The Ramayana depicts Rama to be the ideal man. A man of his calibre, therefore, could only be matched with an ideal woman. Sita, the other central character in one of India’s greatest literary epics, was the embodiment of perfection—as a woman, daughter and wife. But her life was far from easy. She was an orphan, who had the good fortune to be adopted by King Janaka. While she lived a life of great wealth, she also experienced utter poverty. She was kidnapped and imprisoned, and forced to defend her honour. Did that make her a victim? Far from, for Sita proved her mettle time and again until the end, when she returned to the Earth from where she first arose.
Sita met Rama early in her life. She chose him in a Swayamvara, which is an ancient practice in which a woman chooses her husband from a group of suitors. Rama won a woman of Sita’s calibre only when he passed an impossible test—to lift and string the bow of Shiva. Many of Sita’s potential suitors tried their luck and failed. When it was Rama’s turn, he lifted the bow with ease. Sita knew at that moment that she had met her match.
After marriage, the young royal couple was thrown into a life of strife and poverty. Rama’s step-mother Queen Kaikeyi, manipulated his father King Dashrath into banishing the heir to a life of exile in the forest. Sita uncomplainingly followed her husband into exile without fear. Her loyalty to her new life was tested once more, when the demon king Ravana, motivated by his desire for Sita, tricked and abducted her from the forest and took her to Lanka. Sita showed enormous courage throughout her abduction, convinced that this too would pass, and Rama would rescue her eventually. Her unwavering belief in her husband was reciprocated by Rama when he fought and killed Ravana, brought Sita back to Ayodhya and made her his queen.
Even though material comforts and prosperity were back in Sita’s life, her suffering was far from over. Her purity during her time as Ravana’s prisoner came into question. Sita’s impartial husband asked his wife to prove her naysayers wrong. She chose to voluntarily enter a fire, which she proclaimed would burn her if she was in the wrong. But she walked out unscathed, with her soul and honour intact. A stoic Sita took on this new challenge with as much strength and bravery as she had shown previously and passed the test.
Despite growing up in a royal household, Sita, much like her husband, never allowed her material wealth to confine or define her. Her stoicism through the toughest trials and tribulations are an important lesson in the art of living a successful life that remained undefeated till the end.