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Sita's Sacrifice Open Access

The purpose of this paper is to examine the epic heroine Sita, particularly with respect to her role in the Yuddhakanda, the sixth and longest book of Valmiki's Ramayana. This will be done primarily in light of Sally Sutherland Goldman's article "Sita's War: Gender and Narrative in the Yuddhakanda of Valmiki's Ramayana," and Stephanie Jamison's Sacrificed Wife. The thematic elements and framing of the Yuddhakanda bear many similarities to those of the sacrifices Jamison discusses, with Sita playing the part of the Sacrificer' Wife. This paper begins with an examination of the roles of women in srauta ritual as put forth by Jamison. The Sacrificer's Wife, Jamison argues, is central to the rite despite her limited activity. She provides both a physical and temporal frame for the ritual. It continues with a look at the Wife's role in dispensing hospitality and then turn to the ways in which these themes play out in the epics. The paper goes on to address Sita's appearances within the Yuddhakanda, rejecting Goldman's assertion that they represent ruptures to an otherwise masculine narrative, while agreeing that these appearances correspond to "crucial transitions" in the text, providing a frame in which the events of the narrative may unfold (2009: 140), just as the Sacrificer's Wife provides a feminine frame for the ritual. It further maintains, in agreement with Goldman, that Sita's repudiation is, rather than unforeseen, the obvious conclusion to the Yuddhakanda, a position confirmed by examining the Yuddhakanda in the context of the larger Ramayana, and consistent with Valmiki's presentation of a dharma of the limit situation (Hiltebeitel 2009: 200).

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