“For a woman under all circumstances, the shade of her husband’s feet is preferable to residence at the top of a palace, or riding in aerial cars, or coursing through the heavens (by the power of yogic siddhis).” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)
It is part of a wife’s nature to be subservient to her husband and to willingly put herself under his protection. Women naturally prefer to be taken care of and provided for by their loving husbands. On the reverse side, men naturally like to protect and care for women. Women instinctively known this and that’s why it is often seen that a woman will sometimes knowingly pretend to be ignorant on certain topics, in the hopes that they can cajole a man into helping them. The man is more than happy to show the woman the proper way, and garnering such attention, a woman feels more attracted to the man.
“Not should be. They are. You have become voluntarily subservient to your man. That is nature. They are seeking to become subservient by attracting a man: ‘Take me as subservient.’ That is natural.” (Shrila Prabhupada answering question from a reporter on why women should be subservient to men)
This is the natural course of things, but the rise of the women’s independence movement has brought a central paradigm shift. Over the past fifty years or so, women have been taught to be more independent and reject the help of men. They want to be seen as equals in all areas of society and want no such preferential treatment. This idea certainly is ideal since at our core, we are all equal. Though we falsely identify ourselves as men, women, black, white, American, or Indian, we are all spirit souls at our core, aham brahmasmi. Though spiritually we are all equal, due our different karmas, we have been put into different types of bodies. The material world is governed by three gunas or qualities: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Each one us possess these qualities to varying degrees, and thus we see the variations in body types and species. Men and women are equal spiritually, but the Vedas have given them separate and distinct roles to perform in order to attain spiritual perfection. Men are to be the protectors and women are to serve their husbands, a system which allows for peace and prosperity. Living happily this way, husband and wife can focus their time on becoming Krishna conscious, which is the ultimate aim of life.
Instead of making women happier, the independence movement has resulted in women being exploited.
“What have ‘equal rights’ and ‘high profiles’ brought women anyway? Exploitation, broken families, broken marriages, an animalistic chain of uncaring sexual partners, abortion, children bereft of parental love, and above all, no time for Krishna consciousness.” (Visnupriya Devi Dasi, Back to Godhead Magazine #25-02, 1991)
Instead of being obliged to provide protection, a man can now satisfy his sexual urges by seducing a woman, and then leaving her aside afterwards. Women are left begging the men for more stable relationships, but the men have lost their desire to protect. Many times pregnant women aren’t even protected and they are left asking for support from the government. Through the practice of casual sex, women who accidentally get pregnant are advised to kill the child in the womb, or to raise the child by themselves. Such activity definitely isn’t good for society, and moreover it goes against human nature.
God came to earth in the form of a handsome and pious prince by the name of Rama many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya, India. Born in the royal family of the Ikshvakus, the Lord was the next in line to ascend the throne occupied at the time by His father Maharaja Dashratha. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Lord Rama was passed over for the throne and instead ordered to spend fourteen years in the forest as an exile from the kingdom. Being married to His wife Sita Devi at the time, the Lord advised her to remain in the kingdom for the duration of the fourteen years, for she would be better protected at home. The environments of a royal palace and that of the wilderness really have no similarities. The Lord was a valiant warrior, trained in the military arts by the great sage Vishvamitra. Also, since He was God Himself, living in the forest would be no problem for Him. He wanted very much for His wife to be protected, so He tried His best to dissuade her from following Him. Sita Devi however refused to abandon her husband in His time of need. She informed Him that she preferred the shade of the Lord’s feet in all circumstances. By this, she meant that she always wanted her husband’s protection, wherever it may be. For if the husband is there to protect the wife, then both parties are happy, and the wife feels completely at ease in any situation. The idea of independence didn’t appeal to Sita at all.
Lord Rama is Krishna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. From this verse we understand that the shade of the Lord’s feet is the greatest form of protection one can have. Sita Devi knew this and that’s why she refused to live without the Lord. Sita Devi was one of the greatest devotees of the Lord. An incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, her only dharma was to make Rama happy. It is ironic since the meaning of the name Rama is “one who gives pleasure”, yet Sita wasn’t just a taker of pleasure, she was a giver. God is capable of providing us the greatest pleasure, but the devotees’ first inclination is to please the Lord. Just as the wife prefers the shade of her husband’s feet, the devotee prefers the shade provided by chanting the Lord’s holy name. In this age, if we always think of the Lord, hear stories about Him, and keep His name on the tip of our tongue, then the scorching hot rays of Kali Yuga can never burn us.