Sita - RamMy write up on Sita as a strong character in the epic poem Ramayana generated some strong views. A comment from one of my friends got me thinking. What about Lord Ram. The main lead in the entire story. The Ramayana had been a gargantuan effort by Maharishi Valmiki, to describe the virtues that a MAN should live by. Ram is referred to as Maryada Purushottama, literally the Perfect Man. He was the husband of Sita, the perfect woman.

True the acceptable norms and virtues, change with time. Each era has its own acceptable code of conduct. However, something as timeless and eternal as Ramayana applies even today, with era based interpretations, of course. There is that word again! Interpretations… So lets see what kind of a husband was Lord Ram. I would not deign to try and comment on Lord Ram as a Man, the epitome of all things right and correct. However, I believe I can still have an opinion on Ram’s role as a husband, from a woman’s point of view.

Now Lord Ram was above reproach when it came to how he handled his duties as a son, as a king, and as a brother. But how about his duties as a husband?

Lord Ram was after all put on this earth in human form. And like all humans, he too succumbed to emotions of jealousy, caving under public pressure, forsaking his wife. Does that make him an “Imperfect Man”?

Lord Ram peacefully conducted himself through the golden years after his birth, his childhood, initiation, and marriage to Princess Sita. He was the ideal son, obedient, respectful of his father’s honour. He was a perfect elder brother to his three younger brothers. And he was an attentive and loving husband to his wife, princess Sita.

Then adversity struck. As a chance to show mankind a way to conduct itself in adversity, Lord Ram kept his parent’s honour and went into exile.

Here he showed great understanding and patience, when his wife (princess Sita) and younger brother (prince Laxman) argued with him to take them along. As a husband, Lord Ram gave his wife equal authority and decision making power. Sita had power to decide how their life together will be shaped. He cared for Sita’s well being, and therefore requested her (and even ordered her in his capacity as her husband) to stay back in the security and comfort of the palace. However, when his wife insisted with her very valid reasons of wanting to live with Lord Ram to fulfill her patni dharm (duties of a pious wife),  as well as out of love for Lord Ram, he listened and eventually relented. Unlike altercations/arguments/discussions between spouses of today’s times, ego did not play any role in this situation, on either side.

While in exile in the forests, Lord Ram, gave Sita his attention and care. Looking after and enacting the role of the provider, while Sita enacted the role of a home maker. He cared for her assiduously and tried to fulfill her wishes. Thus he was persuaded by Sita to hunt for the golden deer, against his better judgement.

When Sita was kidnapped by Ravana, Lord Ram showed his emotional side. He was distraught with emotions at the kidnapping of his wife. He then showed exemplary strength and willpower. He developed an army of vanars (monkeys), and fought an epic battle with Ravan for the honour and safe return of his wife.

However, Ram then succumbed to the human emotions. Thus when after winning the war with Ravan, Sita returned, not to the loving arms of her long separated husband. In-fact she met an angry Ram, who showed his anger and jealousy. He knew Sita was pure, untouched; yet the luxuries that she could have had access to in Ravan’s captivity , as well as Ravan’s repute as a seducer, made him suspicious.

Ram after all as a “MAN” had a fragile ego when it came to his beautiful wife. He had given up everything for honour, yet his own wife was not able to keep her word. This could be the beginning of their breakup. Now that the adrenalin of a war with Ravan was over, the emotions inside came to the fore.

Ram loved Sita, yet he was angry at her, and suspicious. This is the reason why Sita agreed to an Agnee Pareekhsa (Proof of her virtue). Sita gave up her ego (she had the right to be indignant, at being asked to prove her chastity), and helped Ram to come out of the inner struggle.

Ram who protected all, could not bring himself to unconditionally trust his wife. However, after this, the couple returned to their kingdom for the coronation. Sita after this became pregnant. And then Ram was plunged into another struggle. The struggle between a husband and a king. If he kept the counsel of his subjects, he would be unfair to his wife. If instead he forsakes his subjects and followed Sita into her second exile, he would be leaving his state headless. Not to mention maligning the kshatriya honour. Hence Ram chose one path, that of giving priority to his role as king over his role as Sita’s husband.

It doesn’t matter which path Lord Ram chose. What matters is how he conducted himself after his decision. Lord Ram loved his wife, and therefore, even though they separated as Sita went into exile, he did not go his merry way. Unlike the ‘Man’ of today (Men today literally go berserk, dating and what not after a separation), Lord Ram tried to be with his wife in Spirit, if not in mind. He lived in the palace, but his living conditions were similar to what Sita was enduring in the forest. In fact Ram did penance with a gold statue of Sita. Although they were separated, they were still husband and wife.

“The Perfect Man” here was a good son, a good brother and a loving husband who never wavered from his commitment and word. Once he had become Sita’s husband, his emotions may have wavered to jealousy and anger, but he never ignored his wife. Unlike his father, he did not go ahead and take several wives. Circumstances may have separated them. But till the very end, he remained Sita’s husband.

And that according to me is a perfect husband. Not the man who can keep his wife happy all the time. (That is not possible on this earth!) But a man, who is committed to his wife, in body, mind and soul.

Please do read a more detailed analysis of the same by Anju Bhargava here.  The inspiration for this article.