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The story of Sita begins and ends with the earth. Discovered by King Janaka as he plowed a field during a royal ritual, her origins are mired in mystery. In some versions of the epic, she is the ruler’s natural daughter; in others, her father is actually Ravana, the very man who would later abduct her, and who serves as the anti-hero of the Ramayana. But she is, either way, the earth personified—hence her other name, Bhumija. And like the earth, she must bear a heavy weight and endure a great deal in patience. Unlike Draupadi, who did not hesitate to speak her mind with the sharpest words, and unlike Ahalya, who broke rules and paid for them, Sita is more stoic. She suffers, but not because she has transgressed; her suffering is due to the fact that the rules are themselves not just to her. Unlike her sister Kanyas, Sita is also not involved with any man but Rama, her husband—yes, Ravana seizes her, and Rama likens her to a defiled ritual offering, but her fidelity is proven. And yet, despite the fact that she did her duty as best as she could, she too found the odds stacked against her—so in the end, she returns to the earth’s embrace, abandoning a life of forbearance for eternal peace. In this painting, we see Sita in the Asoka Grove, after her abduction by Ravana. The haze in the background represents her heavy mind and heart—the inner world of a Sita at the very edge of her fortitude.

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