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Rama and Sita

Articles on Rama and Sita

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In the Diwali festival each fall, Hindus celebrate aspects of the story of the relationship between Rama and Sita. Read an annotated bibliography focusing narrowly on the basics on the relationship between Rama and Sita and the Diwali festival.

1. "Folk Festivals in India"

Rama Killing Ravana
CC Flickr User A Journey Round My Skull
By Swami Satprakashananda; Midwest Folklore, (Winter, 1956), pp. 221-227.
Rama was the oldest son and heir-apparent of King Dasharatha, but the king had more than one wife. One of the other mothers wanted her son to take the throne, so she arranged for Rama to be sent into exile in the forest, with his wife and other brother, Lakshmana, for 14 years, during which time the old king died of grief for the loss of Rama. The younger, son who was unwilling to rule, put Rama's sandals on the throne and served as a kind of regent.

When Ravana abducted Sita, Rama gathered an army of monkeys, with Hanuman at the head to fight Ravana. They rescued Sita and installed Ravana's brother on his throne.

There is a Hindu festival that dramatizes these events. Satprakashananda describes general tendencies in folk festivals in India.

2. "Hindu Ethics in the Rāmāyana"

Small huts and sculptures at Parnasala that depict the scene of Sita being kidnapped by Ravana
CC Flickr User vimal_kalyan
By Roderick Hindery; The Journal of Religious Ethics, (Fall, 1976), pp. 287-322.
Provides more background on the god quality of Rama. Hindery says that the King, Dasaratha of Ayodhya, in Northern India, sent Rama and his brother Laksmana to provide protection from demons for forest-dwelling ascetics.

Rama, married 12 years, won his bride, Sita, by a physical feat. Rama was the oldest son and heir apparent to Dasaratha. In response to a promise the king had made to Rama's stepmother Kaikeyi, Rama was sent into exile for 14 years and her son made heir to the throne. When the king died, the son, Bharata took over the throne, but he didn't want it. Meanwhile, Rama and Sita lived in the forest until Ravana, king of Lanka and an evil character, kidnapped Sita. Rama renounced Sita as unfaithful. When an ordeal by fire proved Sita faithful, Sita returned to Rama to live happily ever after.

It is surprising to us that Rama is considered the one enduring the tragic fate, rather than Sita.

Hindery describes the structure of the Valmiki-Yamayana and points out sections with particular ethical didactic passages.

3. "Lord Rāma and the Faces of God in India"

Ravana
CC Flickr User indi.ca
By Harry M. Buck; Journal of the American Academy of Religion, (Sep., 1968), pp. 229-241.
Buck tells the story of Rama and Sita, going back to the reasons Rama and Sita went into exile. It fills in details about why Ravana abducted Sita and what Rama did before freeing Sita from captivity.

4. "On the Adbhuta-Ramayana"

By George A. Grierson; Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, (1926), pp. 11-27.
The Ashyatma-ram addresses the issue of how Rama didn't know he was the supreme deity. Sita is the creator of the universe. Grierson relates folktales about Rama and Sita and explores the power of the saints. Saints' curses explain why Vishnu and Lakshmi were reincarnated as Rama and Sita, One of the birth stories of Sita makes her a sister of Rama.

5. "The Dīvālī, the Lamp Festival of the Hindus"

Candles for Diwali
CC Flickr User San Sharma
By W. Crooke; Folklore, (Dec. 31, 1923), pp. 267-292.
Crooke says that the name of the Divali or "lamp Festival" comes from the Sanskrit for "a row of lights." The lights were earthenwware cups with a cotton wick and oil arranged to spectacular effect. The Divalis was connected with cattle breeding and agriculture. It's one of two autumnal equinox festivals -- the other is Dasahra -- at the time of the harvest of the rain crops (rice, millet, and others). People are idle for the moment. The time of Divali is at the new moon of the month Karttik, whose name comes from the 6 nursemaids (or Pleiades) of the war god Karttikeya. The lights are "to keep evil spirits from devouring the oblations." The need for the rite at the equinox is because the spirits are supposed to be active then. Homes are cleaned in case the souls of the family deada come a-visiting. Crooke then elaborates local festivals dealing with cattle protection. Snake rites are also part of the Divali festival in places, perhaps to mark the departure of the snake for their annual hibernation. Since evil spirits also come out, people stay home to worship Hanuman the monkey god and guardian or place food items at crossroads.

6. "The King's Grace and the Helpless Woman"

"The King's Grace and the Helpless Woman: A Comparative Study of the Stories of Ruth, Charila, Sita," by Cristiano Grottanelli; History of Religions, (Aug. 1982), pp. 1-24.
The story of Ruth is familiar from the Bible. The story of Charila comes from Plutarch's Moralia. The story of Sita comes from the Ramayana. Like Ruth, the story of Sita contains a threefold initial crisis: dynastic disorder, exile, and the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana. Sita is faithful and praised for it, even by her mother-in-law. Even after the initial problems are solved, the crisis continues. Although Sita has been faithful, she is the object of rumor. Rama rejects her twice. She then gives birth to twin sons in the forest. They grow up and attend a festival given by Rama where he recognizes them and offers to take back their mother if she undergoes an ordeal. Sita is not happy and builds a pyre to commit suicide. Sita is proven pure by the ordeal by fire. Rama takes her back and they live happily ever after.

All three stories have a theme of fertility, rituals of fertility, and seasonal festivals tied to agriculture. In the case of Sita, there are two festivals, one Dussehra, celebated in the month of Asvina (Sept-Oct) and the other Diwali (Oct-Nov) during the sowing of winter crops, as a festival of purification and a return of the goddess of abundance, and the defeat of a demonic evil.

7. "Sītā's Birth and Parentage in the Rāma Story"

By S. Singaravelu; Asian Folklore Studies, (1982), pp. 235-243.
In the Ramayana, Sita is said the have come from a furrow formed by King Janaka of Mithila. In another version, he finds the child in the furrow. Sita is thus connected with the personification of the furrow (sita). There are other variations on the story of the birth and parentage of Sita, including the case where Sita is the daughter of Ravana, prophesied to cause the destruction of Ravana and so put adrift on the sea in an iron box.

8. "Rāma in the Nether World: Indian Sources of Inspiration"

By Clinton B. Seely; Journal of the American Oriental Society, (Jul. - Oct., 1982), pp. 467-476.
This article explores Rama's inconsolable grief when he thinks his half-brother dead and Rama's hard to stomach attitude towards his maligned, but good wife, Sita.

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