Srimati Sita Devi
Srimati Sita Devi is the daughter of the Earth goddess, Bhumi Devi, and central figure of the Ramayana. InMaharishi Valmiki's own words, Ramayana is known as the noble story of Sita "Sita-ayah Charitam Mahat".
Her glories are sun by the poet-saint Thyagaraja in his "Sri Janakatayane"
Oh daughter of Janaka, the blessed souls of refugees! Oh Consort of Sri Raghu Rama, bedecked with shining gem-ornaments! Pray, protect me always! You are the wind that destroys the clouds of demons like the hundres-headed Ravana; You are the indweller in the hearts of the devotees; Your Feet shine with the lustre of gems set in the crown of Indra.
King Janaka was the wise and benevolent King of Janakpuri and although a great saintly king he was childless. 'Rajarshi - a king who lives like a sage: that was how king Janaka of Videha dynasty was renowned. He ruled over the kingdom of Mithila. He looked upon his people with love and affection.
The Finding of Sita Devi in a casket in the Earth:
Janaka maharaj was ploughing a piece of land and then to prepare it for conducting a Yajna (spiritual sacrifice). He unearthed a golden casket in which he found a beautiful girl and was overjoyed. A land ploughed by the yoke is called 'Sita', and so he named the baby as Sita. With the arrival of the baby, the king's good luck appeared to soar up. His queen also gave birth to a daughter who was named Urmila. The royal couple brought up the children with great affection. They gave them a good education. The twobeautiful girls, by their noble qualities, good behavior and intelligence, endeared themselves to one and all and grew to become ideal princesses.
Sita grew up and played in the palace of Janakaraj. She became well known for her beauty as well as her devotion. She could often be seen absorbed in the Deity of the Lord of the Surya-vamsa. She would when on her own, sometimes lovingly enact the pastimes of the various forms of the Lord and relish His pastimes. In this way she revealed to those close to her that she was no ordinary young girl.
Her fame like her beauty became well known, and soon it was time for her to be betrothed and then married. As with kshatriya kings of those days Janakaraj organised that all the worthy kings and princes would come, there would be a challenge for her hand, and the victor would become her husband.
The story goes that one day, revered sage Parashurama came to visit king Janaka. He carried a bow with him. He left it at the doorstep of the royal hall and went inside. Sita saw the bow, ran to it and began playing with it as if it was a play-horse. Only those with great physical strength and daring could lift and handle the 'Vaishnava' bow. When Parashurama came out, the bow was missing. Ordinary persons could not lift it with ease and he, curiously looking around, spotted Sita playing with it as if it was a play-horse. The sage and the king were astonished.
The great Sage Parashurama, who is a partial incarnation (shaktyavesha avatara) of Vishnu then blessed Sita and said to king Janaka: "My dear king, only a great, and strong person can wed this girl of such capacity. Arrange a 'Swayamvara' (where the brides choose their spouses for their prowess) for her and let the most suitable person in the three worlds the marry her."
In course of time, Sita and Urmila attained maturity.
King Janaka possessed a bow said to have been blessed by Lord Shiva. It was a great bow and the king decided to marry off his daughter to one who could lift it and charge its arrow. He prepared for a Swayamvara.
The challenge is sent out, "The Man Who Conquers the 'Shiva, Bow' Weds Sita", and so all manner of qualified princes and "wannabe's" came from all over the world. But how to find such a heroic young man to wed such a girl?
Many noble princes from several kingdoms came aspiring for the hand of the beautiful damsel Sita. But they were awed by the mighty bow and, saluting it turned away.
Sage Vishwamitra, accompanied by his disciples Rama and Lakshmana, arrived at Mithila. The princes, sons of renowned king Dasharatha, had conquered many demons ('rakshasas'). King Janaka felt glad at their arrival.
Vishwamitra told Rama:"Dear Ramachandra, pray to Lord Shiva and take to the bow." Sri Rama bowed to Vishwamitra and offered his respects. He then prayed for the grace of Lord Shiva, went and raised the bow with ease and thrust an arrow. As he bent the bow, it broke. Sitadevi came and garlanded him and accepted him as her husband. The news reached king Dasharatha who rushed to Mithila with his entourage. The marriage of Rama and Sita Devi was solemnized in a grand manner.
After this event, Dasharatha spent many happy years ruling the kingdom. Old age gradually crept on, and he decided to retire. He naturally thought of handing over the reigns of the kingdom to his eldest son Rama. He wanted to spend the rest of his life in meditation, away from the worries of physical life. He consulted his elderly priests and decided on the day of Sri Rama's installation on the royal throne.
The king was very joyful on the auspicious day. His senior consort Kausalya Devi was engaged in worship and serving the elders and priests. People in the kingdom were rejoicing and eagerly looked forward to the coming coronation.
King Dasharatha's third consort was Kaikeyi. She too was very affectionate towards Rama. But carried away by the advice of her maid Manthara, she claimed that her son Bharata should Succeed as the next king, and that Rama should go to forest for fourteen years. Dasharatha was shocked to hear this. All his pleadings with Kaikeyi to change her mind proved in vain.
A long time ago, the King had promised her that he would fulfil two wishes of hers. Now, as a fulfillment, she demanded that the king install Bharata as the Crown Prince and that Rama should go to forest for fourteen years.
Rama came to know about this, consoled his father and said he would go to the forest to fulfil his pledge. Rama immediately discarded his royal robes and ornaments and wearing sack-clothes, prepared to leave for the woods. Kausalya was grief-stricken. Rama pacified her and obtained her permission to leave.
After meeting his mother, Rama went to his wife Sita. She was then bubbling with joy at the impending coronation of her husband and was performing worship for his good; she was giving away doles and offerings.
Looking at Sita's joy and celebration, Rama felt it painful to inform her that he would not be crowned and that he would be leaving for the jungle. He knows she would be shocked. Looking at his worried face, Sita asked: "You appear to be worried at such a joyous moment. What is the matter? Did anything untoward happen?" She gently wiped the sweat on his face with the edge of her saree.
Rama said: "Dear Janaki, do not feel grieved at what I am going to tell you. I have to leave the capital for a distant place. You should see me off without tears." He told her about the king's dilemma and said: I will go to the forest for fourteen years and return. You should remain without anger or sorrow. Be calm. The parents are old. Look after them. Be good and courteous towards Bharata also. Permit me to leave."
Sita was saddened. She was not sorry either at the canceling of her husband's coronation or at the demanded crowning of Bharata. But she felt angry that Rama should leave her behind and go to the forest alone. She declared: "My Lord, I can't stay for a moment in a place without you. In your absence, this Ayodhya will be a jungle to me. The forest wherein you stay will be my kingdom. My life runs under your shadow. It is not becoming of you to leave me behind."
Rama explained to her the rigours of life in the woods. "Sita, you do not know about jungle-life. It is not a cosy, royal garden; cruel wild animals and evil demons (rakshasas) infest it. You hear ferocious voices. You have to live on roots and wild fruits. A tender lady like you cannot withstand these hazards.You have to pass every day in fear of some impending danger. After all, fourteen years is not a long period."
Sita would not listen to his pleadings. She insisted: "Whether it is jungle or town, it is my. duty to be with you. I do not care for comforts here. I am not afraid of the difficulties we may encounter in the forest. You are such a lion of a man. Can't you protect me there?" Tears rolled down her eyes.
Rama eventually had to agree with her: "Sita if you are with me, any jungle is heaven. Let it be, as you desire. Prepare to leave." Sita happily made preparations for the sojourn.
Rama's younger brother Lakshmana also insisted that he would accompany them. Rama had to acquiesce.
Deciding to stay at Chitrakoota Mountain, the three-some left and reached their destination.
It was a picturesque area. Many sages had built their ashrams (hermitages) there. They warmly welcomed Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. Rama and Lakshmana built a hermitage for themselves.
After a time, Bharata, with his entourage, came to visit them. He wanted to plead with Rama to return to Ayodhya and assume kingship. He mournfully informed them about king Dasharatha's passing away. Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were overcome with grief.
All the pleadings of Bharata to Rama were in vain. Rama did not change his mind. At last, Bharata requested Rama to give him his sandals so that he could place them on the throne and rule in the name of Rama. He also decided to reside in the village Nandi as a hermit.
From Chitrakoota, the three went Dandakaranya forest.
The sages of Dandakaranya received them with regard and affection. They told Rama that evil rakshasas and wild animals had
been harassing them and sought his help to relieve them of these troubles and protect them. Rama, by nature, was compassionate; he promised them he would free them from the menace of rakshasas.
Sitadevi was worried. At an appropriate time she told Rama: "Aryaputra, let me submit to you a few of my thoughts. Please do not think I am more learned than you. The sages narrated their problems and you promised them you would annihilate the rakshasas and wild animals. You have now forsaken all the royal paraphernalia and have come to the forest. Now you have to live like an ascetic and should not carry weapons. You have a bow and arrows for self-protection. By your promise to the sages, the rakshasas will become your enemies. I am worded about this. We cannot say what danger might hit us at any time. And also, is it just to kill wild animals and rakshasas who have not harmed us in any way? Hatred without reason may result in danger. Please think it over."
Rama patiently listened to Sita's words and said: "Devi, listen. We are Kshatriyas by birth and no time is objectionable for us to punish the evil doers. Can the rakshasas attack innocent sages and devour them? Punishing them and protecting theinnocent is our dharma (sacred duty). Your thoughts deserve consideration. You have thought about this matter seriously. I will go about this very carefully." Sita was relieved at his explanation.
As Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were approaching a spot called Panchavati, they came across a huge banyan tree. Atop it sat a large-sized eagle. They thought it might also be a rakshasas in disguise. But it said: "Raghurama, I am a friend of your father Dasharatha. My name is Jatayu. When you and Lakshmana go out, I will be here with Sita and keep guard. I will try to be of some help to you. "They felt happy that they met a friendly soul in the jungle.
They built a hermitage and lived comfortably for sometime. Close by was the Godavari river. The area was dotted with hills. The jungle trees and plants provided fruits and flowers in abundance. With majestic trees, various plants, chirping birds and attractive animals like the deer, the spot was a feast to the eye.
A demoness, Shurpanakha,was wandering about in that area in search of food. She scented some human beings staying there and came to Rama's hermitage and peeped in.
She was instantly struck by the graceful personalities of Rama and Lakshmana and wished to marry one of them. She assumed the appearance of a beautiful damsel and asked Rama to marry her.
Rama said: "I am married and my wife is with me here. I cannot bring in" another wife. My younger brother Lakshmana is alone and he is also good-looking. Go to him."
Shurpanakha then approached Lakshmana and asked him to marry her. He said: "I am Rama's devout attendant. If you marry me, you will also become a servant and have to be subserviant to Sita. Go back and ask Rama."
It was a sport between the brothers. She was made to go from one to the other several times and became fed up with this game. She angrily said: "it is because Rama's wife is here that things are happening this way. I am going to finish her off." So saying, she came to pounce upon Sita.
Rama told Lakshmana: "No point in being too light-hearted with evil people. Punish her and drive her away." Thereupon, Lakshmana went and cut off her ears, nose and breasts and thus drove her away.
Shurpanakha, apart from the physical pain, felt humiliated and ran away growling loudly. She was the sister of Ravana, the king of Lanka, a man endowed with immense prowess. Another demon, Khara, who ruled over Janasthana, where Rama's hermitage was located, was Ravana's younger brother. Shurpanakha went to Khara and told him of her humiliation. He became wild with anger and, accompanied by a large army, came to attack Rama and Lakshmana. But Rama's powerful arrows annihilated the enemy force. The sages of the forest extolled Rama. Sita also felt happy, but a nagging worry continued to haunt her.
Shurpanakha then went to Lanka and wailed before Ravana. She narrated her humiliation and the defeat of Khara and his army. She also told him about Sita's beauty.
Ravana felt sad; anger welled up in him. Should a sister of such a hero as himself suffer such humiliation? Hearing her description of Sita's beauty, an evil thought entered his mind - that he should abduct Sita!
Ravana thought of many ways and finally decided to seek the assistance of Mareecha, who was his relative. Mareecha shivered at the mention of Rama. He explained to Ravana about the fury of Rama's arrows. He advised Ravana: "To abduct Sita is a bad idea. Forget it."
But Ravana was insistent. "If you do not listen to me, your life is finished," he threatened Mareecha, who then realized that any amount of advice to Ravana would be futile.
Ravana's plan was to see that Rama and Lakshmana would be lured away from the hermitage; he could then go there and kidnap Sita. He conceived a plan and Mareecha was asked to execute it.
Mareecha assumed the guise of a lovely golden deer and moved about in the presence of Sita. Sighting it, Sita told Rama: "Look at this beautiful deer. If we can catch it, will it not be an ornament to Ayodhya?"
Lakshmana said: "It is not a real deer. It looks artificial. Let us not be fooled by some tricks of the rakshasas."
But Rama wished to fulfil Sita's desire and proceeded to follow the golden deer.
However, Rama could not easily catch the deer. In pursuit, it took him far away from their residence. Finally, tired and angry Rama struck it with an arrow. As he lay dying, Mareecha cried out: "Ha, Lakshmana! Ha Sita!" was imitating Rama's voice.
Sita was worried at Rama's not returning early when heard this cry. She entreated Lakshmana to go and find out whether Rama was in danger and needed protection.
Lakshmana tried to console her and said: "My brother is the protector of the world. What danger can affect him*? There is no need for anyone to go to his aid. These are all the rakshasas' tricks."
But Sita did not think so. She became angry and denounced Lakshmana thus: "You have come with us with some object of personal benefit. When your elder brother is facing danger you are wasting time here. I do not approve of your designs."
Lakshmana could not tolerate this insinuation. He was worried about the welfare of Sita if he went away leaving her alone. He invoked the demigods (devas) of the forest, and protracted the ashram by placign the Rekha line around it. Then offering respects before Sita he reluctantly left the place.
Meanwhile, taking advantage of Lakshaman and Rama's absence a 'Sannyasi' (monk) arrived at Rama's hut. He wore saffron robes, had tied his hair into a top-knot and chanted Vedic hymns like any other ascetic.
Sita looked at him and he asked her: "Why are you, such a beautiful damsel staying in this jungle suffering misery?"
Thinking that a respectable sage had come, Sita treated him with reverence and told him about her life-story. She did not comprehend that Ravana 'had come in disguise.
The Sannyasi said: "I am Ravaneshwara. All the three worlds shudder at the mention of my name.
I have never seen a more beautiful woman like you. Come and be my queen and lead a happy life."
Sitadevi, hearing these words, was see thing with anger and said: "You wretched man! I am the wife of lionhearted Rama. If you touch me, you will be touching fire!"
In spite of her entreaties, Ravana would not relent. He carried her to his chariot even as she was denouncing him and praying for her protection.
Jatayu, who was sleeping atop a tree, was awakened by Sita's cries. He immediately jumped forward and attacked Ravana's chariot, killed the driver and damaged it considerably.
Enraged, Ravana lashed at Jatayu and cut off his wings. Sita was saddened to see Jatayu fall to the ground mortally wounded. Carrying Sita, Ravana flew away in the skies towards Lanka.
As soon as Rama heard Mareecha's cries, he felt that something was wrong. He hurriedly retreated and met Lakshmana on the way back. Rama's suspicions grew and sensing something bad, asked Lakshmana: "Brother, What is this? Why did you come?
What about Sita's welfare? What could happen to her by the time we get back to our place? May we see her again alive?"
They rushed to the hermitage and Rama cried out: "Devi, Janaki, where are you?" There was no answer. The ashram was empty. Rama searched around to no avail. He wandered uttering Sita's name all over the place. "0 trees, birds, animals, can't you tell me about Sita's whereabouts?" At one spot Rama found a bunch of flowers Sita had worn. Nearby lay Jatayu, injured and in agony. It seemed as if the bird was struggling to keep alive only to inform Sri Rama about the abduction of Sita. It said: "Raghurama, Ravana, the king of Lanka, has abducted Sitadevi. I fought him to protect her but he beat me." With these words, the bird died.
Rama and Lakshmana, full of grief, conducted the last rites of Jatayu in accordance with the tradition.
Ravana brought Sita to Lanka. He showed her his palace and riches. He showed her his rakshasas army. He told her: "Look here, Rama cannot come here. Forget him. There is no one more heroic and rich than I am. Become my queen and lead a happy life."
Sita did not want even to talk to him. She held a blade of grass before her and looking at it said: "Ravana, you have carried me to this place stealthily when Rama was not present. If he was there at that time, you would have been destroyed. It looks as if your life is now ended."
Ravana was enraged. He kept her in the Ashokavana garden and engaged demonizes to guard her.
Rama and Lakshmana proceeded in search of Sita. Wandering all around, they arrived at Rishyamooka hill. Sighting them from atop the hill, Sugriva, a king of the monkeys, sent his minister Anjaneya (Hanuman) to meet them and bring them to him.
His elder brother Vali, who also kept Sugriva’s wife for himself, had deported Sugriva from his land. Sugriva narrated his woes to Rama and sought his help. In turn, Rama told him about his own sorrow. Both pledged to help each other. They declare their friendship in front of the Fire God Agni (sacred fire).
Rama killed Vali and installed Sugriva on the throne.
Sugriva sent his soldiers to all corners of the country to search for Sita. Rama called Anjaneya (Hanuman) and told him: "Dear son of Vayu wind, I feel that you will succeed in your mission. You are the only one able to reach Lanka. Go forth and meet Sita. Tell her about our welfare. As a sign of recognition, give her this ring." He blessed and sent him away.
The armies of ‘vanaras' (monkeys and bears) reached the seashore. They thought to themselves, How to cross the vast sea? One has only to fly. Who is capable of it. They all agreed that only Hanuman possessed the prowess to undertake the task. Thus, Anjaneya embarked on his voyage of a distance of 100 yojanas with the speed of wind and reached Lanka he went to Ravana's palace, searched around and found Sita at Ashokavana.
Sita sat under a Shimshupa tree. Pale and weary-looking, and wearing a worn-out saree, she was sitting there on the floor crying. She was pining: "0 Ramachandra! Can't you see my plight? Can I be so lucky as to see you again?" Ugly looking demonesses around pressed on: "Forget Rama. Marry the heroic, wealthy Ravana. If you please him, you can lead a life of luxury. If you refuse, you will be finished." But Sita sternly told them: I will never think of another man even in my dreams. "Rich or Poor, My Life is Only with Rama"
I would not touch another being even with my left foot."
Sitting on the branches of a nearby tree, Anjaneya saw all and heard these words.
In the morning, Ravana accompanied by his harem came there. Ravana said: "Sita, why you are suffering like this without good food and clothing? I am the king of the three worlds. My palace, riches, opulence – everything will be yours. Come to the palace. One does not know whether Rama, living in the jungle like a hermit, is alive or dead. Forget him."
Addressing the blade of grass before her, Sita said: "I am Rama's wife. Whether he is rich or poor, my place is with Rama and nowhere else. I do not even want to look at you. By bringing me here, you are ruining yourself and your family."
Though Ravana continued to persuade Sita, he was insulted by her as a coward and evil man. He was angered and dashed forward with fury saying he would kill her. He was held back by one of his wives Dhanyamalini. He told Sita: "I will give you two months time. If you do not change your mind, I will kill you!" So saying, he went away.
After he left, the demonesses began to harass Sita who was now thinking of almost ending her life, before these devils devoured her. An old demoness Trijata checked her associates and told them about a bad dream she had: "Do not harass Sita. She is the purest wife. Lanka is now faced with great danger. Ask her pardon." Then, they left off harassing her.
Hanuman came down from the treetop and stood before Sita singing the praise of Rama.
Sita, surprised, feared that this too might be a ruse of Ravana. But Hanuman assured her and revealed his real self. He gave her the ring given by Rama as a sign of recognition and told her about the welfare of the brothers. Sita felt relieved. She reverently touched her eyes with the ring. She explained her experiences to him and said: "If Rama does not come within two months, my life will be finished. Tell Rama to come soon and save me."
Hanuman said: "0 Mother, why should we wait that long? I can carry you on my shoulders and fly to Rama now itself." But Sita did not agree and said: "Anjaneya, it is Rama's duty. That duty should not be interfered with. I will suffer all the hardships here till he comes. Give this to him as a sign of recognition." So saying, she gave Hanuman a Chudamani (crest-jewel) she was wearing and blessed him. Anjaneya returned.
Then, Rama, accompanied by the army the monkeys, immediately proceeded towards Lanka. A bridge was built across the sea.
The armies of Rama and Ravana fought a fierce battle. Ravana was also a man of extraordinary prowess. His sons Indrajit, younger brother Kumbhakarna, commander Prahasta, were all great warriors and fought determinedly. However, Ravana's army was at last defeated, after the fall of Indrajit, Kumbhakarna and many others who died in the battle. Still, Ravana would not relent. Finally, he faced Rama directly. It was a long fight, ending in the death of Ravana. Rama installed Vibhishana, a younger brother of Ravana, as the king of Lanka. After that, at Rama's asking, Vibhishana brought Sita to Rama.
Mother Sita had spent all her days in worshipping Rama in her mind. She had patiently withstood Ravana's insults and threats, the how lings of the demonesses and other humiliations. She waited long for Rama to come, conquer Ravana and free her.
Rama won the battle and Ravana died but happiness eluded Sita.
Vibhishana brought Sita in a palanquin.Armies of Sugriva and Vibhishana stood in attendance. Sitadevi stepped down and going to Rama, exclaimed: "Aryaputra!" She was so overcome with emotion that words failed her.
Rama told Sita: "Good woman, you are now freed. As a matter of my duty I came to rescue you. It is not because of my passion towards you. You have been with the rakshasas for a year. I cannot accept you as my wife as before. You are now free. Go anywhere you like and live."
Rama's forest sojourn ended by then. He and others reached Ayodhya flying in ‘Pushpaka-vimana'. Bharata and the citizens accorded a grand welcome to Rama. Everybody was filled with happiness. All were talking about Sita. Already, preparations for Rama's coronation were complete. He was ceremonially crowned the king.
The Fire Ordeal.
Can such a kind-hearted soul as Rama speak so cruelly? Sita could not believe her ears. "This is a great test for me. All right. If my husband rejects me, why should I live? I will sacrifice this body- to Agni" -she decided and asked Lakshmana to prepare a fire.
Lakshmana became furious and stared at Rama. Sugriva and others stood shocked. Rama stood like a rock. With tears in his eyes, Lakshmana prepared the fire.
Sita bowed to her husband and prayed: "0 Fire God Agni, if I am pure, unsullied and faithful to my husband, protect me." So saying, she walked into the flames. All were shocked and the women present wailed.
But the fire subsided. God Agni stepped out carrying Sita. He told Rama: "She is absolutely pure. How can you suspect her?
Here, accept this pure and fine woman."
Bugles blew, flowers were showered on them. Rama then said, "I know Sita is pure. Still, I had to do this so that people should
not say something bad later." He gladly welcomed Sita.
On occassion Lord Rama dressed himself like an ordinary person and began wandering within Ayodhya to understand what impression the citizens had of Him. By chance one night Rama heard a man talking to his wife who had gone to another man's house. In the course of rebuking his wife, the man spoke detrimentally about the character of Sita devi, saying that he (the husband) is not like Rama who allows his wife to come back after staying at another's house. Rama immediately returned home, and fearing such rumours, he externally decided to give up the company of Sita devi. He sent her away to the 'ashrama' of Valmiki Muni. Sita, who was pregnant at the time, later gave birth to twin sons named Lava and Kusa.
Lord Rama continued to perform many sacrifices during his ruling Ayodhya. At one such sacrifice, some fifteen years later, two boys came into the arena of the sacrifice while Rama was sitting on his 'asana'. Valmiki had taught the boys the whole poem of the Ramayana and had put the story to a very beautiful and melodious 'swara', tune. Valmiki, accompanying the two boys, asked Rama's permission so the boys could recite his poem. Rama gave permission, and the boys commenced in perfect unison.
Sri Ramacandra Bhagavan was deeply stirred by the depth of the knowledge of him and his pastime. Night after night the recital continued until it came to Sita's abandonment to Valmiki's 'ashrama'. Rama was then convinced they were his very own sons born to Mother Sita. He sent word to Valmiki that he should come with Sita and vouch for her purity and faithfulness. If Sita was willing to come before the assembly and give proof of her innocence, she could resume her rightful place at her Lord's side.
Everyone agreed and the next day Srimati Sitadevi came. Everyone was touched at the sight of her, her head and eyes downcast, tears running down her beautiful face, her long hair chastely adorning her back.
iyam dasarathe sita suvrata dharmacarini
apapa te oparityakta mamasramasamipatah
lakopavadabhitasya tava rama mahavarata
pratyayam dasyate sita tamanujnatumarhasi
Valmiki Muni respectfully approached Sri Rama saying, "O son of Dasaratha, here is your wife Sita. She has been staying in my 'ashrama' since you abandoned her, performing austerities. She is completely without blame and is pure and innocent. Due to your position as King you played the part that you feared public opinion may be detrimental for you, and so you have also performed severe austerities. However, it is now proper that your impeccable wife be allowed to prove her own innocence." (Valmiki Ramayana Uttara Khanda 7:87:14-15.)
Sita stood in silence, her eyes transfixed on the ground without blinking. With folded hands she said, "If Rama has always been foremost in my heart, then may my Mother Earth (Bhumi) herself deliver me. If I have been only true to him, wholly, mind, body and soul, then may my Mother Earth deliver me. If I have loved none but him, then let my Mother Earth deliver me."
As she spoke, the earth rumbled, shook and cracked open where Sita stood. Srimati Bhumi devi (Mother Earth personified) then appeared, seated on a throne of incredible natural earthly opulence, surrounded by 'nagas' (snakes), and she invited Sita to take her seat along side her.
Sita, entrusting her children to Valmiki, ascended the throne supported by 'nagas' adorned with fiery eyes and jewels on their heads. There, seated besides her mother, Bhumi and Sita disappeared from sight. The earth closed up leaving not even so much as a furrow on the surface as thought nothing had happened.
Sripad Madhwacarya's Mahabharata Tatparaynirnaya 9:40., he relates,
pravisya bhumau sa devi loke drstyanusaratah
reme ramenavi yukta bhaskarena prabha yatha
"That beautiful Sita devi seemingly entered into the earth though actually she always remains with Lord Rama, just as the sun's rays are always with the sun."
Remembering Sri Rama, true to his vow of 'ekapatni', never accepted another woman other than Sita. Next to him on his 'asana' he kept a golden deity of Sitadevi for some time, performing sacrifices for thirteen thousand years.
At the end of this period, Agastya Muni and many demigods and sages approached the Lord and reminded him that his pastimes on earth had now been fulfilled and he should now return to Vaikuntha. Lord Rama performed 'acaman', sipping water and reciting 'mantras', once, twice, thrice, then he resumed his form of Visnu, for it is from that seat of Visnu that his pastimes became manifest.
"Lord Ramacandra returned to his abode, to which 'bhakti yogis' are promoted. This is the place to which all the inhabitants of Ayodhya went after they served the Lord in his manifest pastimes by offering him obeisance's, touching his lotus feet, fully observing him as a father like king, sitting or lying down with him like equals, or even just accompanying him."(Srimad Bhagavatam 9:11:22.)
Let us offer our humble prayers to Rama and Sitadevi, path breakers of the world.
Note: Special thanks to Jaya Tirtha Caran prabhu from NZ for allowing us to use some of the content from his site to compile these pages.