• Under the Raintree Festival

'Sita' by Alladi Jayasri

My love! Lord of my Universe! I ask you now, command Agni to be true to his nature, that he may show no me mercy. May the leaping tongues of the flames in this fire your brother has built, reduce me to ashes, for I wish no more to live.

How can I contemplate existence now? Do you remember that day in Ayodhya, when you returned from your father’s palace to bid me goodbye? Had I not begged and pleaded and sworn to die, for even swarga is hell when I cannot look into your eye and know how much I am loved? I would drink poison. I would jump into the fire and die, but I would never live a moment separated from my beloved.

Perhaps you now wish to see how deep that love is? No, it must be your love for me that is shallow. I have been blind. Where is the man who could command his brother to disfigure the dreadful Surpanakha, for the love of his life? Are you the valiant one who decimated fourteen thousand demons to protect me and save the Three Worlds?

The terrible Dashakanta lies dead in the battlefield, slain by your arrows, and you say you have set me free. What is this freedom you have won for me?

I know you well, but you my love, know me so little. In Ashokavana - how ironically it is named - for that has been nothing but a Garden of Sorrow for me, I was a prisoner. My mind and heart were free, like the birds twittering in the trees, like the Moon glowing softly in the night. In the whispers of the wind and the twitter of birds, I heard your lament, as you went demented, from tree to tree, hoping to find me. You implored the Godavari who flowed quiet and fearful, to tell you of my fate, and you threatened the Devas to return me to you, unharmed and unsullied – you would destroy the Universe for me!

I sat there now under the shimsupa, now in the shade of the asoka, through wind and rain and sunshine,, in a ring of the cruel rakshasis who tormented me relentlessly.

The Chudamani was my talisman. I looked at it all the time, and the memory of you fixing it in my hair was pure tonic for my heart which longed to be with you again.

When Hanuman came, with news of you, I exchanged my Chudamani for your signet ring, and my hopes rose again that I would soon be reunited with my beloved.

Did not the wind bring you news of me? Did the birds not come to perch on your shoulder and speak of my acute pangs of separation?

Has my tapasya been in vain? I know I am no Savitri whose persistence wearied down Yama himself. Have you forgotten that I am with you just as Suvarchala follow the Sun? Can Shachi be separated from Indra? Are not Arundhati and Vasishta eternally bound together in love? Are Rama and Sita unlike Rohini and Chandra, Sukanya and the blind Chyavana? Have I not learnt from Srimathi’s love for her husband Kapila? Was Saudasa, your ancestor, not saved from the wrath of Guru by his wife Madayanthi? And what can I say about Damayanthi, who called for her own swayamvara, in order to be reunited with her husband, Nala?

You are now going to be King. I see now that it is not my destiny to be your Queen. I am no longer the light of your eyes, or the love of your life. I am to live out the rest of my life without Rama. I cannot contemplate such a life.

You have uttered words that are not spoken by a noble man to anyone, let alone his wife. You have, indeed , done your duty as King. You have rescued a woman from the clutches of a wicked demon, and you rid the world of a great menace. Those who live in your kingdom are safe I understand now. It is of no consequence to you whether I live or die. You do not wish me to be a part of your life.

Fate plays cruel tricks on everyone! I have just stepped out of my prison of these past months, but I feel more a prisoner now than I was in that ring of rakshasis!

King! Indeed, I am a free woman today! You have released this body from all bonds, and I can do with it as I please!

My Lord, who always glances kindly upon the Universe, look at this fire built by your brother, blazing in greedy anticipation of offerings to the gods. Command Agni to glow and blaze brightly, and show me no kindness or tenderness, as I enter its scorching embrace, and burn this body I now despise into ashes.

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