Sita (Skt: furrow) is depicted in the Hindu Veda as an agricultural deity.
In the puranic epic, the Ramayana, she is Rama‘s wife, and the daughter of King Janaka. Abducted by the demon Ravana to an island in the south (which some believe is Sri Lanka), Sita maintains her fidelity to Rama while he and his half brother, Lakshmana, embark on an arduous journey to liberate her.
When Sita is liberated, Rama is crowned King yet bends to popular opinion at home, which wrongly alleges that Sita slept with Ravana. So Rama doesn’t accept Sita because a ruler’s wife must be above suspicion.
As with many myths, there are at least two different endings to the epic. And both of these alternate endings attest to Sita’s fidelity.
In one variant, Sita is banished to the forest for 15 years to raise her two children and is recalled when public opinion at home cools down.
Declaring her innocence, Sita invokes the Earth Mother as witness. The Earth Mother affirms Sita’s loyalty but swallows her whole, much to the distress of the doubting Rama.
In the other variant of the story, Lakshmana kindles a fire (on the request of Rama) and Sita is ordered into the flames. The fire-god Agni arises from the flames and adorns Sita with a crown, proclaiming her innocence. Rama then enters the fire and he and Sita are transported to a heavenly realm where they’ll remain for 14 years, after which time they’ll return to rule the Earth.
According to a Jain version of the tale, Sita is the daughter of Ravana. Not unlike the twist of fate in the story of Oedipus, Sita is abandoned at birth because it has been foretold that she’ll destroy her father’s kingdom.
In contemporary India, Sita is widely regarded as exemplifying the honorable wife and mother. She is also a symbol of purity.
Apparently Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty is set to play Sita in her next film, Hanuman. But this story has been floating around the web for several years with no actual production seen. ¹
- Modern adaptation under CC license: