Urmila is one of the major characters in the Hindu epic Ramayana. She was the daughter of King Janaka of Mithila and Queen Sunayana and the younger sister of Sita. She was the wife of Lakshmana with whom she had two sons, Angad and Chitraketu.
Life and history
According to Ramayana, when Lakshman was leaving for the forest with lord Rama, Urmila was ready to accompany him. But, Lakshmana hesitates and advises her to stay back to take care of her in laws. He also states that he cannot take care of her in the forest as he will be busy serving his brother and apologizes to her. Urmila agrees and remains a devoted wife for fourteen years until her husband returned.
Another version states that Urmila asked Nidra, the goddess of sleep, to take away all of Lakshmana’s sleep for the fourteen years of exile, so that he could remain awake and ever attentive to Rama and Sita’s needs. She remained asleep throughout the fourteen years, waking up to see Rama's coronation when Lakshmana returned to Ayodhya and relieves her of her duties.
Criticism of Ramayana
Though Valmiki describes Urmila's sacrifice as unparalleled, he attributes only a few lines to describe Urmila's story. In spite of Urmila's dedication and sacrifice, it has been criticized that poets often overlook her role in the epic.
Rabindranath Tagore classified Urmila as one of the forgotten heroines of Indian literature. She is the central character in Hindi poet Maithili Sharan Gupt’s version of the Ramayana, Saket. In Telugu literature, Urmila occupies as important role as Sita, even vying with her for the position of the ‘ideal wife’ and Urmila Devi Nidra (the Sleep of Devi Urmila) is one of the most celebrated Ramayana ballads in the language.
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