Abducted by Ravana, she is sitting by herself, when Sita is visited by Sati, consort to Mahadev. What happens next? Part 1 of a short story.
Which place is this? Why am I sitting here? Why no one is with me? All those people who I thought loved me.
I feel a sudden sense of panic when I find myself sitting under a large banyan tree. Alone. It’s dark but I’m able to recognize the tree because of its dangling roots and that thick large leaf that has just fallen on my lap.
The breeze is cold and crisp. Swaying shadows of trees and a vast solitude stretch before me. I look around. Everything is misty. The dense purple sky gives me a feeling that perhaps it is about to dawn. The thought of dawn brings hope. A tiny bright dot of hope. And right then, that bright glowing dot blinks in front of me. Like a lonely diya gleaming faraway, timidly. What’s that?
Suddenly, that dot starts to grow. Bigger. Larger. I feel a tight wedge in my throat that doesn’t allow me to swallow. My heart throbbing hard as if it’ll come out right this moment. I shuffle and search for some living creature. A silhouette of deer passes by, frolicking. That deer evokes a deep sense of loneliness in me. That Golden Deer! My heart sinks and mouth fills with bitterness as the realization dawns upon me.
That bright glow takes a human form and from that streaming light steps out a woman. Tall, beautiful radiant woman!
She is wearing a sparkling white sari which is swaying and brushing the ground smoothly as she approaches me, carrying the light with her in the form of faint halo. She has a coppery skin tone that is glowing exceptionally. Her big doe eyes are unusually black. Her long flowing hair undulates with her elegant gait.
She comes closer, and greets me joining her delicate hands. I reciprocate, awestruck and confused. She sits beside me; confidence and poise in her every movement. She turns towards me and raises an eyebrow artistically. I exhale, realizing that I have been holding my breath. Then, she looks towards the vast dark expanse.
“You know,” she starts. Her voice comes as an echo and melts into my ear. Sharp yet polite. Sweet yet firm. Assuring yet confronting. “…agony is inevitable. No matter how hard you try, misery will be thrown at you all the time.” She finishes and looks at me. Her eyes piercing as if reading my thoughts. Not just reading my thoughts but as if she knows everything about me. There is a tiny trident mark on her broad forehead.
“Who are you?” I am startled to hear my own voice. It comes out as a whisper.
“I am Sati.”
Mata Sati? I gasp! Am I that fortunate to meet her in person? I feel my agony melting away. I bow to greet her, joining my hands. She holds me affectionately, and smiles.
“Why do you talk about agony? You are fortunate to have Mahadev with you. To love you more than his own life. Never leaving you even when you were…”
“You are right.” Her eyes gleams. I am not sure if it’s pride or happiness or distress. “But, what you don’t know is that even Mahadev had abandoned me,” she says.
Mahadev who wandered with her body like a maniac, determined to destroy everything, such was the pain of losing Sati, abandoned her? Is she in a trance?
Devi Sati continues, “He abandoned me…mentally, at first. But I knew, that very moment that it was over.” She looks at me. Her tone is calm but her visage loses its glow for a moment. For a fleeting moment, but I noticed that.
“People think,” she says, “it was my sudden rage, kindled by the tremendous insult, when I consigned myself to the fire.” Her eyes seem to reflect those flames as she dwells in the past. “Nobody knew it was the consequence of the conflict I had created in the past.” She looks at me and says, “And, that conflict involves you.”
Involves me? My heart races faster as anxiety grips me. I shuffle, adjusting my sari unnecessarily.
“No,” Devi Sati raises her left hand. “Don’t take my words in a wrong way. It was entirely my mistake. And I suffered. Just like you are suffering because of your silly mistakes,” she says, crossing her long legs. She wraps her hands around her knees and looks at the silhouette of nature.
My mistakes. My mind runs back to the past. I try to count my mistakes. Yes. I have counted two when I hear Devi Sati sigh.
“You know, we accuse others and our destiny for the mishaps in our lives, fragile lives, but if we analyze closely, it’s mostly our own mistakes, ignorance,” she says. “I was a very curious and stubborn woman. I wanted proofs, reasons, tests; unable to trust easily.” She smiles wanly. “Devi Sita, mistrust makes you restless and provokes you to do something that shouldn’t be done,” she finishes.
Curiosity, tests, mistrust. All these terms seem familiar to me. I can feel a string of comfort developing between us. “But why do you say that Mahadev had abandoned you? This is hard to believe.”
Devi Sati sighs before speaking. “While on our occasional excursion on the earth, we met two men, roaming frantically in the forest. ‘Shree Ram!’ Mahadev said, his eyes reflecting happiness and reverence. Mahadev bowed in a respectful greeting.
‘Who could be this man who accepts a respectful bowing from none other than Lord Shiv?’ I thought.”
Devi Sati keeps going, “We learned that Shree Ram’s wife, you, Devi Sita, had been abducted by Raavan. My ever suspicious mind churned. I couldn’t contain my curiosity after we returned to Kailash.
‘Why would you bow, so reverently, before a simple helpless man?’ I asked.
Mahadev smiled, a knowing smile. “Because he is not just a simple helpless man. He is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu,” he said.
“If he is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, then why he is roaming around in the forest, so helplessly, in search of his wife? Doesn’t he know where Devi Sita is? Why can’t he just go and get her back from wicked Raavan?”
He nodded lightly. “Because right now he is in a mortal form, Sati. And, thus he would have to fight his destiny. He is bound to suffer, experience his share of struggles and agonies.”
“Is he really divine?” I was not convinced.
He looked at me. “Undisputedly!”
I pondered. “It seems you don’t believe me. You want to test his divinity?” he asked. “To satisfy your doubts?” His visage turned grim.
“I think there’s no harm in testing Shree Ram’s divinity. It would be an honour to accept my defeat if he is your deity. I would think that I have earned another ‘Darshan’ of Lord Vishnu,” I said.
“Something flickered in Mahadev’s eyes but I was too enthralled to notice that.”
Devi Sati pauses and takes some deep breaths. “I decided to test Shree Ram’s divinity!” I think her voice quivered. “And, the way I had chosen to test him, Devi Sita…it terrifies me even now when I think about it.”
To Be Continued…
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Image source: By Raja Ravi Varma (Raja Ravi Varma (1848 – 1906)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons