The Fire Test, Agni Pareekshai, that took place when Sita entered the fire of her own volition, was in fact not a test at all. It was a demonstration of the result for all of humanity to see for all time to come.
This Fire Test occurred in the area that is called Diurumwela, Nugathalawa , today. It is about an hour and half drive from Nuwara Eliya, in the central region of Sri Lanka.
With doubts and suspicions ruling its day, the human mind finds faith to be shaky at best. It is easier to doubt Sita’s chastity in captivity rather than repose total faith in it. Accommodating this human weakness – the propensity to doubt not only by the people who lived then but also by those who were to come for all time in the future – the “test by fire” took place to alleviate the pains of doubt and to strengthen the human faith.
Test by Fire – A painting at Diurumwela
Rama mentioned to Sita, “You are endowed with a charming exterior and are so soul-ravishing that Ravana, detaining you in captivity, would not have endured your separation for long” [Valmiki Ramayanam. Yuddha kandam. Chapter 115. 24]
Sita was shell-shocked on hearing these words. She turned to Lakshmana and said,
“Build a pyre for me. It is the only anti-dote against this calamity. I no longer desire to live in the midst of such false accusations. I’ll enter the fire which is the course appropriate for me now that my husband has publicly renounced me and is not pleased with my virtues” [Valmiki Ramayanam. Yuddha kandam. Chapter 116. 17,18]
She then prayed to the pyre built by Lakshmana before entering it.
“If my heart has never turned away from Rama; if I’ve never been unfaithful in act, thought and speech; if the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind and the earth – all of them know me to be of good character, then may the fire protect me from all sides” [Valmiki Ramayanam. Yuddha kandam. Chapter 116. 25-28]
Then she entered the fire with a fearless mind.
People’s reaction on seeing Sita entering the fire. Painting at Diurumwela
The huge gathering present there witnessed the resplendent Sita entering the fire, rushing into it like the offering of the consummate ghee. All the women present there screamed on seeing her falling in to the fire like an unbroken stream of ghee. A loud cry rose from the people present there [Valmiki Ramayanam. Yuddha kandam. Chapter 116. 30-36]
The god of fire then arose from the fire carrying Sita in his arms and spoke to Rama, ” Here is your Sita. No sin exists in her” [Valmiki Ramayanam. Yuddha kandam. Chapter 118. 5]
Then Rama said, “I know Sita to be undivided in her affection to me. I had no doubt in my mind. Ravana could not harm her. She is protected by her own moral power and would have burnt him to ashes. But to stop the murmurs of suspicion of all people in all worlds for all time to come is the reason I kept quiet as she entered the fire”
Sita Temple and Buddhist Shrine, Diurumwela
Today, Sri Sita Devi Foundation at Diurumwela is running a Sita temple and a Buddhist temple at the place where the Fire Test happened a million years ago.
Ramayana Paintings at the Sita temple, Diurumwela
The soul-stirring giving and receiving of the ring and the crest jewel (choodaamani) – Painting at Diurumwela
Hanuman – carved from a single mango tree bark. Diurumwela
Two fine hosts at Diurumwela – happy, hospitable and most kind
Buddhist shrine. Diurumwela
About 82 % of Sri Lankans follow the religion of Buddhism. They have very aptly built a Buddhist shrine at this location. The Buddhist temple signifies the sanatana dharma teaching Sita demonstrated with the Fire Test. Her conduct transcends all religions. It resonates with the core of every human being. It is the love for God. The Fire Test illustrates three key teachings of Buddhism.
Buddham saranam gachchaami – Follow the buddhi, the pull that discriminates between the temporary and the permanent, in life. Discriminate and seek the permanent. This is the path of enlightenment.
Dhammam saranam gachchaami. Follow the pull of the eternal and the unchanging support in life. This is dharmam. This is Love itself.
Sangam saranam gachchaami. Merge with that Love.
Recollection of Sita and the Fire Test brought the cooling comfort of Divine Love to my mind. As I bid adieu to this sacred place reluctantly, I was able to see how beautiful the world around me really is, how blessed life indeed is.
Please see related posts:
December 31 2016. Ramayana in Lanka
January 2 2017. Ramayana in Lanka: Hanuman lands in Lanka
January 4 2017. Ramayana in Lanka: The place where Hanuman met Sita
January 8 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. When Indrajit became almost invincible
January 15 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. Hanuman takes a leap from Lanka
February 17 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. Vibhishana’s coronation.