There was much jubilation after Rama defeated Ravana. Matali took his leave of Rama, and returned to Indra. Rama’s anger subsided. Lanka was now absorbed with Vibhishana’s coronation.

Rama asked Lakshmana to preside over Vibishana’s coronation ceremony. Lakshmana ordered the vanaras to bring sea-water and the ceremony was performed. Vibhishana was offered many gifts which he, in turn, offered to Rama.

When the ceremony was complete, Rama asked Hanuman to go to Sita. He said, ‘Inform Her of what has passed. Tell her to get ready. I want to see Her’. Hanuman went to the ashoka grove and saw Sita, in a forlorn condition, at the foot of the simshapa tree. Hanuman told Her what had happened. Hanuman asked her to prepare Herself to meet Lord Rama. No wealth in all three worlds could equal the good news.

Looking at her Rakshasa guardians, Hanuman offered to destroy them. Sita thought for a moment. Now that Ravana was dead, the Rakshasas had lost interest in Sita. Sita replied, ‘No. These Rakshasas were simply carrying out Ravana’s order. If I have suffered in any way, it was because of My own misdeeds. The virtuous never retaliate when others offend them. They do not return evil for evil. Compassion should always be shown towards sinners’.

Hanuman bowed to Her, without argument. ‘Shall I give a message to Rama’. Sita replied, ‘Yes. I only want to see Him’. Hearing of Sita’s state, Rama asked Vibhishana to supply her with clothing and ornaments and bathed in fine oils. Vibhishana personally went to Sita, offering these services. But Sita replied, ‘I want to go to My husband now. There is no need to bathe and dress’. How could she wait any longer?

Vibhishana expressed that it was Rama’s desire that she prepare Herself. Sita agreed and was duly prepared to meet Lord Rama. Crowds of monkeys and rakshasas filled the streets as Sita was borne on a palanquin to meet Lord Rama.

Hearing that She was on a palanquin, Lord Rama said to Vibhishana, ‘The princess should be asked to dismount and proceed on foot. The people desire to see Her and that is not condemned by scripture. A house, a veil or a costume are never the protection of a chaste woman. Her character alone is her shield’. Everyone was surprised at Rama’s stern countenance. Sita felt abashed on seeing Lord Rama’s stern countenance. She stood, trembling, before Him. Rama deeply wanted to show His love for Sita, but He feared public censure. After all, Sita had been in the house of another man for over a year. Her chastity was questionable.

Looking at the tearful Sita, Rama spoke to Her. I have avenged the insult given by Your abduction; and You, too, are avenged by Ravana’s death. Rama steadied Himself as He spoke His next words: ‘How can I take You back? You have spent too long in the house of another. Your good character has been compromised. Ravana clased You and looked on You with lust. Please go wherever You desire. Take shelter of one of my brothers or Vibhishana. You are so beautiful. How could Ravana have left You alone?’

Sita was shocked. She wept loudly and shook like anything. She countered Rama ‘You are speaking to Me as if I am some vulagar woman. You are judging all women by the standards of a degraded few. Though Ravana stole Me away, I did not deviate from You even for a moment. Having lived with Me so long, how could You not trust me? I am finished’. Sita saw no other option but to burn on a pyre. After circling Rama with respect, Sita offered prayers invoking the protection of Agni. After all, She was blameless. Walking deep into the fire, Sita appeared like a goddess fallen from heaven into hell. Everyone was stunned. The women cried. Sita disappeared into the fire.

Rama was blinded with tears. The devas questioned His actions. Then Agni emerged from the fire, holding Sita in his arms. She looked magnificent. Agni’s voice boomed: ‘She is sinless. She has never been unfaithful to you. Not even a glance. Although She was held captive by Ravana, Sita was always thinking of You within Her heart – even though Ravana tried to tempt Her and threaten Her in so many ways. Please accept Her back with an open heart’.

Rama was overjoyed. This purificatory ordeal was necessary for Sita to prove Her chastity to the world. Otherwise, the world would have condemned Rama as being lusty. She is guarded by Her own moral power. Ravana could not have violated Sita any more than the sea cross its bounds. Rama expressed that Sita was inseperable from Him as sunlight from the sun and to renounce Her was as futile as a virtuous man renouncing righteousness.

Sita bloomed with happiness. She took Her place next to Rama on the throne. Siva approached Rama, ‘Now you have vanquishe Ravana, the scourge of the universe, return to Your home, Ayodhya’. Rama was reunited with His father, Dasaratha. Dasaratha now understood His identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They exchanged more word with each other. Dasaratha assured Sita that Rama had not repudiated Her. He wanted to prove the Absolute nature of Her purity and establish Her as the most virtuous amongst women.

Rama asked Indra to revive the slain and wounded monkeys. They were brought back to life. Rama ordered the monkeys to camp for the night as He and Sita stayed in Vibhishana’s palace.

(Summarized from Krishna Dharma prabhu’s ‘Ramayana’)

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