Author’s Notes: In the final story of the Ramayana, Rama finally frees his kidnapped wife Sita, but refuses to accept her out of fear that she was impure. I wanted to give a voice to Rama because when I read the story I felt angry towards him. How could he deny this woman just because she was captured. It was not her choice. There must be a reason behind his coldness. So I decided to give him a reason and change up the story a bit. I realized it would turn into a longer story so I decided to only do half and give insight to Rama’s “deal with the devil” (or more like “deal with the fire god”) today and then return to the ending of the episode on another day.
Sealing His Fate
He saw her standing there in her yellow silk sari and his eyes flooded with tears. He quickly blinked, trying to rid himself of the weakness. He had to stay strong. This was always part of the plan. It was his curse and there was no ridding himself of the devil on his back until the episode was complete. He must deny her; it was time.
Sati noticed Rama and she began running toward him. How could he follow through? Her hair flew behind her in the wind, her sari pressed flat against her beautiful body as she ran to him. His wife, his beautiful wife…she retained her beauty through her captive stay. She flung herself in his arms and he stood still, pressing his hands to his thighs to make sure his body would not contradict his resolution. He stood firm. Sati cried and held on sinking to his feet beyond elated to see her hero; her husband. Rama looked ahead stoned face, blinking back weakness and recalling his decision years ago.
Rama was six years old playing in the Gardens with Lakshmana. They were running around and hiding behind or within anything they could find. It was an exceptionally hot day and Rama remembers running over to the pond hoping to cup some fresh water in his hands before Lakshmana found him. As he bent over to dip his fingers in the cool blue water, he noticed a figure standing behind him in the reflection of the pond. Rama, startled, spun around and nearly fell into the fresh water behind him, but then shortly relaxed afterward as he saw it was just a kind older woman.
“Hello, child. May I share the pond with you? It is very hot and I cannot imagine walking farther,” the woman walks closer. Rama was not scared, but merely curious, so he stumbled to the side and took water for himself beside her. As they drank the woman turned and said, “I see great things in your future child. Your eyes show power and strength, great strength. You will do miraculous things one day, things the gods themselves cannot do.”
Rama’s eyes grew big. What did she mean? How does she see my future? He slowly sputtered out, “What will I do?”
The woman smiled, “You are a special child; a chosen one. You have been chosen to act on behalf of the gods and rid the world of evil. Soon you will receive your mission but just know, you have great things ahead of you. But there will be death and fire, you will lose…”
“Lose? Why would I be called by the gods only to lose?” Rama now felt this woman was crazy, and began to turn and leave when she quietly said, “Look within yourself, you are a smart child. Why would the god’s want you to survive if you help them do something they cannot do themselves? You would then be a threat to them and they could not let you live.” Rama stopped. In his heart, he knew she was telling the truth. He felt a pull deep within to believe her and listen to her. He turned, “And how shall I win? Am I destined for greatness only to lose my life?”
The woman smiled, “Dear child, I said you would lose, but that does not have to mean losing your life. There is another option.”
Rama leaned in, “Yes! What is the other option?”
“You must lose your first love in order to win the gods’ favor and save your life. The fire god, Agni, survives by people’s sacrifice. If your first love does not give herself to Agni, Agni will come for you. If you try to get in the way, not only will your first love die, but what you accomplished will fall apart and you must fight the evil for the rest of your life, never fulfilling your destiny.”
Rama laughed, “Well of course I will give Agni my first love! I will do as you say if you promise I will defeat evil and save my life.” Rama thought to himself, foolish woman, I do not know any girls but my sister, how will I ever find time for love with such a calling from the gods?
“Of course dear boy. From now on, your decision is binding and you will be victorious.” Then the woman’s sweet smile turned and twisted. Rama’s peace turned to fear as the woman burst into flames and disappeared. Agni. Rama just made a deal with the god of fire herself.
Rama quickly wiped the tear from the corner of his eye and hardened his face, sealing his lips in a line. How could he give her up? He cursed Agni for tricking him at such a young and innocent age, but then he stopped and cursed himself for ever letting himself be fooled, no matter how young he was.
Sati stopped and sunk to his feet. “Oh Rama, I missed you so. I love you and I will praise you forever for rescuing me. Thank you, love. We can now start our lives together again. Oh Rama thank you!”
Rama stepped back, removing himself from her grasp. “Sita. I… I cannot be with you. I’m sorry. Please go from here. Your trials are not over. I realize now that you are my first and only true love. But I’ve made a mistake. You must leave.” Rama tried to warn her. He wanted to save her from her death, not knowing how Agni would take her. But then Sita did something no one was expecting.
“You think I am impure? Rama I have wasted away my time here, saving myself for you. I have done nothing to dishonor you. I have only prayed for your return and longed for your love. What must I do to prove my devotion?”
Rama was shocked. He was not trying to second-guess her purity. He knew she loved him and was devoted to him. That’s how he knew she was his true love and why he must leave her. Him admitting that she was the one meant Agni would sure come and take her away!
Then Sita began to call to the gods, “Oh gods! Please have mercy on me! Let me be with the one I love. Prove me to be pure and righteous. Agni, oh god of fire. Purify me before my love so that he may accept me.”
“Noooo!” Rama yelled. Not Agni. Sita called for her death without even knowing! “Sita, please no! Not…” but before Rama could finish, flames grew high between them; they soared to the heavens. Sita slowly walked forward. Rama saw Agni’s face in the flames, smiling with mouth wide open, hungry for Sita. In that moment, Rama wished he were never victorious. Dying himself would have been better than watching his love die in front of him.
Slowly Sita walked forward. One foot ahead of the other. She closed her eyes and spread her arms wide, giving herself to the fire. “Purify me, Agni, for you are the most high. You will prove my honesty and show the world I am true.”
Agni stopped and listened to the girl. She was worshipping her, praising her for her might. Agni was shocked. Of all the gods, Sita called upon her to prove her worth. Agni was honored. How could she kill one of her beloved and faithful followers. Agni was taken by Sita’s innocent charm and child-like devotion and chose to let her live.
Sita walked. One foot in the flame; the other foot in the flame. Her body became enveloped. She kept walking. Flames consumed her but she did not burn. She kept walking. Rama stood, eyes wide open, in awe of the woman he loved. She was strong, fearless, and walking through flames untouched.
Sita crossed the fire and stood unharmed in front of Rama. The fire behind her diminished, leaving behind clear smoke. Rama saw Agni’s face, approving of the lovers. Agni nodded to Rama and mouthed, “You are free.”
Rama cried out and clasped on to Sita. They wept in each other’s arms. “Oh Sita, my love. I will cherish you always. Thank you my love, for you are honorable and true. You are my life now. The gods approve of our union and I will honor it for the rest of my life. We are free.”