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Lord Rama was An Ideal King, But was He An Ideal Husband?

In the end, what use is a man's righteousness if he abandons his pregnant wife?

Lord Rama is known as 'Maryada Purushottam', 'Ekvachani', 'Ekbaani', and 'Ekpatni'. He is brave, strong, and humble; he follows the rules and behaves per his 'dharma'. He is revered as the epitome of honesty, loyalty, bravery, and love, as well as the ideal king and husband. But, for once, can we "humanize" him? Can we take him out of the mythical and religious closet for a moment and consider him a real person? After all, if we believe the Ramayana happened, he was a real-life human being. So, where does this leave his beloved wife, Sita?

Lord Rama was An Ideal King, But was He An Ideal Husband?

Rama's love for Sita is a major thread that runs throughout the Ramayana. Isn't it true that the entire Ramayana transpired because Ravana kidnapped Sita? But no one has ever answered the one question I've always had: why did he abandon his wife because an outsider doubted her 'purity'? Rama was a trustworthy and honest emperor who was accountable to his kingdom. But wasn't he also answerable to his wife, Sita?

Sita was taken captive when Rama set off into the forest without his wife. Ravana tricked Rama. The most courageous and wisest of the rulers became a fool. So, was it his genuine love for his wife that drove him to pursue Ravana, or was it a wound in the male ego?

Ram is stoic, pensive, and silent; he is neither a passionate lover nor an affectionate husband; his inaction is easily misinterpreted as indifference. He neither professes his love for Sita nor chants her praises. The only time he publicly confesses his love for her is in his grief over her death, to the point where his brother has to remind him that he is not only a bereaved lover but also a king and that he should, therefore, regain his composure.

While reading this passage from Devdutt Pattanaik's Sita - An Illustrated Retelling of The Ramayana, I came to a sudden realization:

“I am a husband now, who has a wife. Should I be the king, then my wife will also become the queen. The two are not the same, Sita. My wife sits in my heart, I exist for her satisfaction. The queen exists for the kingdom's satisfaction."

In one sentence, he explained to me what no one else could: Rama exiled the queen, the one that existed for the kingdom's fulfillment, not his wife, whom he loved and missed so much that he never married again. Once he is king and she is queen, the wishes of the kingdom take precedence over their own, and they must do what is required of them rather than what they want.

I'm sure he loved Sita. But was it the only reason for across the entire Indian subcontinent and reaching Lanka? No. It was all about what had belonged to him: his ego, kingdom, pride, and Dharma.

Some people in Ayodhya refused to believe she was still chaste or pure after spending a year in the captivity of another male away from her husband, so I'm guessing they mean she was raped or readily had sex with Ravan. So it was not a question of Sita's moral character, but of her sexual behavior, and what should the people of the kingdom do about any woman's sexual behavior? Does this mean that if a wife is raped, she is no longer pure or worthy of being a wife? Even today, our Dadis and Nanis tell their daughters and granddaughters with all their wisdom that women will never be able to avoid the Agnipariksha. Even if the women are morally correct, they must face the men's wrath. They will be accused and questioned about their personalities. And if they want to live happy lives, they should avoid crossing the 'Lakshman Rekha'. The grandmothers have good intentions for all of their granddaughters. Because they have witnessed it all.

Lord Rama was An Ideal King, But was He An Ideal Husband?

Why did Rama save Sita if he planned to abandon her after returning to Ayodhya? If he could leave his kingdom to keep a promise, why couldn't he do the same for his wife and her honor? He had the power to silence the dhobi, but he chose to abandon his wife. He was more concerned with strengthening his image as the perfect king than with protecting his wife's feelings. In doing so, he established himself as India's greatest emperor while failing as a husband.

My intent is not to question the Ramayana; I am too small and insignificant to do so. However, I intend to expose the flaws in our perceptions of God. But will we ever tell our men to believe in their Sitas, ignore the public, prioritize their women over the dhobis, and think beyond their lives and egos? I have some questions. And I'd like to find my answers. Every society has Gods—perfect, extraordinary men and women who guide people on the path of truth, honesty, and progress. However, every society requires extraordinary people who are flawed, open to recognizing their mistakes, approachable, and willing to make changes.