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In the Valmiki Ramayana, Rama decides to banish Sita because the citizens of his kingdom are unhappy about her remaining with him after she spent so much time imprisoned by Ravana (the citizens suspect her of infidelity).

One explanation for his decision is that he did this to uphold one of the rules of his kingdom, which declared that a wife who has stayed in another man's house cannot remain married to her husband, and to show that as the ruler he himself was not above this law. But the source online where this detail about the rule of the kingdom was stated did not cite any Hindu texts.

Is this rule, that in the Kosala kingdom a married woman who stays in the house of a man who is not her husband cannot remain married to her husband (that it is grounds for divorce and that she should be divorced), documented in any Hindu texts?

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There is no such law. The real reason Lord Rama abandoned Sita was to fullfill the curse of Bhrigu -

The Daityas, whom the Suras threatened, took refuge with the consort of Bhrigu and she, having given them a haven, they dwelt there in safety. Seeing them thus succoured, the Chief of the Gods, enraged, with his sharp-edged discus severed the head of Bhrigu’s wife. Beholding the murder of his consort, Bhrigu, in his wrath, instantly cursed Vishnu, the destroyer of enemy hosts, saying:—“Since in thine insensate fury, you have slain my spouse, who should never have died thus, you shalt take birth in the world of men, O Janardana, and there you shalt live separated from your consort for many years.” Having pronounced this curse, Bhrigu was overcome with remorse and his merits being exhausted by the malediction he had uttered, he began to propitiate that God, paying homage to the One who delights in penance and protects his devotees. Thereafter that God spoke, saying, “For the good of the worlds, I will be subject to your curse.” This is how the illustrious Vishnu was cursed by Bhrigu in days of yore and descended on earth, becoming your son, O Foremost of Monarchs. Renowned in the Three Worlds under the name of Rama, he has to undergo the dire consequences of Bhrigu's curse.

  • Chapter 51, Uttara Kanda, Valmiki Ramayana.
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  • Thank you — I'm aware of Bhrigu's curse and its relevance to the events in the Ramayana, although it's something I hadn't known about until doing quite a bit of reading, so I'm glad you've written about it here and appreciate the detail and the reference. But while the curse explains why Rama's unjust separation from Sita was inevitable at some point, since he was one of Vishnu's avatars, it doesn't on its own explain why he had to exile Sita at that particular point in time. He could have been separated from her unjustly, fulfilling the curse, by simply allowing her to remain with Ravana.
    – velw
    Jan 19 at 15:49
  • @velw - well a curse manifests only when the right time comes. The time of Sita's captivity under Ravana was probably not the the time for the curse to take effect. The people of Ayodhya turning against Sita could all be the effect of the curse. Kind of like how Gandhari's curse initially caused a moral decline among the Yadavas. Jan 19 at 16:37

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