The Ramayana main character Prince Rama standing with an arrow quiver on his back and holding a bow

The Ramayana

by Vālmīki

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Can Sita from The Ramayana by Valmiki be a role model for modern women?

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In my mind, there is little doubt that Sita devi can serve as a role model to modern women.

Sita devi can serve as a role model to modern women in a variety of ways. The first way is through her independent spirit.  She is fiercely independent and unwilling to bend her will to any external force.  Her father, King Janaka of Mithila, instructed her to affirm self-respect and not acquiesce to anything beneath her dignity.  As she matured, Sita devi took these lessons to heart. She chose to serve Lord Rama because she loves him.  Such displays of independence make her a role model to women and men. She is able to show how freedom means being able to strike a balance between one's voice and showing care for another.  In the modern setting, there is a belief that independence means being non-negotiable when it comes to one's voice.  To be free means rejecting anything and anyone else that might be limiting.  Sita devi demonstrates how individuals can possess their own voice even when combining it with another person's.  When Sita devi serves Lord Rama, it is not because he silences or compels her.  It is because both of them know that they are stronger when their voices combine.  They draw strength from one other.  Sita's insight into this relationship dynamic is something that modern audiences can appreciate. 

Sita devi's devotion is sometimes misread as weakness. It is important to challenge this with evidence from The Ramayana.  As much as she loves Lord Rama, she is fiercely independent when it comes to rebuking Ravana. Even though the conditions in Lanka would test the resolve of anyone, Sita does not relent.  This is another area where Sita devi can be a role model to women and men.  Ravana offers her luxury and wealth.  He offers her royal status if she consents to marry him.  All she has to do is simply nod her head and she would find herself set for life.  Yet, Sita remains defiant.  She suffers greatly for her defiance.  Banished to the Ashoka grove, she has to deal with the terror of the demons that do Ravana's bidding.  While Sita is weary, her resolve does not waver. Even when Hanuman comes to rescue her, saying that he will take her to Lord Rama, Sita devi insists that she will not touch another man.  While she knows this means she will suffer more indignities, she tells Hanuman that she will only go home with Lord Rama.  

Sita devi does not sacrifice her word for anything.  She refuses to compromise her virtue for convenience.  Sita reminds the modern audience that one has to stand for something.  Convictions help us endure difficult times. Sita is a role model because she proves that convictions matter most when times are the most trying.  In the modern setting, we are besieged with opportunities to maximize our comfort at the cost of beliefs.  Sita devi reminds us that when we lack convictions, we are no different than the beasts and demons of Ravana's Lanka.  Through her example, Sita devi tells us that we must stand for something if we wish to be something.  She would be a role model for women and men because she is a constant reminder that we must be above putting a price on ourselves.  Ravana believes he can woo Sita and win her over because he thinks she has a price.  His downfall proves that Sita's virtue and independence was so fierce that even he could not match it.

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