Sita Devi and the Golden Deer
It is often a point of doubt, when one hears the divine story of Srimad Ramayana, the greatest epic of our land Bharat, written by the renowned sage Valmiki, as to why Mother Sita got attracted by the sight of the golden deer.
We are all familiar with the primary incidents that take place in Srimad Ramayana. Lord Vishnu, in His avatar of a mortal man named Rama, goes to the forests with His wife Sita, who is the avatar of Mother Lakshmi, and His younger brother Lakshmana who is the avatar of the eternal, serpent bed of Lord Vishnu, namely Adisesha. They take exile from the kingdom of Ayodhya into the forests, for maintaining the promises of Lord Rama’s father, King Dasaratha to the Queen Kaikeyi.
During their stay at Panchavati, a rakshasa woman named Surpanakha passes by their hut. Attracted to the Lord’s infinitely beautiful form, but not knowing who He is, Surpanakha tries to ensnare Him, using maya tactics. But Rama reveals her true nature and scolds her, and says that He is already married to Sita Devi. When Surpanakha attacks Sita, Lakshmana cuts off her nose and ears. Unable to tolerate all this, Surpanakha goes to her brother Ravana in Lanka, and provokes him to go and kidnap Sita, and take revenge on Rama.
The haughty and immoral Ravana, takes the help of his uncle, another rakshasa named Maricha, to change form as a golden deer and create a distraction at Rama’s residence in Panchavati. Maricha does so reluctantly, disguised as an extremely beautiful golden deer, the sight of which had never been seen before, or never will.
And that’s when, Mother Sita spots it. Thinking it to be an exotic deer, She asks Rama to fetch it. Despite Lakshmana’s repeated forebodings to both Rama and Sita, not to fall into the illusory trap of vile rakshasas who were experts in it, Rama and Sita decide that fetching the deer would be best. And Rama goes after it. Eventually, Lakshmana is also forced to go after Rama, when Sita hears Rama’s voice, signalling pain and discomfort, and worries whether something bad has befallen her husband.
And using this distraction, and the fact that the hut is deserted by the men, Ravana enters in the ruse of an innocent saint, before capturing Sita to take back to Lanka. While we also know how Sita was rescued by Rama and Lakshmana, many a times doubts are raised regarding this event.
It is necessary to understand that the complete and finer points of a great epic of such a magnitude of impact, can only be obtained by studying it under the benevolent grace of learned scholars. Here, I attempt only to share thoughts on this particular episode of the golden deer from what I have heard from the learned.
Why did Mother Sita desire for the golden deer? After all, She had so carelessly discarded years of luxurious life at Ayodhya’s palace, giving away all their riches, expensive clothes etc. She never loved anything more than Lord Rama, and was the most renowned pativrata. Why then, would She hanker for a golden deer, however beautiful it may look? And why would She use harsh words towards Lakshmana and force him to go after Rama, later on?
The incident doesn’t go with Her character, if we look at it superficially. Here, what we need to remember is that Sita Devi is the incarnation of the all-knowing Mother Lakshmi, the deity commonly equated with inexhaustible wealth and beauty Herself, who has come to the earth in the disguise of a human, to help Her husband Lord Vishnu in His avatar activities. Hence, Mother Sita was never lured by the golden deer, in reality. She knew what it was and who it was.
Then, what happened exactly? It was a drama within a drama, explains Prof K S Narayanacharya*. The act of getting attracted by the sight of the golden deer, and then, the act of shouting at Lakshmana and thereby forcing him to go, were all a drama, within the drama of acting like a human being…in order to set up a war with the evil Ravana and destroy him eventually.
But in the process, a very important truth was shown by Sita Devi; that if one pushes away the Lord(Bhagavan) and His devoted servants(Bhagavatas) from oneself, and instead hankered after something else in life, most unpleasant things were sure to follow, sooner or later.
Hence, let us all take this life lesson and remain close to the Lord in our hearts, and remember the greatness of Lord Rama and His consort Sita who sacrificed everything in order to save humanity.
* Prof. K S Narayanacharya is a renowned Vaishnavite Scholar and writer, who gives spiritual discourses in English and Kannada.
Sarvam Sri Krishnarpanamastu