Amma, can I become Sita when I grow up?

It was during the summer of 2010, that my Visual Communications class embarked upon an assignment that involved choosing a role model and presenting him/her to the class. I chose mother Sita.

At age 15, I didn’t really think too much about the fact that I was choosing to present a Goddess as my role model to a society that is largely secular. I guess I could have picked someone that my teacher or classmates had actually heard of before, but Sita was my idol and I really wanted to share my admiration of her with everyone. It’s quite amazing that my teacher, a born and bred Australian, approved my choice of Indian Goddess because “she embodied virtue and chastity”. She patiently listened to my account of agnipariksha*, pativrata* and of course the Purushottama* himself, Lord Rama! And so it was, that the classroom of an Australian high school learnt about the greatness of Sita.

It’s hard for me to pin-point what it is, exactly, about Sita that I love. As a four year old, I was attracted to the way I saw her depicted in cartoons. I loved her waist-long hair and the demure way in which she carried herself. As a teenager, I admired her immensely because to me, she represented the glory of womanhood in its entirety. She was one of a kind, someone I would not be able to meet off the street. Indeed, in this day and age, it is very easy to forget the grandeur that womanhood entails.

For instance, do we know that the scriptures extol women as the embodiments of seven holy qualities (sathya (truth), prema (love), dharma (righteousness), shanthi (peace), sahana (tolerance), ananda (bliss), svanubhuti (spirituality), while our male counterparts have only three? As I listen to reports about the ill-treatment of women in India, I wonder how the inhabitants of such a sacred land have forgotten the pedestal upon which women are placed in our culture. Indian history has been filled with great women scholars and women of noble character. Did King Janaka not choose Gargi to confer honour onto him over many great men and sages of esteemed standing? Was India not the home of Savitri, Maitreyi and Chandramathi, who were all paragons of virtue and chastity despite the challenging circumstances they were placed in? Clearly, women have been endowed with strength to achieve great heights in whichever field they choose to pursue.

Of course, we have also been endowed with the great gift of motherhood. The lap of a woman is the first classroom of mankind. Whether we realise it or not, we play a crucial role in the formation of generations to come. We are responsible for instilling high ideals in our children and have the incredible ability to mould them into bright and virtuous members of society. In this way, we are not merely makers of the home, but the nation and  world at large.

As I thought about what I wanted to put into my Sita presentation, I realised that what I loved about her was a combination of so many things. I loved the fact that she exemplified the “simple living, high thinking” construct. I loved the fact that she stood up for what she believed in. I loved the fact that her grandeur was attributed to moral fibre and not the clothes she wore. Above all, I loved the fact that what made her so beautiful was the purity of her thought, word and deed. She represented good character and that to me, is worth more than all the things in the world put together.

It is so easy to be talented and intelligent, so easy to acquire material wealth. But, safeguarding one’s character, is not so easy. And that is why, thousands of years after Sita’s sojourn on earth ended, we are still talking about her. We belong to the lineage of women of great character and I think we owe it to ourselves to at least try and live up to our ancestry. And really, why not? We have nothing to lose! Being a modern day Sita would be pretty awesome…

Who were your role models as a child? Leave a comment down below!

Glossary: agnipariksha( a test of chastity where the purity of Sita allowed her to emerge from a blazing fire unscathed), pativrata (chaste wife), purushotthama(ideal man).

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences and interactions with friends. Happy reading! – Divya