S?t?’s Suicide: How the Ideology of Pativrata Sati Destroys Indian Women

by Ankur Betageri (July 2015)


To the memory of my great-great-grandmother, Hakmi B?i,

who was whipped to death by her husband for eating paan (betel leaf).


O foolish race of mortals, that gave gods such jobs to do,

Then went and made them fierce with anger into the bargain too!

What groans you purchased for yourselves, what grievous injury

For us, what tears you fashioned for the children yet to be!

                                               —Lucretius, The Nature of Things[i]

                                                   Trans. by A.E. Stallings

The relationship of R?ma and S?t? in V?lmiki’s R?m?yana, though not a happy and harmonious one by any stretch of imagination, has always been projected as the ideal husband-wife relationship in Hindu society. What was their relationship really like? Contrary to the evidence present in R?m?yana, R?ma is seen as a monogamist, and not just as a monogamist, but as a loving and devoted husband. Since he is a glorified maryada purushottama, the embodiment of decency and the best among men, he is an ideal to all Hindu men – just as Muhammad is to Muslim men – and following him they become not only patriarchal husbands eternally peeved by their wives’ independence but also possessive husbands paranoid about their wives’ chastity—roles that R?ma performed to perfection in the R?m?yanamore>>>


5 Responses

  1. Sir, I found that you have mentioned Valmiki Ramayana, but narrated the interpolated translations… Rama did not ordered Laxmana to throw pregnant Sita to forest… The original tet suggests that Rama after hearing the malicious words of his subjects went down with sorrow.. his heart filled with pity for his poor minded subjects… Sita, finding her husband to be drunk in sorrow, asked for the details from her Spies and found the accurate info.. Later She told Rama, and asked him to kill the Ravanas that are residing in the mind of his subjects… If he recalls her without killing the ravanas of his subjects’ mind, then she will dissolve herself for ever. Until, Rama makes it certain, she will Leave Ayodhya…. So, please writing a serious blog and blaming someone, do make proper researches.. Patibrata Sati means a power .. The power which is even powerful than the power of the Tridevs… The proof Sita Gave to Rama for the first time was for the wandering of the Vanaras.. Before that date, no Man did such an effort to regain his wife.. So, to vanaras, Sita must be someone who is not a mere lady… For the warfare vanaras did, for Rama, they had the right to know, for whom they fought… as a result of which Rama ordered Maa Sita for the Agni Pariksha…. Come out of the Kali Yuga’s definition of Pavitrata… You will be able to understand everything Sir.. Ramayana Id a Divya Lila after everything…

  2. The author is very good at giving well known references without even a basic reading of the original Ramayana. And the publisher ( New English Review) is equally responsible for publishing such falsities. 

  3. Good read but I did not like the way you try to twist the facts and forget some plots for the convenience of demonizing ramayana

    One example: the brutal facial mutilation (cutting off of ears and nose) carried out on Shurpanakha for the innocent act of expressing her desire for Rama

    You must also add, Shurpanakha attacked Sita of jealousy.

    My own findings:
    Ram was Ramesses I of Egypt.
    Rama’s father Dashratta was a king Tushratta of Mitanni who got defeated

    So Ram did not exist in reality, but that time was not a good time for the general world. Ramayana was composed during a dark age where civilization collapsed. It was after 1177 BC. Tushratta existed 200 years before this date. Ramesses I, II and III existed about 100 years prior to 1177 BC.

    The composers of Ramayana were trying to romanticise the life before the great fall of civilization in the middle east. Mitanni Vedic culture existed the same time near Egyptians, were friends with Egypt at times.

    Btw, most romanticized version of history of other traditions such as story of Moses, greek illiad, odyssey were created about the same time

  4. This could have been a good article.

    But all you did was take a few facts and spin it into a negative (and far, far from truthful) aspect, only to fit into your cynical and defeatist narrative.

    There is so much wrong with how you interprete simple facts.. it’s actually sad.

  5. I find this article very intelligently written and if someone were to put a complete negative twist to Ramayana, this would pass with flying colors.

    In Ramayana, there is no mention of Sita or any of the characters committing suicide, in any version. Kindly quote the exact writing where it says this.

    Not only Sita but in that era, princesses were allowed to choose their own husbands through syamvara ceremony. (Equality#1)

    Sita chose to follow Rama into exile, she was not exiled, and nowhere in Ramayana, it states that she was forced to, whilst Laxmana’s wife did not follow him. (Equality#2)

    Ravana’s sister attacks Sita when Rama and Laxmana do not submit to her will into a forceful marriage proposal. Forceful marriage of men or women unacceptable.

    Ravana was born in Northern India and had moved his base to Lanka. Demon roamed all over the Indian continent, Demoness Tadaka is a famous example. How is this racist?

    In Rama’s army, he was not racist and so willingly accepted apes, bears, birds as equals. There were other kingdoms(human) that refused to help Rama as he was in exile and were not going to anger Ravana. This is in South India and does not speak of certain skin color or facial differences.
    Rama himself is foretold to be of blue or dark skin, while Sita is of fairer complexion.
    In Ravana’s court, Hanumana is made fun of and they light his tail(we can argue this is physical mutilation like what happened to Surpanakha). Rama has always treated him as a brother because he doesn’t discriminate.

    Rama doesn’t support the caste system, saburi’s story of fruit.

    Rama accepts exile, even though the order didn’t come from his dad or biological mom, but a woman who he respects and loves as his own mother. He is definitely stronger than her and doesn’t have to listen to her whims. Why doesn’t he wait for his stepbrother Bharata to come back and show his superiority?

    Every female and male character in Ramayana has received only respect from Rama, and how would his intrinsic behavior changed towards Sita and make her unequal?

    Sita’s Agneepareksha is not in a literal sense fire, but a test or ordeal similar to going through fire. This is not for Rama but for the wonderful society that doesn’t point fingers at women. Sita also has the option to refuse the test.

    Rama is a prince, he cannot go running into Sita’s arms like in a Bollywood movie, even the Queen of England knows she cannot break the rules, comes with the territory.

    Rama doesn’t ask Sita to leave because after coming back to his kingdom. He went into a major war to rescue her back, why would he let her go because of someone’s victimizing mentality. Sita doesn’t stand society’s disrespect and shows women no matter what, your honor and respect is utmost and if you don’t get it, then do not stay there to make others comfortable. You have the right to leave and separate from your husband, not divorce as it is not Rama who has concern. As a king he cannot control or he shouldn’t control society’s thinking, it is not communism.
    Sita goes back to her mother, when society still fails to accept her chastity. Sita is fighting not just for herself but for all the women that get wronged. She has fought and sacrificed along with Rama. Rama could have remarried or had luxurious celebrations, but he did not.
    What Ramayana is a very tragic story that shows no matter how good you do for people, they will find something negative and focus only on that.
    But Rama and Sita continued to fulfill their duties because karma is the way of life.

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