Room 300, School of Arts and Sciences
In a moment of great turmoil in the Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa, Rāma – upon learning of his fourteen-year banishment – attempts to persuade Sītā to stay on in the palace while he will alone proceed into exile. Sītā disagrees entirely with Rāma and argues variously that she should accompany him – until, of course, she succeeds in the end. This is the first moment in the epic when one hears Sītā speak and a careful analysis of her portrayal here is paramount for any serious understanding of her character. Nevertheless, there are only a handful of studies that have closely engaged with this episode which furthermore present entirely contrasting accounts. In this talk, Professor Saxena will present some of the main conclusions of his recently published paper (The Journal of Hindu Studies, July 2023) where he argues that Sītā’s disagreement in this episode is not grounded, as some scholars have concluded, in emotional frailty, male honour or even political fear. Rather, the essential sentiment which permeates this entire episode, including Rāma’s final acceding to Sītā’s request, is – for the Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa – love.
Shishir Saxena's research includes studies on the epistemological debates in the Indian philosophical tradition as well as on the deontic logic and structure underlying Mīmāṃsā hermeneutic reasoning. His work explores also the two Sanskrit epics Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata, for matters philosophical and otherwise. He received his PhD and MPhil from the University of Cambridge and studied for an MA at the Banaras Hindu University.