“Sita had eyes like lotus petals and beauty like that of Rati, the consort of Cupid. She was beloved of the whole world like the radiance of the full moon.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.30)
sītām padma palāśa akṣīm manmathasya ratim yathā |
iṣṭām sarvasya jagataḥ pūrṇa candra prabhām iva ||
Here we get some more descriptions of Shri Rama’s wife as she appeared to Shri Hanuman while he was perched on a tree branch in the Ashoka garden. It is nice to say that someone is beautiful, but then such an adjective is thrown around frequently. Better when there are reference points that can more accurately portray that vision, something to quantify the beauty. And that beauty existed in so many ways, in so many different areas. It is breathtaking to both behold and speak about, and thus the Ramayana’s Sundara-kanda, its book of beauty, is filled with both heroic movements and beautiful living entities, who are beloved of all.
It is said that Sita’s eyes were like lotus petals. This means that her eyes were wonderful to look at, as who doesn’t like lotus petals? The lotus is a beautiful flower and its petals are what constitute its form. When the eyes are shaped in such a way, they remind one of the beautiful flower, and someone looking at those eyes can’t get enough of the visual nectar. Flowers are also a symbol of peace, a way to lessen the tension of a situation. They are also a symbol of life and a way to greet people. They speak to the Supreme Controller’s unimaginable imagination. Only He could think of something so beautiful. Artistic creations of the human mind are but a small indication of the true abilities of the original person. Indeed, all art that is created by man uses aspects of the Supreme Lord’s creation, so it is He who deserves the original credit for anything brilliant.
It is said that Sita looked like Rati, the consort of Kamadeva. There is a cupid in the Vedic tradition too, but he is not a character of mythology. He is the deity in charge of kama, which can mean desire or lust. If you’re struck by the arrow of lust, it will be difficult to resist its influence. The arrow will lead you towards satisfying the specific desire, which may or may not be to your benefit. Kamadeva, with his ability to instill lust in others, is very beautiful, and so he attracts the most beautiful females as well. Rati, his consort, is thus very beautiful, and just as cupid is used as a reference point for beauty in males, so Rati is invoked when describing a beautiful female.
Just as Sita is compared to Rati, her husband Rama is often compared to Kamadeva, except it is said that Rama is more beautiful that millions of cupids combined. As Kamadeva is capable of inciting lusty desires in others through his arrows, it is said that Rama can enchant even cupid. Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and in His original form of Krishna He is often addressed as Madana-mohana, which means one who can bring an enchanting spell over the god of love. Krishna’s eternal consort is Shrimati Radharani, who is the same Sita, and she is often addressed as Madana-mohana-mohini. This means that she enchants the enchanter of cupid, such is her beauty.
It is said that Sita was dear to the whole world, like the radiance of the full moon. This is a wonderful comparison to make, and it also begs a few questions about the situation at hand. Hanuman was in this Ashoka grove to find Sita, who was separated from her husband Rama at the time. Sita, though dear to the whole world, found herself in a lot of trouble. Ravana, the evil king of Lanka, forcibly took her back to his home without having the courage to fight for her hand. Rather than challenge Rama to a fight, Ravana created a ruse where he could take Sita away in secret.
That woman who was dear to the world now remained in the Ashoka grove awaiting an uncertain future. She wasn’t alone either. There was a band of female ogres surrounding her. They were ordered by Ravana to harass her day and night. What did she do to deserve this? Just because she was beautiful she had to suffer so much. She was adored by all the creation, and one person in particular couldn’t stand that. He tried to have her for himself, though that wasn’t possible.
Ravana’s act was akin to trying to capture and keep the light of the full moon all for oneself. The moon gives a soothing light to the entire population that can see it. This benevolence is free of favoritism. Only the miser, or the fool for that matter, would be unhappy with this. Only the lowest among men would try to keep that light for themselves and deprive everyone else of it. A notable lesson can be taken away from Ravana’s move. The moonlight and other aspects of this world meant for everyone’s benefit have a proper utility. Sita was beneficial to the entire world but this didn’t mean that everyone would get to enjoy her as a wife. This was reserved for her husband, Lord Rama, the origin of matter and spirit. Her benevolence for the rest of the world came in the form of her association and her vision. Hanuman saw the beautiful Sita also, but he had no desire to take her from Rama. On the contrary, he risked his life to try to reunite the endearing princess with her husband.
The saintly qualities lead to prosperity and the demonic tendencies to doom. Sita was like the light of the full moon because she is the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi Devi. She distributes good fortune to those who are deserving of it. Of course, there is a corresponding end to the bargain. The recipient must utilize that fortune properly, lest they find themselves in even worse off circumstances, like Ravana. His misuse of Lakshmi sealed his eventual demise. On the other hand, the fortune of seeing Sita that Hanuman received, though she was in a depressed condition, led to eternal glory. And who wouldn’t want that? We feel proud when others praise us for our actions, but imagine being honored and worshiped for millions of years into the future for your bravery, kindness, perseverance, and dedication to the highest cause: devotional service.
Ravana and the rest of the Rakshasas in Lanka had the same opportunity. It’s not like they were shut out from this highest engagement. The light of the full moon was available for their comfort as well, but rather than accept that generosity, they tried to steal the energy for themselves. When that couldn’t happen, they threatened to destroy the moonlike princess. But know that Rama’s dearly beloved can never be destroyed, and rather than do all the work Himself, Rama enlists able-bodied and enthusiastic servants to carry out different aspects of her protection. They feel the pleasure of devotional service in the process, and they achieve a high status in the end.
Know that both the source and the recipient can be dear to the whole world. Sita is like the light of the full moon because she distributes her radiance across all spectra, and similarly her devotees like Hanuman sing her glories and the glories of her husband to whoever is willing to listen. There is no distinction made between caste, country of origin, or level of intelligence. Hanuman was in a monkey form after all, so how can anyone say that bhakti-yoga is reserved for only a certain class of men? Let that radiance emanating from Rama’s beloved illuminate both your inside and out by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and remembering the courageous Shri Hanuman.
Seeing her repeatedly giving out sighs,
That beautiful woman of lotus-like eyes.
Just like the moon with its soothing light,
Sita beloved to all just from her sight.
In beauty she looked like cupid’s wife,
Devotion to Supreme Lord Rama her life.
Ravana for himself that woman tried to keep,
But Hanuman to reach Lanka after massive leap.
Fortune to all Sita’s light intended to bring,
But miserliness to spell doom for Lanka’s king.