The birthplace of Sita is a matter of faith and there is no historical evidence to prove that she was born in Bihar’s Sitamarhi, Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma said in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Opposition members seized the minister’s remarks to criticise the BJP-led government, saying Sita’s husband, Hindu god Ram, is a matter of faith too if the same logic is applied.
Ram and Sita are the principal characters of the epic Ramayana, and he is one of most revered gods in the Hindu pantheon.
Sharma’s comments were in his written reply to a question in the House on whether the Centre has any historical proof about Sita’s birthplace.
“Sita’s birthplace is a matter of faith. There is no direct evidence of its existence. The Archaeological Survey of India has not undertaken any excavation in Sitamarhi district of Bihar and hence it does not have any historical evidence that Sitamarhi is Sita’s birthplace,” the reply in Hindi says.
It also states that Sita’s birthplace is mentioned as Mithila in Valmiki’s Ramayan.
His remarks triggered a debate and opposition members demanded an apology from the government.
Janata Dal (United) parliamentarian Anil Kumar Sahani accused the government of insulting Sita and women in general.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said: “Lord Ram is my god. The minister’s reply has shaken my faith. I condemn his reply.”
“Your government has reached this place today on the back of the Ram movement and now you are saying that Sita is a matter of faith,” he said.
He was referring to the BJP-spearheaded movement to build a Ram temple at a place where a mosque stood in Ayodhya. The Babri mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992, by right-wing Hindus, sparking communal riots across the country that left more than 3,000 people dead.
Many Hindus believe that god Ram was born at the spot where Babur, the first Mughal emperor, had built the mosque. The disputed site, comprising 2.7 acres, remains India’s most potent religious flashpoint.
As opposition parliamentarians heckled the culture minister, he said his comments were misinterpreted.
“I am saying the government started religious circuits such as Ramayana and Buddha. In the Ramayana circuit we are doing upgrades in Sitamarhi district of Bihar, which is said to be the birthplace of Sita,” Sharma said.
The raging debate had its light-hearted moment when CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury started chuckling.
Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari quipped that Yechury should not feel apologetic about his name. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was present in the Upper House, looked at the veteran communist and smiled.
(This story has been updated to reflect the minister’s written reply in Parliament on evidence over Sita’s birthplace.)