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In his book, Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana, Mr. Devdutt Pattanaik talks about an interesting event during the exile period of the śrī Rāma, Devī Sītā & Lakṣmaṇa, where Devī Sītā curses four entities (a river, a Brahmin, the Tulasī Plant and the Cow) and blesses the Banyan Tree with a boon.

Here's the Screenshot of the described incident in the writers' book.

Sita Curses four and gives boon to one

To corroborate this described incident, I read about the Phalgu River on Wikipedia and the same above incident is described as follows, thus adding some slightest possible credibility perhaps (although the original reference for this story in the Wikipedia too is not a strong one itself), anyway, here goes:-

There is reference to the city of Gaya and the Phalgu in the Ramayana in which it says that Sita had cursed the Phalgu River. There is an interesting story and the purana states that on account of this curse, the Phalgu lost its water, and the river is simply a vast stretch of sand dunes. According to history, in the absence of Rama, his wife Sita offered pinda on its banks to Dasharatha father of Rama.1

The story goes that Rama, along with his brothers and Sita, came to Gaya to perform the sacred rites for his father, Dasaratha. When the brothers were bathing in the river, Sita was sitting on the banks, playing with the sand. Suddenly, Dasaratha appeared out of the sand, and asked for the Pindam, saying he was hungry. Sita asked him to wait till his sons returned, so that she could give him the traditional Pindam of rice and til. He refused to wait, asking her to give him pindams made of the sand in her hand.

Having no other option, she gave him the Pindam he desired with five witnesses – the Akshaya Vatam, the Falguni River, a cow, a Tulsi plant and a Brahmin. Soon, Rama returned and started the rituals. In those days apparently, the ancestors would arrive in person to collect their share, and when Dasaratha did not appear, they wondered why. Sita then told them what had happened, but Rama could not believe that his father would accept pindams made of sand. Sita now mentioned her witnesses, and asked them to tell Rama the truth.

Among the five, only the Akshaya Vatam took her side and told the truth, while the others lied, trying to take Rama’s side. In her anger, Sita cursed all of them thus: the Falguni river henceforth would have no water at Gaya; the Cow would no longer be worshipped from the front as all others are- only its backside would be worshipped; there would be no more Tulsi plants at Gaya and the Gaya Brahmins would never be satisfied, they would always be hungry and crave more and more. She then blessed the Akshaya Vatam saying that all who came to Gaya would perform the Pinda pradaanam at the Akshaya Vatam too.

In another a slightly different version, which I recently heard on a Religious Indian TV Channel and have read it on several internet forums, instead of cursing the tulasī plant, the Ketakī flower is cursed by Devī Sītā (i.e., Ketakī - to not being used to Worship any deity or in some stories only not to be used for Lord Shiva ' worship).

So, tl;dr : What might be the scriptural or maybe even any local/indigenous folklore based traditions' references for the above Story(s) ?

EDIT:

PS.

I'd also like to know (if possible) the validity of these curses and boons vis-a-vis how exactly they are presently manifest in Gaya, the present day visible manifestations of the Curses? The river is dried up definitely in the cursed portion. But,

For example:-

  • How are the Brahmins hungry always in Gaya?
  • We really don't worship cows from front (do authoritative scriptures say so) ?
  • The Tulasí plant really doesn't grow in that particular area or Gaya?
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The story of Sitaji’s curses in Gaya is found in the Ānanda Rāmāyaṇa, Yātrā Kāṇḍa, Sixth Sarga, though in a slightly modified form than the question.

An Introduction before the curses:
As per this Kanda, Ramaji and Sitaji had gone for a pilgrimage to many places, one among them being Gaya. In the morning, they went to the Phalgu river for a bath, where Sitaji decides to worship Durgaji. For making her idol, Sitaji decided to use 5 pindas of sand. The moment she wanted to keep pinda with her hand on the ground, Dasharatha’s hand emerged and took the pinda from hers. In this way a 108 pindas made by Sitaji for Durga worship were taken by Dasharatha. Ultimately she gave up and prayed to Durgaji in her mind. - [verses 74-82]

Later when Ramaji performed shraddha for his ancestors, no hand came to take the pinda. Being surprised he asks Sitaji (after asking Lakshamana who was equally surprised) if she knew anything, to which she narrates the incident. Ramaji then asks her what proof she could provide - [verses 88-96].

She decides to rely on some witnesses to testify to the fact. Following are the witnesses and the curses they got for not supporting her.

1. Mango Tree

सा प्राह चूतवृक्षोऽस्ति दृष्टः स नेत्युवाच ह । तदा शमः सीतया स फलहीनः स कीकटः॥ ९७ ॥

She said the Mango tree is a witness to which it replied, ”No” and it was cursed by Sitaji to bear no fruits in the land of Kīkaṭa (Magadha, South Bihar and Northern Jharkhand).

2. Phalgu River

पुनः सा राघवं प्राह फल्गुः साक्ष्यं प्रदास्यति ॥ ९८ ॥ साऽपि रामेण पृष्टाऽथ नेत्युवाच भयातुरा । साऽपि शप्ता रामपत्न्याऽधोमुखी मम वाक्यतः ॥ ९९ ॥

Then she said that that the Phalgu rover will testify. She too being asked by Ramaji replied, “No” out of fear. She too was cursed by Sitaji to go underground.

3. Brahmins of Gaya

दास्यन्ति मे द्विजाः सर्वे तदा मन्निकटस्थिताः । तेऽपि पृष्टा राघवेण नेत्यूचुर्भयविह्वलाः ॥ १०१ ॥
ताँस्तदा जानकी शापं ददौ तीर्थनिवासिनः । युष्माकं नात्र संतृप्तिः कदा द्रव्यैर्भविष्यति ॥ १०३ ॥
द्रव्यार्थं सकलान् देशान् भ्रमध्वं दीनरूपिणः ।

She said the Brahmins standing near me that time will testify. They too on being asked by Ramaji replied, “No” out of fear. Then Janaki cursed them saying, “You all shall not have satisfaction anytime as regards money. For money you will roam in all countries.

4. Cat

ततः सा जानकीप्राह ओतुः साक्ष्यं प्रदास्यति ॥ १०४ ॥
सोऽपि पृष्टो नेत्युवाच रामं सीता शशाप ताम् । पुच्छाग्रं स्वपुरः कृत्वा पदा मन्निकटोऽपि सन् ॥ १०५ ॥
मृषेरितं यतस्तस्मात्पुच्छे ह्यस्पृश्यतां भज ।

Then Janaki said that the cat would testify. It too on being asked replied, “No” and Sitaji cursed it saying, “Since you were standing with your tail in front of me that time and yet refused to testify therefore your tail will become untouchable.”

5. Cow

ततः सा जानकी प्राह गौर्मे साक्ष्यं प्रदास्यति ॥ १०६ ॥ साऽपि पृष्टा नेत्युवाच रामं सीता शशाप ताम् । अपवित्रा भवास्ये त्वं मम वाक्येन धेनुके ॥ १०७ ॥

Then Janaki said that the cow would testify. She too on being asked replied a no to Ramaji and Sitaji cursed her saying, “Your mouth will become impure by this sentence of mine”

6. The Peepal tree

ततः सीताश्वत्थवृक्षं साक्ष्यार्थं प्राह राघवम् । स पृष्टो नेत्युवाचाथ तं सीताऽथाशपत्क्रुधा ॥ १०८ ॥ भवाचलदलस्त्वं हि मद्‌गिराऽश्वत्थपादप ।

Then Sitaji gave the name of the Peepal tree as a witness. It too on being asked by Sitaji replied, “No” and being angry, Sitaji cursed it saying, “Your leaves will becoming immovable by these words of mine.”

And finally she proposed the Sun as a witness which truthfully told Ramaji that Dasharatha had been gratified. In the meantime Dasharatha comes in a beautiful vehicle and informs Ramaji of his satisfaction through the Pinda offered by Sitaji. -[verses 108-111]

A Comparison between folklore and the Ananda Ramayana:
The story posted in the question has a few entities different from the ones described above as also there’s no mention of a boon. The story of other entities and boon is a common folklore in Gaya and which the Pandits discuss even today (Video). Here the entities are described (as in the question) as 1. Cows, 2. Gayawal Brahmins, 3. Phalgu River, 4. Tulsi (or some say Ketaki flower) (omitting the cat, the mango tree and the Peepal tree but adding the Tulsi) and 5. the truth speaking Banyan tree (not the sun)

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    @Vivikta Haha thank you. I can give you Adhyatma and Ananda Ramayana in Sanskrit + Hindi. As far as the edit there was only one thing I could find: Yajnavalkya Smriti says cows mouth is impure. The Brahmins probably themselves could say whether they’re satisfied or not. Tulsi no clue at all – Archit Mar 4 at 17:27
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    @Vivikta - अजाश्वयोर्मुखं मेध्यं न गोर्न नरजा मलाः । Yaj Smriti- the mouth of the horse and goat are pure but not that of the cow or human faeces – Archit Mar 4 at 17:38
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    @Vivikta deleted :D. Did you read the Yaj Smriti comment and all – Archit Mar 5 at 3:24
  • @Vivikta thank you. yes and the comments link it to a curse to Surabhi. Though in that the translation of Yaj Smriti is wrong – Archit Mar 5 at 3:32
  • @Vivikta it’s sv’s question I’m not gonna touch it he cries too much – Archit Mar 5 at 5:03

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