Enduring Example for Women
The impulse in Hinduism to attribute divinity to women is well demonstrated in the legend of Sītā. Her unconditional devotion to her husband Rāma qualifies her as worthy of devotion, particularly because as consort to Rāma who is Viṣṇu in human form, Sītā can be regarded as Lakṣmī, to be worshiped jointly with him. Her total surrender to Rāma’s will elevates her in Vaiṣṇava thought as the model for the soul’s passive dependence upon God and as mediator between Viṣṇu and worshipers. But offering a contrary view, Śākta narratives shift redemptive power from Rāma to Sītā. Yet another construction of Sītā, especially in folk culture, highlights her protest against her subjugation. In recent times this has turned her into a locus for the resistance of women to patriarchal oppression, which may free her from the matrix of devotion and refashion her as an icon of resistance worthy of veneration.
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