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Ravana kidnapped not real sita, but Maya Sita; and later during Agni pariksha the real Sita comes back from fire.

ref: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Will-the-real-Sita-stand-up/articleshow/8247418.cms

Now, Is this from any scripture? Whether this episode of Chhaya Sita/Maya sita is mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana or which scripture first?

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3 Answers 3

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Maya Sita or Chhaya sita does not appear in the Valmiki Ramayana. In the original Valmiki Ramayana, Ravana kidnapped Sita but not a shadow. The maya sita comes from Skanda Purana. In Venkatachala Mahatmya of Vaishnava Kanda, Vishnu describes the events happened in the Treta Yuga. He says that it was Vedavati not Janaki who was abducted by Sita. From Venkatachala Mahatmya chapter 5,

19-23 Lakshmi appeared in the land of Janaka in the form of Sita. In the Panchavati forest, when I went away to kill Maricha, my younger brother followed me on being urged by Sita. In the meantime the king of Rakshasas came there to abduct Sita. Fire-god present in the (place of) Agnihotra sacrifice knew (i.e. anticipated) the attempt of Ravana. He took the real Sita to Patala and entrusted her to (his wife) Svaha. There was a splendid lady named Vedavati. Formerly, she was touched by the same Rakshasa (but not molested). Yet she cast off her body in fire. In order to kill Ravana she was created once again. It was she who was abducted by Ravana and kept in custody in Lanka. Afterwards when Ravana was killed, she entered fire once again. Agni handed over Lakshmi, my Janaki, who had been kept in protective custody by Svaha and told me about the attendant accompanying Sita.

24-26. Afterwards when Rãvana was killed, she entered fire once again. Agni handed over Lakshmi, my Jãnakl, who had been kept in her protective custody by Sváhá and told me about the attendant accompanying Sita: “O Lord, this is Vedavati who did what was pleasing to Sita. For the sake of Siti she rem ained in the abode of the Râkasa as one imprisoned by him. Hence, delight her with a good boon along with Sri.”

In the Valmiki Ramayana, there is no mention of Agni exchanging Sita with Vedavati. There is only returning after Ravana was killed.

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The story of Chāyā Sītā (छाया सीता) or Māyā Sītā (माया सीता) is also found in the Devī Bhāgavata Purāṇa.


Chapter 20, Book 9, Devī Bhāgavatapurāṇa

  1. Then the Truthful Fire addressed the truthful Rāmacandra :-- “O Bhagavān Rāmacandra! I now speak to you how time is now coming to you. Now has come the time when your Sītā will be stolen.
  1. to 35. The course of Destiny is irresistible; none else is more powerful than Time, Fate. So give over your Sītā, the World Mother to me and keep with you this Chāyā Sītā (the shadow Sītā; the false Sītā). When the time of Sītā’s ordeal by fire will take place I will give Her back to you. The Devas united have sent me to you. I am not really a Brāhmin; but I am Agni Deva (eater of oblations).” Rāmacandra heard Fire and gave his assent. But his heart shattered. He did not speak of this to Lakṣmaṇa. By the yogic power Agni (Fire) created a Māyā Sītā. This Māyā Sītā, O Nārada, was perfectly equal to the real Sītā. Fire, then, handed this Māyā Sītā (माया सीता) to the hands of Rāmacandra. Hūtāsana (fire) took the real Sītā and said, “Never divulge this to any other body” and went away. What to speak of divulging the secret to any other body, Lakṣmaṇa even could not know it.

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  1. & 48. When Sītā’s ordeal by fire came, Agni (Fire) handed over the real Sītā to Rāmacandra. The Shadow Sītā (छाया सीता) then humbly addressed Agni and Rāma Candra, “O Lord! What am I to do now? Settle my case.”

....

  1. & 53. She was Veda Vatī, the daughter of Kuśadhvaja in the Satya Yuga; Sītā, the wife of Rāma (Chāyā Sītā /Māyā Sītā) and the daughter of Janaka in Tretā Yuga; and Draupadī, the daughter of Drupada, in the Dvāpara Yuga. As she existed in the Satya, Tretā, and Dvāpara Yugas, the Three Yugas, hence She is Trihāyanī.

English Translation by Swami Vijñanananda




So, as I discuss in this answer, the Chāyā Sītā or Māyā Sītā, was ultimately a part of partial incarnation of goddess Kamalā (Lakṣmī) only, who, in her first birth was born as Vedavatī - daughter of king Kuśadhvaja and his wife Mālāvatí.

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𝐁𝐫𝐚𝐡𝐦𝐚 𝐕𝐚𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐚 𝐏𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐚l,𝐏𝐫𝐚𝐤𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢 𝐊𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐚,𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟒

तस्थौ समुद्रनिकटे सीतया लक्ष्मणेन च। ददर्श तत्र वह्नि च विप्ररूपधरं हरिः।।२८॥

Thereafter with the moves of the destiny, Rāma stayed near the oceans with Sītă and Laksmanana. There, lord Rāma met with Agni who had taken to the form of a Brahma.

तं रामं दुःखितं दृष्ट्वा स च दुःखी बभूव ह। उवाच किंचित्सत्येष्ट सत्यं सत्यपरायणः।। २९॥

Finding Rāma in a melancholy mood his heart was moved. Being truthful and a lover of truth, he spoke to Rāma, who indeed was the form of truth.

वह्निरुवाच भगवञ्छु यतां वाक्यं कालेन यदुपस्थितम्। सीताहरणकालोऽयं तवैव समुपस्थितः॥३०॥ दैवं च दुर्निवार्यं वै न च दैवात्परं बलम्। मत्प्रसूं मयि संन्यस्य च्छायां रक्षान्तिकेऽधुना।। ३१॥

Agni said-You kindly listen to my words. The time for the abduction of Sītā is drawing nearer. The moves of the destiny are sometimes cruel and one cannot escape from them. The destiny is always powerful; therefore you entrust the care of mother Sītá to me and in her place you keep her shadow with you.

दास्यामि सीतां तुभ्यं च परीक्षासमये पुनः। देवैः प्रस्थापितोऽहं च न च विप्नो हुताशनः॥३२॥

I shall retuin her to you at the time of the fire ordeal. The gods have entrusted this job to me. I am not a Brāhmana but I am the god of fire.”

रामस्तद्वचनं श्रुत्वा न प्रकाश्य च लक्ष्मणम्। स्वछन्दं स्वीचकारासौ हृदयेन विदूयता॥३३॥

On hearing this, Rāma without disclosing anything to Laksmana, with a painful heart agreed to the proposal.

वह्रियोगेन सीतावन्मायासीतां चकार ह। तत्तुल्यगुणरूपाङ्गी ददौ रामाय नारद।।३४॥

O Nārada, the god of fire then at once created an illusory Sītā who resembled the real Sītā in all respects. He then entrusted the care of the shadow Sītā to Rāma.

सीतां गृहीत्वा स ययौ गोप्यं वक्तुं निषेध्य च। स लक्ष्मणो नैव बुबुधे गोप्यमन्यस्य का कथा॥३५॥ एतस्मिन्नन्तरे रामो ददर्श कनकं मृगम्। सीता तं प्रेरयामास तदर्थे यत्नपूर्वकम्॥३६॥

Soon after that, the Brāhmaṇa left the place along with Sītā asking Rāma not to disclose the secret to anyone. That is why this secret remained unknown to Laksmana even, what to speak of others. In the meantime Ráma spotted the golden deer and Sītā desired Rāma to get it by following it.

𝐀𝐝𝐡𝐲𝐚𝐭𝐦𝐚 𝐑𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐲𝐚𝐧𝐚,𝐀𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐚 𝐊𝐚𝐧𝐝 - 𝐂𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝟕

Slaying of Marich and Sita's abduction

श्रीमहादेव उवाच अथ रामोऽपि तत्सर्वं ज्ञात्वा रावणचेष्टितम् । उवाच सीतामेकान्ते शृणु जानकि मे वचः।।।। रावणो भिक्षुरूपेण आगमिष्यति तेऽन्तिकम् । त्वं तु छायां त्वदाकारां स्थापयित्वोटजे विश।।२।। अग्नावदृश्यरूपेण वर्ष तिष्ठ ममाज्ञया। रावणस्य वधान्ते मां पूर्वतत्प्राप्स्यसे शुभे ।।३।।

1-3. Lord Shiva said'Oh Parvati! Here, becoming aware of all the conspiracies of Ravana, Sri Ram advised Sita when they were alone, Oh Sita! Listen to what I have totell you (1). Oh the auspicious one! Ravana will come to you disguised as a mendicant (भिक्षुरूपेण). Hence, by my orders, you must enter the holy fire leaving behind your look alike shadow in this hut, and stay there in the fire in an invisible form for one year. After that, after the killing of Ravana, you shall get back to me once again' (2-3).

श्रुत्वा रामोदितं वाक्यं सापि तत्र तथाकरोत् । मायासीतां बहि: स्थाप्य स्वयमन्तर्दघेऽनले।।४।। मायासीता तदापश्यन्मृगं मायाविनिर्मितम् । हसन्ती राममभ्येत्य प्रोवाच विनयान्विता।।५।। पश्य राम मृगं चित्रं कानकं रत्नभूषितम्। विचित्रबिन्दुभिर्युक्तं चरन्तमकुतोभयम्। बद्ध्वा देहि मम क्रीडामृगो भवतु सुन्दरः।।६।।

4-6. Hearing these words of Sri Ram, Sita did as she was told. She became invisible in fire, leaving behind a shadowy Sita (4). Then that Maya-Sita (illusionary Sita) saw (i.e., was attracted to) that Maya-deer (i.e., illusionary deer), came to Sri Ram and smilingly, politely said to him (5) 'Oh Sri Ram! Look at this golden deer which is adormed by gems and jewels. Ah! What marvellous spots are there on his body and how fearlessly it is wandering and frolicking here! Oh Lord! Tie it and bring it to me'; let it by my playmate' (मम क्रीडामृगो) (6).

𝐅𝐮𝐫𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐧 𝐀𝐝𝐡𝐲𝐚𝐭𝐦𝐚 𝐑𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐲𝐚𝐧𝐚,𝐋𝐚𝐧𝐤𝐚 𝐊𝐚𝐧𝐝 (𝐘𝐮𝐝𝐝𝐡𝐚 𝐊𝐚𝐧𝐝)- 𝐂𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝟏𝟐

जानक्या भाषितं सर्व रामस्याने न्यवेदयत्। यन्निमित्तोऽयमारम्भः कर्मणां च फलोदय:।।६५।। तां देवीं शोकसन्तप्तां द्रष्टुमर्हसि मैथिलीम् । एवमुक्तो हनुमता रामो ज्ञानवतां वरः।।६६।। मायासीतां परित्युक्तं जानकीमनले स्थिताम् । आदातुं मनसा ध्यात्वा रामः प्राह विभीषणम्।।६७।।

Heading

He (Hanuman) told Sri Ram verbatim whatever Sita had said. 'For whom all these actions such as the war etc. were commenced', and who represents the fruit or the reward of all those actions? (65) Now you must see (or meet)that goddess named Maithili' (Sita) who is much tormented and overcome by miseries, sorrows, anguish and grief'. Hearing this advice of Hanuman, the most wise, sagacious, erudite and knowledgeable Sri Ram in order to leave the illusionary/deceptive/shadowy Sita’ and retrieve and accept the original Janki (Sita) who had been put in the custody of the fire-God for safe keeping, thought to himself for a while i.e., he pondered over how to do it and then said to Vibhishan (66,67)

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    It is wonderful that you've also given the Sanskrit verses - it helps in noting the striking concurrence of the exact verses of Brahmavaivarta Purana in Devi Bhagavatam also, which @Vivikta has quoted in their answer below.
    – Surya
    Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 11:03

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