to judge the decision and action of Ram based on present circumstances. Every situation and circumstances influence one’s judgement. Whatever decision taken by Ram and Sita are right from their respective perspectives.