Next in the line of rejected princesses: Sita, from the Ramayana.
For those unfamiliar with the Ramayana, you should seriously read it, it’s incredible, but here’s a cliffs notes version: for 90% of the book, it’s basically Mario/Princess/Bowser by way of Tarantino. Bad guy (Ravana) kidnaps princess (Sita), good guy (Rama) goes on bloody rampage for years in order to get her back. Kills Ravana, gets back the princess, yay for everyone.
But then there’s that last 10% of the book.
About 5 pages after they get back, cut to Rama talking to his advisors.
"Advisors," he says, "what are the people saying about me?"
"Oh man, Rama, they totally love you. Way to rock it with killing that demon guy."
"Wait, EVERYONE loves me? No way. There’s gotta be SOMEONE who’s not on board."
"Well, I mean, there’s some knucklehead…"
"Well, what’s the knucklehead saying?"
"He’s saying that Sita totally hooked up with the bad guy, but, I mean, he’s a knucklehead."
"Wait, what? People are saying that? Oh crap. Hey Sita! Baby, I’m sorry, I can’t be seen with you. Some guy is saying you hooked up with Ravana. Now, I know you’ve passed like, my hundred other purity tests, but still. You should go live in the forest for the rest of your life."
She then goes into exile - pregnant with their kids.
Cut to many years later, Rama’s having a festival, and some awesome guys show up. They wow everyone, and Rama’s like, “oh hey, who are YOU guys? You’re awesome!” They’re like, “SURPRISE! We’re your kids! Also, Sita’s alive and in the forest.”
Rama: “Oh snap! Yeah, that whole thing with Sita was totally my bad. Hey, can we get her in here? I got some smoothing over to do.”
Sita shows up, and is like, “no, guys, it’s cool! Hey, I’ll settle this once and for all. Everyone listening? Okay, so if I did NOT hook up with the demon guy, may the earth swallow me whole.”
Bam, lava, the end.
Now, that’s the overview, but if you go in depth, there’s more at play here:
- In some versions, Sita was Ravana’s daughter in a previous life, and was reincarnated as Sita in part to help purge him of evil (he was a pretty nasty dude).
- While Sita is generally described as the world’s most beautiful human, she was actually fairly supernatural — her birth basically involved her springing up out of the ground, with her later brought up as a princess. Thus when she jumps into the ground at the end, it’s kind of a return to her roots (no pun intended). She was also a reincarnation of Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty/wealth/love, while Rama was a reincarnation of Vishnu.
- Even all that taken into account, I still hold my reading of “I’d rather jump into a pit of lava than be with you” is a valid one. Your mileage may vary.
- Ravana’s kidnapping plot all began when Ravana’s sister, a demon named Shurpankha, hit on Rama’s brother — who promptly cut off her nose in return (come on dude, you could have just said “no.”). Shurpankha then tells Ravana, who first swears revenge. She goes on to tell him about Sita and how attractive she is, and Ravana gets ideas. Gross ideas.
…and it goes on. The version of the Ramayana that I read was around 600 pages long, so there’s a lot in there. Seriously, read it, it is utterly metal. Characters turn it from night to day by piercing the sky with arrows, one of the bad guys has a chariot pulled by snakes, and a monkey leaps across the Indian subcontinent while carrying a mountain on its back. In parts it reads like a Hindu Dragon Ball Z. What more could you want?
[thanks to Varun Rama and Shubha Ashok for holding my feet to the flame and insisting I don’t gloss over the details!]
If you’d like to see an animated version of Sita’s life, you’re in luck — there is an independent short movie called Sita Sings the Blues that is available to watch for FREE online. You should go check it out, it’s pretty great. [thanks to the 10,000 people who emailed to remind me of this]
- That’s Rama in the back, doing his best “what I’d do, baby?” face.
- Sita is doing a traditional Bollywood-style pose, except her upper hand is flicking Rama off.
- The palace architecture is loosely based off of designs from some Indian palaces, but to be honest, I am not satisfied with it.
I created a “flashcard carrying bag” for no reason other than my brain needed a break and I got carried away with the paint pen. #studystudystudy
Waking up early (voluntarily but mandatory for class) this morning to hike around all sweaty in thickets was hard and getting a dirt shower was terrible, but it paid off when I added my bag to the dumpster :) #cleanandgreenteam #bonusworkout