Rescued by Rama from Lanka and rejected once again after her return to Ayodhya, Sita does not allow him or his praja to project upon her the stain of being unclean. Her heroism lies in the fact that she does not give them the power to do so. Rama’s response to the accusations of society about her behaviour no longer manages to contaminate her personality or affect her wellbeing.

Symbolically speaking, all Sita can do is retreat into silence and have compassion for Rama’s predicament, as she realises the society he represents is still conditioned by the old paradigm.

Exiled to Valmiki’s ashram, in order to bring up her sons as a single mother, Sita has a message that is central to the heroine’s journey. She has no choice but to seek relief in that safe space in order to strengthen and prepare for her healing.

Exile from the ruling status quo offers her a secure place that becomes her home, a place where her soul and spirit can unite. The solitude offers a space to unite the opposing forces and find her inner balance. She has time to reflect upon the polarities of the positive and the negative: grief and joy, fulfilment and disappointment, the oppressor and the victim, the conqueror and the conquered.

Without such a haven, Sita would be in constant danger of feeling rejected and victimised by the collective belief patterns. It provides her with a conscious constellation of energy, whereby she is no longer overwhelmed by the contents of someone else’s actions. Doubts about how the “world ought to be” gradually begin to dissipate and allow her to discern between what is conscious and unconscious about her own behaviour.

Having time away on her own, Sita is able to discern the cause of the constant disruption and distress. She takes responsibility for her suffering and begins to make positive choices and moves on, arriving at a moment of truth. She has reached the crossroads of her life, where she can no longer remain the victim of her circumstances.

She has been tested in the past, and has tried to prove her innocence and succeeded, and yet she was publicly humiliated and exiled. At that juncture, she had remained silent. But, when she is asked to prove her sanctity a second time, the sage Valmiki in whose ashram she has taken refuge, recognises and defends Sita as rightful mother of Lava and Kusa. She knows that her continued silence at this juncture in her life would imply consent to patriarchal patronage.

Sita learns through her life experiences, observing how patterns had evolved in the past. She is awake and conscious enough to no longer play the role of the silent suffering victim of circumstances – choices that others had made for her. Instead she chooses to become a witness of events.

In this detached state, she can introspectively examine what has worked for her and what has not. It is acquired wisdom; she has reached a transition point where she outgrows the roles that are no more life-affirming. She remains integral through every stage of her development, defending herself by being true to her inner ideal. She is not afraid of public opinion, unlike Rama, the ruling king, who is still dependent upon it.

Sita, at this point in her life had no choice but to pull inwards, like the Great Mother who like earth itself, is the womb and the tomb for all of life. But the force can never be destroyed, it is life force energy that has a potential for life and may lie there motionless, it can incubate, it is both death and yet new life waiting to be expressed. Time spent away helped her to see where her boundaries had been violated time and again.

She distanced herself in order to take the necessary action to find her inner balance. The stillness allowed her to hear the voice of the Great Mother – the wise woman archetype within, which from this moment onwards is the only voice she can obey. Though Sita did the right thing by refusing to justify herself publicly, the curse fell upon her, as Rama represented the collective principles of the civilisation, an indication that the Zeitgeist is ill.

Sita is symbolic of an archetype that is dimly seen or recognised in our society today. Having achieved a voice of her own, and a need for equal opportunities, does not mean that it translates into full equality and respectful relationships. In other words, the archetype of the “sacred feminine” is still culturally repressed. Patriarchy does not honour the feminine principle of relatedness; the values that foster care and protection that are equally available to all members of society – the young, old, poor, physically disadvantaged, or those disadvantaged by virtue of caste, creed and gender.

Excerpted with permission from The Emerging Feminine: Finding the Heroine Within, Rashna-Imhasly Gandhy, Yatra Books.