“(Hanuman did not see Sita) who was firmly situated on the eternal path of devotion to her husband, had her gaze always fixed on Rama, was always possessed by love for Rama, had entered the glorious mind of her husband, and was always the most exceptional of women.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 5.24)
sanātane vartmāni samniviṣṭām |
rāmekśaṇāṃ tāṃ madanābhiviṣṭām |
bharturmanaḥ śrīmadanupraviṣṭām |
strībhyo varābhyaśca sadā viśiṣṭām ||
Sita Devi, the beloved wife of Lord Rama, is endowed with too many good qualities to count. The Ramayana, the poem penned by Maharishi Valmiki, in certain sections describes some of her features to provide a glimpse into the nature of the one person who provides Rama more pleasure than anyone else. Rama is no ordinary prince; He is a spiritual manifestation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the person to whom everyone is beholden and indebted. God is one, but He can have different forms and thus many corresponding names. Lord Rama is one of the most celebrated divine incarnations of the Vedic tradition because of His qualities, which are further enhanced by His closest associates, of which Sita is one. With every notable attribute possessed by Sita comes a further appreciation of the person who was tasked with finding her and giving her the news of her husband’s quest to find her. This person was none other than Shri Hanuman, the most faithful, dedicated, courageous and qualified of divine servants.
Why did Hanuman have to bring news to Sita? Why was she separated from the company of her husband? As a dramatic actor knows how to perfectly play their role on stage, so the Personality of Godhead takes part in seemingly ordinary activities scripted to perfection when He appears on earth. Part of the real-life play that was Rama’s life involved His search for Sita after she had gone missing in the forest of Dandaka. Rama was a royal prince by worldly estimation, and His residence in the forest was caused by family infighting. Sita insisted on accompanying her husband, as did Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. Sita was the most beautiful woman in the world, so others were always eyeing her. This was especially true of the powerful king of the Rakshasas residing in Lanka. Ravana by name, this nefarious character hatched a plan to take Sita away from Rama’s side using deception.
After Sita went missing, Rama joined forces with the forest dwellers in Kishkindha. Described by the Sanskrit term “Vanara”, these living beings were human-like monkeys, having tremendous fighting abilities while being able to somewhat mimic the civilized behavior of human beings. To look for Sita, Rama didn’t return to His kingdom of Ayodhya for help because that would have violated the edict handed down by His father, Maharaja Dasharatha. The Vanaras were very eager to undertake Rama’s business, but the success of the mission assigned to them was not guaranteed by any means. Amongst the Vanaras residing in Kishkindha was Hanuman, the trusted aide to the chief of the community, Sugriva. Hanuman was replete with divine qualities, with his most prominent feature being his undying love and affection for Rama, whom he had only known for a short while.
With the truly keen observers it doesn’t take long to spot the presence of God. Hanuman first met Rama and Lakshmana through some trepidation, as Sugriva had thought the two brothers were approaching his part of the forest to kill him. By sending Hanuman down to greet the two princes, Sugriva figured he could find out what was going on. Hanuman first assumed the garb of a mendicant to signal to Rama and Lakshmana that he came in peace. Through this famous meeting Hanuman immediately could notice the wonderful features that can only be found in the Supreme Personality of Godhead. After a short conversation, he went from having a disguised mendicant form to assuming his natural monkey shape. After revealing his real identity and talking things over, he even expanded his size and carried the two brothers all the way to the top of Mount Rishyamukha where Sugriva was staying.
When it came time to look for Sita, success in the mission was entrusted to Hanuman. Both Sugriva and Rama knew that Hanuman had what it took to find the missing princess. While the above referenced passage from the Ramayana details some of Sita’s qualities, it also sheds some light on why Rama put so much stock in Hanuman’s abilities. After he had braved many strong impeding forces, including the doubts that had arisen in his own mind as to his abilities to find Sita, Hanuman made his way into the enemy territory of Lanka, which was Ravana’s home and the place that Sita had supposedly been taken.
Hanuman scoured the outskirts of the city while in a small form. Though he saw all sorts of beautiful princesses, Hanuman was dejected over the fact that he couldn’t find the one woman he was looking for. To make sure that Sita was not lumped in with the other women he had seen, who were all married to vile Rakshasas, the qualities of Rama’s beloved are herein reviewed.
We see that Hanuman was dejected because he couldn’t find Sita, a woman who was firmly established on the path of devotion to her husband, which was her dharma. The occupational duties that maintain a primary characteristic constitute a dharma. For the wife, the foremost duty is devotion to the husband. Though this may seem unfair, when the marriage relationship is viewed from the perspective of a partnership aimed at meeting an end goal, the purpose behind the duties assigned to each party is better understood. Someone has to steer the ship, which means that the other party must provide unflinching support. Since the male is naturally stronger, he is given the task of providing protection, with the wife serving his needs to ensure that the partnership remains steady.
Sita’s dedication to Rama went further than the ordinary duties of a wife. Sita exists eternally, as she is the wife of Lord Narayana, the four-handed form of Godhead residing in the spiritual world. Hence Sita and Rama are always together, even when physically apart. A link in consciousness is all that is needed for connecting with the Supreme Lord. To hear a song, we need a connection through sound. To relish the taste of a food dish, we need its association on our tongue and in our belly. To enjoy the comforts of soft fabric, we need association through touch. With the Supreme Lord, the link in association is not limited to only one sense, and neither is it reserved exclusively for personal contact. Thinking of God and hearing His names are just as good as being with Him.
Sita Devi always thinks of Rama. This is her foremost dharma. In fact, there is no better way that anyone could serve another person than to always think of them within their minds. If we meet a friend, paramour, or well-wisher and they tell us, “I always think about you. I always worry about your well-being, and I’m always missing your association.”, such statements would represent the highest compliments, for there is no better way to offer service to someone else. With the Supreme Lord, maintaining a link in consciousness with Him pleases Him supremely. Those who think of Him in this way are forever endeared to Him and remain in His association at all times. Every other relationship that we have must be dissolved at some point, but the divine consciousness never has to be broken. If there is a sincere desire to maintain it, the Lord will ensure that it continues perpetually.
It is also described that Sita always had her gaze fixed on Rama. Again, if we are in someone’s company and all they do is look at us and no one else, there is tremendous satisfaction felt. One of the most common complaints volunteered by wives and girlfriends is that the men in their lives constantly gawk at other women. This does occur quite frequently, as the sex drive is particularly strong in males. The staring that takes place is a sort of quick survey, an observation to accurately gauge the attractiveness of the woman. The significant other is justified in being bothered by this, for if there were full dedication in love there would be no need to assess the beauty of any other person. Sita, by always keeping her eyes fixed on Rama, even within the mind when He wasn’t around, showed that she had no desire to be with anyone else.
Sita’s character was so exemplary that she had entered into Rama’s mind. The Lord always thought of her just as she always thought of Him. Yogis, mental speculators, and religionists try their hardest to connect with the Absolute Truth, but despite their efforts they still come up short. Meanwhile Sita, through exclusive dedication and transcendental love, not only always gazes at Rama, but the Lord always thinks of her. This unique characteristic was duly noted by Hanuman. This feature is only found in Sita, as she can please Rama better than anyone else can.
Sita is also described as being the most exalted woman. Forget the gender distinction, any person with such divine qualities and dedication would have to be considered the most exalted. Hanuman was not overly impressed by the women he had seen in Lanka thus far. He held nothing against them, as they were very beautiful as well, and they too were dedicated to pleasing their husbands. But Hanuman was working for Rama, his life and soul. Naturally, he would only find characteristics that pleased Rama to be appealing.
Hanuman, by his dejection over not seeing Sita, offered the divine princess the highest praise. These specific passages of the Ramayana are especially meant for praising Sita, but since Hanuman never takes his thoughts away from Rama and His family, the glorification of Sita actually enhances Hanuman’s stature. On the one side we have this beautiful princess who is so wonderful that one would be tempted to think that she didn’t really exist. On the other side we have this mission that Rama is ready to hand out. Sita needs to be found, so Rama needs to choose someone who is worthy of meeting such a wonderful lady. One not influenced by the divine consciousness would never appreciate the princes of Videha for who she was. Up until this point, Sita had spent much time in the company of enemies and those who had no appreciation for her real beauty. Ravana was attracted to her external features, but if he really understood her internal nature, he would never have dared try to separate her from Rama.
Hanuman’s being sent to Lanka shows that he was the most qualified to meet Sita. He had never met her but he was still fully anxious to find her location and give Rama’s sacred ring to her. Sita would be in a troublesome situation, so she would surely be suspicious of anyone who would come to meet her. With Rama’s ring in hand, Hanuman would be able to prove the authenticity of his mission. Since Hanuman knew Rama very well, he was also aware of the wonderful qualities belonging to the Lord’s wife. In this way nothing was going to please Hanuman except finding Sita and allaying her fears.
With each successive feature listed above, Sita’s stature is further elevated. And at the same time, the standing of anyone who is supremely anxious to see such a wonderful woman is also enhanced. Hanuman was so eager to meet Sita that nothing else in Lanka could give him any pleasure. He saw the greatest opulence known in the world at the time, but to him this was completely insignificant. The real jewel in Lanka was Sita Devi, and due to his being fully qualified to see her, his meeting with her would soon become a reality. Hanuman was Rama’s first pick for carrying out the difficult task of finding Sita, and through his keen awareness of her wonderful qualities, Hanuman proved to be ever worthy of the trust invested in him.