Pastime of Agni Teertham : Testing Sita

After the war of Lanka was over and Ravana was dead, Lord Ramacandra told Hanuman to go and inform Sita that the war was over and Ravana was dead. Hanuman walked freely through the pathways and came straight to Ashokavan where Sita was sitting under a tree and crying. Hanuman gave her the news and for the first time in last 10 months she became very joyful. She wanted to give many jewels and pearls to Hanuman but she had nothing. So she said, “All I have to give you is my gratitude.” Hanuman replied, “Seeing your joy is the only thing that I want.” After ten months of intense separation from her beloved, she was seeing Rama. She was very elated and she drank the beauty of Sri Rama through her lotus like eyes. Tears of ecstasy filled her eyes and her heart was overflowing with happiness.

Relationship between the Lord and His devotees are of two types: Vipralamba and Sambhoga. Vipralamba is state of separation between the Lord and His devotees and sambhoga is the state of union. Vipralamba causes one’s love for the Lord to find shelter deeper in the innermost recesses of our heart and sambhoga causes that joy to come out. The experience of the intensity of meeting is so much enhanced after separation.

Actually there can be no separation from the Lord for anyone. Lord Sri Krishna explains in Bhagavad-Gita chapter 18 verse 61,

isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese ’rjuna tisthati
bhramayan sarva-bhutani yantrarudhani mayaya

The Lord is situated as paramatma, the supersoul in the heart of every living being. The Upanishads explain that the soul and the Supersoul are like two birds sitting on the same tree. One of the birds is busy trying to enjoy the fruits of the tree and the other bird is simply observing his activities. However sinful and wretched we may become, Lord never rejects us. Even if a living entity is cast into the body of an insect, reptile or a tree, still the Lord lovingly accompanies us. But due to our own conditionings of becoming infatuated, obsessed and attached to external ego and superficial mental and physical pleasures, we have lost the ability to connect with that person who is closest to us always.

Lord comes to this world again and again to remind us that He is with us always. He speaks scriptures that give us the eternal standards of sanatana dharma. The Lord gave this knowledge to Brahma even before the creation took place. And through him the Lord taught all of us the purpose of creation and how to live in this creation. The Lord reveals through the hearts of His devotes the direction and the inspiration by which we can be reconnected with Him.

Lord Sri Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-Gita, bhaktya tv ananyaya sakya aham evam-vidho ‘rjuna, “My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly.”

It is not by our intelligence, our knowledge, our tapasya, our managerial skills, our physical strength, our wealth, there is no material method by which we could see God. It is possible only when the Lord by His infinite grace reveals Himself to us. Bhagavad-Gita chapter 4 verse 11 states,

ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham mama vartmanuvartante manusyah partha sarvasah

The Lord reveals Himself according to our surrender, according to how we take shelter. Bhakti is that science by which we take shelter and as long as there is false ego, we cannot really take shelter. It is superficial. Bhagavad-Gita chapter 7 verse 14 says,

daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te

When we realize that without the help of the Lord there is no hope, then we can take shelter of the Lord and then the Lord reveals Himself when we approach Him with love.

Sita is the hladini shakti, the pleasure potency of the Lord. She is the source of all love. Rama or Krishna or Narayana is the Shaktiman, the Supreme object of everyone’s love. And His eternal consort is the Supreme abode of love, the supreme whole of all love. The jiva is Lord Krishna’s infinitesimal part and parcel and our love for the Lord is also part and parcel of the love of Sita, Radha or Laxmi. The greatest mystery of all the shastra is how the Supreme Lord becomes subordinate to the love of His devotees. Sridama defeats Krishna. Krishna’s expansion – Maha Vishnu creates the entire cosmic manifestation by exhaling and annihilates by inhaling. How could a little cowherd boy defeat Krishna. Krishna takes greater pleasure by being defeated by the love of His devotee. Lord Krishna who is feared by the fear personified is in fear of Yashoda mayi who was a simple gopi. This is the power of Bhakti.

Then Lord Rama told Vibhisana to go and inform Sita to take her bath, decorate herself nicely and come to see Him. Sita was very eager to meet Rama. She decorated herself nicely. They put her in a palanquin and brought her to see Rama. Rama asked Vibhisana why is Sita riding on a palanquin, she should walk on foot and this confused everyone.

So the supreme reservoir of Bhakti, Sita devi, after ten months of separation is standing before Sri Rama. It is like seeing the sun after long period of darkness. But the Lord’s expressions were very grave. He practically ignored her. She beheld the beautiful face of Lord Rama but He had no emotions on his face, total gravity. She was so confused. Everyone was looking on. They could not believe what He was doing.

Lord Ramacandra then spoke, “For the sake of demigods I have conquered Ravana and as to fulfill my dharma I have rescued you. I have no attachment for anything but dharma. Now I am going to become the king of Ayodhya and a king must be beyond all suspicion. You have spent 10 months in the house of another man. I cannot accept you back. You could stay wherever you like.” Upon hearing these words Sita fell to the ground crying. Her heart was absolutely shattered. No pain was greater than the pain of being rejected by Rama. She could not even speak. She was crying incessantly. Everyone was crying except Rama. The peak of her joy crashed down into the lowest depth of sorrow and pain. She was devastated.

She looked at Laxmana and said, “If you are not willing to accept me, if you think that I have not been chaste and faithful towards Rama. Then I will give up my life by entering into fire.” She ordered Laxmana to start the fire. Laxmana looked at Rama as if asking, “Why are You doing this?” But Sri Rama simply nodded His head, and that nod meant, “Yes Laxmana, start the fire.”

With trembling hands Laxmana collected the wood and started fire. Sita very gently circumambulated Rama and then she circumambulated fire and spoke, “If even for a moment, my mind is not in faithful and chaste remembrance of Lord Rama, then this fire burns me.” After offering her obeisances to Rama, she entered into fire. The flames were so huge that no one could see anything. Everyone began to cry; even Lord Rama broke down and began to cry.

Suddenly Agni Dev, the presiding deity of fire, appeared with Sita in his arms. She was dressed with beautiful clothes, garlanded with a mala of fresh celestial flowers. Agni deva testified, “I have tested her. She has been completely faithful and chaste. Her surrender and love is absolutely spotless. There was not a single moment when she was not having the thought of Your pure loving devotional service.”

Rama was overjoyed. He smiled tears in His eyes he accepted Sita by His loving embrace. Then Rama explained to her that He never had any doubts upon her chastity and purity. But being the king, He had to set a proper example and also He wanted to glorify Sita for her purity and chastity. Whatever sorrow that was there for those 10 months, it was gone. Demigods began to shower flowers and sang the glories of Sita and Rama.

Srimati Sita devi is the mother of the three worlds and the wife of Lord Ramacandra

Srimati Sita devi is the mother of the three worlds and the wife of Lord Ramacandra. Among chaste women, she is supreme, and she is the daughter of King Janaka. When Ravana came to kidnap mother Sita and she saw him, she took shelter of the fire-god, Agni. The fire-god covered the body of mother Sita, and in this way she was protected from the hands of Ravana. Upon hearing from the Kurma Purana how Ravana had kidnapped the false form of mother Sita, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu became very satisfied. The fire-god, Agni, took away the real Sita and brought her to the place of Parvati, goddess Durga. An illusory form of mother Sita was then delivered to Ravana, and in this way Ravana was cheated. After Ravana was killed by Lord Ramacandra, Sitadevi was brought before the fire. When the illusory Sita was brought before the fire by Lord Ramacandra, the fire-god made the illusory form disappear and delivered the real Sita to Lord Ramacandra.” -Caitanya-Caritamrta, Madhya-lila chapter 9 verses 201-206

After bathing in Agni Teertham with wet clothes, the devotees then proceed to the temple and draw water from each of the 22 ‘tirthams’ inside the temple before arriving in front of Lord Vishwanath to offer their prayers.

Bathing in these tanks is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameshwaram and is considered equivalent to penance. The waters at all these places is sweet and has a taste of its own. Every teerth has a typical story attached to it.

1. Mahalakshmi Theertham: Yudhistra took bath here and became rich and famous.

2. Savithri Theertham: Kashyapa got rid of his curse after holy dip in this theertham. Whoever takes holy dip in this theertham would get rid of all the curses.

3. Gayathri Theertham: King Kasibar got rid of his curse.

4. Saraswathi Theertham:

Sethu Madhava Theertham

5. Sethu Madhava Theertham: Whoever takes holy dip in this water would be blessed by Mahalakshmi, their purified of impure thoughts.

6. Gandhamadana Theertham: One will get rid of their penury

7. Kavatcha Theertham: One will be protected from torture at hell.

8. Gavaya Theertham: One will be blessed to be under Kalpa Vriksha tree.

9. Nala Theertham: One will be able to take blessing of Lord Surya and reach heaven.

10. Neela Theertham: Equivalent to having performed various yajnas.

11. Sanku Theertham: Vatsanabha was freed from the sin by bathing here.

12. Brahmahathi Vimochana Theertham: Will be absolved of many sins like killing a brahmin, consumption of intoxicated drinks etc

13. Sooriya Theertham: Attain the ability to receive knowledge of the past, present and the future.

14. Ganga Theertham: Gananasuruthi Raja king attained wisdom.

15. Siva Theertham: absolving of Brahmahathi sins

16. Sadyamirtha Theertham: Anointment to many curses incurred unknowingly.

17. Sarva Theertham: Sutharishna got rid of his blindness(from birth), illness and old age and then he prospered.

18. Kodi Theertham: Lord Krishna got rid of his sin of killing his uncle, Kamsa.

It is believed that the water has several medicinal properties too and several different life threatening diseases can be cured by taking water from the different wells from this place.