“Though her face was morose, because of her husband’s prowess that lady was not despondent. Sita, of black eyes, was protected by her own character.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 17.27-28)
saṃvṛtām mṛgaśābākśīṃ dadarśa hanumān kapiḥ |
tām devīṃ dīnavadanāmadīnāṃ bhartṛtejasā ||
rakśitām svena śīlena sītāmasitalocanām |
The descriptions of Sita provided here are similar to what was provided by Shri Hanuman himself in the previous section of the Ramayana. This shows yet another difference between the original Ramayana and the others that descend from it. There is much repetition in Valmiki’s telling, as during the Treta Yuga it wasn’t as difficult to commit such lengthy works to memory. If you can remember a lot, why not use that potential for storing information about the Supreme Personality of Godhead? From this one verse we get so much insight into Sita’s nature and also advice on how to deal with the common difficulties of life.
Imagine a situation where someone has wronged you. You are completely innocent. It’s not that you are being partial in this case. In a sober assessment, under an objective analysis, you have done nothing wrong. Yet to the other person you are the enemy. They will do whatever it takes to harm you, either physically or financially. They will try to ruin your reputation with others. They will try to take away as much money as possible, and they will hold the things most valuable to you as ransom. They are a reprobate in the truest sense of the word.
How will you deal with the situation? Will you get angry? For sure, especially if you think others are taking advantage of you. You are a nice person, but there is a limit to your kindness. You’re not going to just sit around and let someone else rob you. In this situation imagine what one of your close family members is feeling. They are likely angrier than you are. They want to do something very badly, even if it is against the law. They are burning with rage, but what can be done?
From this verse from the Ramayana we understand how a goddess handled herself in a similar circumstance a long time ago. She was personally wronged in the worst way. She was forcibly taken away from her husband while she was living peacefully with Him in the forest. She wasn’t unfaithful to Him at all. Rather, people today use her as the best example for chastity. She is the ideal woman, mother, and wife. She is the ideal devotee of the Supreme Lord as well. The glories of Sita Devi know no end.
The verse above describes Sita while she was sitting under a tree in a grove of Ashoka trees in Lanka. Being in a beautiful garden doesn’t seem so bad, right? To the observer, Shri Hanuman, the more immediate surroundings are what made the situation worse. Sita was encircled by a band of cruel-looking female ogres. They were ordered by the king of Lanka to harass her day and night. Not just your ordinary people making fun of you, these were man-eaters who wreaked of the stench of dead animals and wine. They had no scruples. They weren’t lobbing just empty threats. They were ready to eat Sita as soon as the king Ravana gave the order.
It is noted here that despite the fact that her face was morose, Sita was not in a poor condition. This is because she remembered her husband’s splendor or prowess. Maha-tejah is also an appropriate description for Rama, which means that He has great strength. When she felt angry, when she felt distressed, when she felt afraid over what might happen, she remembered her husband and His strength. This kept her from being in a totally depressed state.
It is also said that Sita was protected by the virtue of her own character. Ravana wanted her as a wife, but she refused. She couldn’t use weapons against him. She couldn’t run away. She didn’t caste a curse on him. She simply held firm to her virtue. Her father taught her to follow Rama like a shadow and to be a chaste wife. This wasn’t difficult for her, as Rama is full of virtues. He is Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord in His avatara as a warrior prince. He is a full incarnation, so He possesses the attributes of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation to the fullest degree and at the same time.
Ravana could never touch Sita because of her character. She would never give in to him, despite his repeated attempts. The fear from the Rakshasis also didn’t work because Sita remembered Rama’s strength. An extension of that strength is His dearmost servant, Shri Hanuman. He was in the Ashoka grove as Rama’s representative. He was sent to find Sita and he succeeded.
In the difficult times through the travel in the material world, our virtue can protect us as well. The same virtue of holding affection for the Supreme Lord can come into our possession, should we so desire it. The virtue is initially created through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and then strengthened through remembering the prowess of Shri Rama and His courageous friend Shri Hanuman.
When undue calamities befall you,
To your virtuous character hold true.
Supreme prowess Shri Rama has,
His messenger Hanuman to arrive fast.
Despite opulence’s perceived charm,
Sita’s chastity Ravana could not harm.
Chant holy names for virtue to make,
And strength from Rama and Hanuman take.