THE story of Rama and Sita did not end with the rescue of Sita from the demon Ravana. Sita was soon pregnant after her return to Ayodhya and they would have lived in happiness and contentment had not been Rama suddenly stricken with doubts about Sita’s fidelity during her time in Ravana’s kingdom.
One day as Rama was walking through the streets of Ayodhya, he saw a man turning his wife out as he suspected her of being unfaithful. The woman defended herself by saying, ‘I only visited the house of a relative. What is so scandalous about that?’ Then she added ironically, ‘I suppose you think you are better than King Rama, with even stricter moral standards.’ A thoughtful Rama returned home. After brooding for some time, with a cruelty that was quite uncharacteristic, he turned Sita out. Heavily pregnant, Sita reached the hermitage of Valmiki, the author of Ramayana. The other sages were highly suspicious of her; they thought she must have been defiled by Ravana as she had been abandoned by Rama. They decided to leave; they were on the point of leaving when Sita implored them to stay on, saying she was pure and chaste and had never betrayed her husband. The sages then challenged her to a test. They asked her to go to a lake called Tithibhasaras, named after a chaste woman called Tithibi, whose husband had cast her out, suspecting her of being unfaithful. ‘Perhaps you should visit the lake and pray to Earth for a sign,’ they advised.
Sita agreed and went to the lake. She knelt by its shore and prayed to Earth, ‘O mother, let me walk into this water, drowning in the middle if I was ever unfaithful to my husband, and crossing it safely if I was true to him.’
And as she stepped out onto the water, Earth raised her miraculously from below, so she walked on its surface and reached its other side safe and sound. The sages were now left in no doubt of her chastity. They blessed her with the result that soon a son was born to her. Valmiki called him Lava, and Sita lived on in the hermitage, no longer a homeless and wandering woman.