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Sita is the incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi and is said to have been the reincarnation of Vedavati, also an incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi.

The story about Vedavati seems like only a prelude to the story of Sita.

Are there any other stories about Vedavati? If not, then why did Sita have a past life which was very similar to her present life? Also, why did the Goddess Lakshmi have to perform penance as Vedavati to become the wife of Lord Vishnu, when she was his wife already?

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Contrary to popular belief, Sita was not the next birth of Brihaspati's granddaughter Vedavati. This confusion arises from an even more fundamental fact about the Ramayana that few people are familiar with: Sita was never kidnapped! That might seem shocking; in most people's understanding of the Ramayana, Ravana kidnaps Sita while Rama is lured away by Marichan in the form of a golden deer, and Rama goes to Lanka and rescues her from Ravana. But that is not actually what happened; Vishnu himself describes the actual sequence of events in this excerpt from the Venkatachala Mahatmya of the Skanda Purana:

Formerly, in the auspicious Treta Yuga, I killed Ravana. At that time the girl Vedavati rendered assistance to Sri (Sita). 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.

Vedavati did all this to take revenge on Ravana, for what he had attempted to do to her. So Rama crossed an ocean and fought a war to rescue Sita, when Sita was never in any actual danger.

Now why do people think that Sita was the next birth of Vedavati? It's because of the fact that the woman held in Lanka was genuinely Vedavati, since it was assumed that Sita was the woman held in Lanka, people thought that Sita and Vedavati were one and the same. For instance, in the Yuddha Kanda of the Ramayana, Ravana says "Further, I was formerly cursed by Vedavati when she was humiliated by me. The same Vedavati is born as the highly fortunate Seetha the daughter of Janaka."

Now in contrast to Sita, who was an incarnation of Vishnu's wife Lakshmi, Vedavati was an incarnation of Vishnu's other wife Bhumidevi. And after Rama was reunited with Sita, he was asked to marry Vedavati, but he refused, saying that he can only marry one woman in this birth:

On hearing the words of Fire-god, the splendid (genuine) Sita told me: "O Lord, this Vedavati has always done everything pleasing to me. Hence she is a great devotee of the Lord. Hence, O Lord, choose her (as wife)." I replied "O goddess, I shall do so in the twenty-eighth Kali Yuga. Till then let her stay in the world of Brahma and be adored by Devas."

So Vedavati was reborn in the Kali Yuga as the princess Padmavathi, daughter of Akasa Raja, and she finally married Vishnu as described in the famous story of Venkateshwara (the Vishnu deity in Tirupati, AKA Srinivasa or Balaji).

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    I have come across the story of Sita being replaced by Vedavati (though not in as much detail). If Rama knew it was not Sita, and was Vedavati, who was being held captive by Ravana, why does he give her up as queen? – Suhasini Oct 27 '14 at 16:55
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    @Suhasini Rama always trusted Sita and knew that she was faithful. But the people of Ayodhya suspected Sita, and they looked down on Rama for accepting a wife who had been unfaithful. Rama didn't want to set a bad example for his people, so he was forced to banish her. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 27 '14 at 17:40
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    Yeah, he trusts her and when asked to marry again says, he gave up the queen and not his wife. What became of Vedavati, how did that life of hers end? Why could she not have testified in front of the people of Ayodhya? – Suhasini Oct 27 '14 at 17:54
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    @Suhasini "when asked to marry again says, he gave up the queen and not his wife." Sorry, I'm not sure what you mean by this. "What became of Vedavati, how did that life of hers end?" When Rama told Vedavati that he would marry her in the Kali Yuga, she went back into the fire and died. Her soul remained in Devaloka, until the Kali Yuga came and she was born as Akasa Raja's daughter Padmavathi. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 27 '14 at 18:17
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    @Vishu Yeah, he didn't know that the switch was made. He just assumed that Sita was a rebirth of Vedavati, because it seemed like the woman he had in his custody was leading to his undoing just as Vedavati has cursed him. He was right that the woman he had in custody was Vedavati, he was just wrong about it being Sita. – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 14 '16 at 15:53

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