“She is the famed eldest daughter-in-law of King Dasharatha, who was courageous and never retreated in battle.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.17)
vikrāntasya ārya śīlasya samyugeṣu anivartinaḥ |
snuṣā daśarathasya eṣā jyeṣṭhā rājño yaśasvinī ||
In the verses preceding this one, Sita’s relationship to King Janaka and the unique circumstances of her birth were presented. Here further substantiation for her splendid character is provided through her family relationship to one of the greatest fighters in history, a person who could fight in ten directions simultaneously using only one chariot. He was also heroic, never fleeing from the field of battle. His valor combined with his deference to religious principles, or dharma, earned him a son who was the Supreme Lord in a seemingly human form. With God in personal form you get His entourage as well, and so this famous king later on earned Sita as a daughter-in-law.
“Who are you? Where are you from? Who can vouch for your character? I want to know more about you. What are your accomplishments? Where did you go to school? What do you do for a living? Who are your parents? What kind of family do you come from?”
In ancient times the women did not have a specific occupation outside of the home in adulthood. They would serve their husbands and maintain a peaceful and stable family life in the process. Advancement of civilization does not come through machines, large sums of money, or the ability to control the temperature within a certain area. The miseries of the material world, which are threefold, apply to every single person. They will also inflict themselves upon all; no one is spared. One person may live in an apartment that has air conditioning and another in a hut made of mud, but the scorching rays of the sun will affect both of them equally. Just because one person can get temporary relief from the heat doesn’t mean that they are immune to the influence of the sun. Fire burns the same for every person, and so the miseries of life exist to some degree or another in everyone.
Advancement is measured by the development of consciousness. And for consciousness to develop properly there must exist a combination of renunciation and knowledge, or what are known as vairagya and jnana in Sanskrit. In the absence of these two factors that contribute to the betterment of consciousness, the living entity is really no different than the animal. A dog has sexual relations in the alley, while the human being uses the expensive hotel room, but the satisfaction to the senses is the same in both cases. Where the human being is advanced is in the potential to shape consciousness. The human being, if fortunate enough to have contact with a spiritual guide who is non-duplicitous in their prosecution of bona fide religious principles, can realize God and thus reach a level of advancement that stands above everything else.
The duties enjoined for married women are meant to complement the pious husband’s dedication to religious principles, which will ideally lead him towards realization of God. Following religious principles automatically keeps one detached. If I follow something out of duty, I will not be as attached to the outcome. “Whether I succeed or fail, at least I’m doing the right thing,” is the mindset. The husband progresses through the spiritual stages in life, and in the second stage, married life, he gets a wife to support him in his efforts. The wife shares the merits of her husband, so it is in her interest as well to see that he succeeds in realizing God.
When the wife is given this duty, the way to assess her character is to measure her fidelity to it. In a verse previous to this one in the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman identified Sita Devi as being totally devoted to her husband Rama. The woman’s qualities can be further assessed by reviewing the people to whom she is intimately tied. Hanuman previously said that Sita was the daughter of King Janaka and that she was found while the king was ploughing a field. When Sita was found by Janaka, she was covered by auspicious dirt that resembled pollen dust.
In this verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman reviews the qualities of the father of Sita’s husband. Rama is the Supreme Lord, an incarnation of the original Personality of Godhead. Therefore Sita automatically is in the highest position; she serves God. Rama also agrees to stay with her all the time, which means that her company is the most preferred by the best person in the world. Still, Hanuman feels the need to mention King Dasharatha, who was a famous personality that ruled the earth during the time period of interest, the Treta Yuga.
It is said that King Dasharatha was famous and that he was courageous. The demigods, the “good guys” for all intents and purposes, relied on Dasharatha many times in their battles against the “demons”. Fighters during this time period were in charge of the government, a fact that shows the real purpose of a government leader. More than anything they are to protect life and property. To do this effectively they must be willing to combat the evil elements in society, using violent force when required.
Dasharatha had no aversion to this; he bravely fought against the enemies of the demigods. His name references his ability to make a single chariot appear as if it were ten. To fight in this way is to risk one’s life, and on the battlefield one’s bravery is tested fully when there is danger. When times get tough, do you get tougher or do you bail? Quitting is the easier option, as we all have attachment to our body that we’ve known since the time of birth. The truly heroic are those who abandon attachment to the temporary body in favor of duty. Dasharatha was one such brave soul, and so he was worthy of the fame he received.
Hanuman made this assessment of Sita and her family members while viewing her from afar in the Ashoka grove inside of Lanka, the territory ruled over by the Rakshasa Ravana at the time. The fiend had taken Sita there against her will, and it was Hanuman’s job to find her and then report her location to Rama. At this time Dasharatha had already passed on; he could not bear the separation from his eldest son Rama. Though he was no longer in the world at the time, Hanuman still remembered him while seeing Sita, which shows that the king’s legacy carried on through his pious and beautiful daughter-in-law.
In the same way, Sita and Rama’s glories extend through the work of their courageous servant Shri Hanuman, who did not back down from the daunting challenge of infiltrating an enemy territory and looking for someone he had never met. Hanuman is glorious for his attributes and his deeds, and his character is enhanced further by his relation to Sita and Rama. And similarly, anyone who is devoted to Hanuman in thought, word and deed will be glorious and simultaneously related to the same couple, who are the storehouse of all virtues.
Against enemy attack he can defend,
Can make single chariot appear as ten.
The name Dasharatha this ability brought,
With valor against demon class he fought.
Because of his character it was no surprise,
That as daughter received Sita of lotus-like eyes.
Though the famous king no longer around,
Remembered him when Sita Hanuman found.