By Suzanne MacNevin - February 15th 2012.
Its really early in the morning the night after Valentines... and I am reading poetry.
Not because I am lonely (although I am), but because THIS is a really kewl poem. And although this poem is about relationships, it has a strong feminist slant. Read and see why.
I added the artwork for fun since some of you will be expecting artwork...
So sayeth Valmiki...
In Ancient India, in times of old
In the land of Aydohya, lived Rama the Bold
Rama was the perfect son, living by the rules of Dharma
Ever dutiful and responsible, he was blessed with good Karma
Prince Rama was the oldest, but his stepmother was a schemer
She sought for her son Bharata, wanting him to be the next leader
Having saved the king from illness, she sought out the king for a favour
Anything sayeth the king, not knowing the price of her desire
"I wish for you to banish Rama, make Bharata your heir."
Nothing could have wounded the king more, for Rama was most fair
Bound by his word the King obeyed, disliking his wife's demand
Rama heard his father's edict, "I gladly obey father's command."
Rama was married to Sita, whose purity was like a lotus blossom
Sita begged to go with Rama, their two hearts beating like one drum
"As shadow to substance, so is wife to husband."
"Let me walk ahead of you, clear your passage through the land."
Rama agreed to his wife's request, taking her deep into the forest
His brother Lakshmana went too, making Rama's flight his quest
Bharata sought to deny the throne, forsaking his mother's grace
He placed Rama's sandals on the seat, acting as regent in Rama's place
Deep in the forests lived monks, but they were plagued by Rakshasa monsters
Rama's arrows were true, his aim was unsurpassed amongst archers
Wherever Rama went the demons died in hordes
His bow string hummed like a sitar with its chords
To the south on the island of Lanka was the demon king Ravana
An incredible wise man Ravana's ten heads was a match for Rama
He spied Sita and seized her while Rama was chasing a deer
Taking her back to Lanka Ravana had no worries or fear
Across the sea Ravana fled, Sita over his shoulder
Sita wept for Rama but was wiser than her kidnapper
From her arms and neck she dropped her bracelets and jewelry
Sayeth Sita: "Take me back to Rama, stop this foolery!"
Sayeth Ravana: "Sita, I will make you my wife."
"You will come to me willingly and I shall spare your life."
Sayeth Sita: "I love only Rama. I cannot love another."
"I belong to Rama like the ground belongs to the earth mother."
Sayeth Ravana: "Nonsense, what does Rama have that I do not?"
"I will have you for my wife Sita as surely as the sun is hot!"
Sayeth Sita: "Rama is powerful, you would be foolish not to run!"
"I belong to Rama like the rays belongs to the sun!"
In the forest Rama met the monkey king Hanuman
Together they searched for Sita and came up with a plan
Hanuman found Sita's jewelry on the shores of the sea
Across the water lay the island of Lanka and he knew where Sita must be
Hanuman went to Lanka and saw Sita in the garden
She had gracefully refused to enter Ravana's home or den
Ravana did not force her, he left her alone to her prayers
Hanuman went to her and tried to soothe her tears
Sayeth Hanuman: "Never fear dear Sita, Hanuman is here."
"Come with me back to Rama and we shall disappear!"
Sayeth Sita: "Ravana's demons are many, even now they come."
"You must run Hanuman, don't you hear their drum?!"
The Rakshasa demons seized Hanuman and set fire to his tail
But Hanuman leapt away, jumping on the palace wall and leaving a fiery trail
The Rakshasa demons chased him but Hanuman left only ruins in his wake
Ravana's palace was burned down and he swore at his demons for their mistake
Hanuman returned to Rama and told him where Sita was held
He told Rama everything he saw, touched and smelled
Rama called upon Hanuman to raise the monkey warriors
Hanuman did as he was bid, by the tens of scores
Rama and his monkey army built a causeway to Lanka
They toiled day and night to reach the island and Sita
When they arrived the monkeys slew all the Rakshasa demons
Rama himself slew Ravana and all of his sons
Sita wept with love, proud that her husband was so bold
But when he came near her he began acting cold
Sita professed her love and thanking him for his actions
She knew in her heart she would bear Rama's sons
Sayeth Rama: "You have stayed in another man's house."
"I have done my duty to rescue you but I cannot be your spouse."
Sayeth Sita: "If I had known this would happen I would have killed myself."
"Build me a funeral pyre so you may see my purity yourself."
Rama and Hanuman built a funeral pyre as they were commanded
Sita walked amongst the flames untouched, true to her marriage bed
Rama forgave her, his love and loyalty for her renewed
They flew back to Ayodhya in a Pushpaka with the end of their feud
Rama was crowned king, the happy couple began their reign
Everything was joyous again but Rama overheard one man complain
Sayeth the man to his wife: "Do you think I am like Rama?"
"You have slept with another man, I don't need your lies or drama."
Sayeth Sita: "Husband I have really great news."
"Our bed has been fruitful, someday your sons will fill your shoes."
Sayeth Rama: "I cannot keep you my dearest."
"My people don't respect me even though you passed the test."
Rama sent Sita away, craving the respect of his people
Sita went obediently, residing instead in a temple
She met there the poet Valmiki and told him her story
Her tale told of Rama in all his greatness and glory
Sita gave birth to two sons with eyes like Rama's
But Sita was still sad, remembering everything that once was
Valmiki helped to raise the two boys, teaching them songs of trust
"Rama is great, Rama is just, Rama does what Rama must."
One day Rama went for a stroll and heard the two boys singing
"My sons!" sayeth Rama. "You must come live in Ayodhya with your king."
But then Rama noticed Sita and realized she must come too
"Perhaps a trial by water, such a trick should not be too difficult for you."
Sayeth Sita: "I will prove my love to you dearest Rama."
"If I have always been true to you, from Lanka to Ayodhya."
"If I have always been the perfect bride to the perfect groom."
"Then may mother earth please take me back into her womb."
The poem itself was written by Toronto poet Charles Moffat, but I think the story gives a very strong feminist message. Sita gets sucked back into Mother Earth and Rama loses his perfect bride whom had been loyal to him all this time.
Just desserts in my opinion. He didn't deserve her. Rama was a jerk and only cared about his dharma (duty / honour).
The original story, the Ramayana, is a 26,000 couplet poem by the poet Valmiki. This version is much shorter and gives Sita more attention.
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