……..After a terrible war, Rama killed Rahvana, conquered Lanka and redeemed Sita. When the couple met, after the long separation, a pathetic contrast between the hero and his wife was revealed. The fond wife fell at her husband feet and shed tears of joy. But the cold, melancholy Rama told her that he would not accept her. For he said :
Rahvana bore thee through the sky
And fixed on thine his evil eye;
About thy waist his arms he threw,
Close to his breast his captive drew:
And kept thee, vassal of his power,
An inmate of his ladies’ bower.
He had fought the war to vindicate his honour and punish the evil-doer, but not with the intention of taking his wife back. The idea is in perfect harmony with the social codes of later Hinduism. A woman abducted or forced by an outcaste was usually considered polluted beyond redemption and was not taken back into the caste she belonged; all the same, the husband or the relatives were enjoined to punish the evil-doer. It was in this spirit that Rama made war on Rahvana but rejected Sita after she was rescued.Poor, suffering Sita could only protest her innocence and purity, and weep pitifully. Finding that wailing did not convince her husband, she decided to undergo the fire ordeal. A pyre was lit and she jumped into the burning flames ; the flames did not hurt her and celestial voice proclaimed her innocence. On this Rama accepted her.But the sensitive conscience of Rama was again troubled. Rumours of public dissaproval of the king’s acceptance of his wife after her stay with the nortorious womanizer of Lanka spread in the kingdom of Ayodhya. A spy even reported that a washerman, while beating his wife suspected of adultery, drove home the point by observing that he was not a fool like his king to believe that a woman kept by a scoundrel for years could be pure. Rama was again overcome by doubts ; besides, it was impossible to rule a kingdom where even his lowest subject held the king’s morals in contempt.From : Kama Kalpa or The Hindu Ritual of Love.
Excerpt based on ancient Sanskrit classics, Kama Sutra, Anaga ranga, Rati Rahasya and modern works by P. Thomas.
Though styles change immortal heroes prosper in all forms of art: modern woodcarving of Hanuman and Sita from Ramayana epic, by I Dojotan of Mas.Guide to Bali, text by Black Star and photograph by Hans Hoefer. Drawing by abbysoekarno, 2011.