One of the most controversial episodes in the Hindu epic Ramayana is the Agnipariskha (Test by Fire) of Sita. As per the alleged tale, after Ram had defeated Ravan and rescued Sita, he refused to accept her and Sita was asked to jump into fire to prove her chastity after having lived in Lanka in Ravan’s kingdom where he had taken her after abducting her. The Fire God then rescued her and she came out unburnt.
Since I was a goddess, I thought erroneously
Agni Pariksha would end with me,
There was a shadow of me for masquerade
As the Avatar of Lakshmi I escaped unscathed
I thought women of generations after me
Would not have to face this ignominy
Would not have to face unfair blame
Would not be the ones to be ashamed
When crimes were inflicted on them by cruel men
But so wrong was I, sisters and brethren!
An era later Draupadi faced humiliation surpassing mine
Why was that part of the cosmic design?
Two eras later no change I can see
Women are bound by vagaries of patriarchy
Instructed to maintain their honor, and blamed
For freedom in dress, behavior, words, taught to be ashamed
When their rights are infringed upon violently
They continue to face trial by fire, I see
When I wanted to keep my honor, at least I could
Ask Mother Earth to take me in, so I would
Not have to face humiliation any more
What do mortal women have for them in store?
A woman’s autonomy is still a joke today
And we’ve made progress in women’s rights, you say?