Urmila :- The forgotten character in Ramayana

I have always been fascinated by the character of Urmila in Ramayana. My first introduction to Ramayana was through the Ramanand Sagar TV Serial Ramayan. I remember “Sita” telling “Ram” that she would accompany him to the forest. When “Ram” attempts to convince her, she asks him to wait one more day to perform her last rites and then leave for the forest.

On the other hand “Lakhsman” attempts to convince “Urmila” saying “If you come into the forest, Bhaiya will not take me also. Hence please stay back in Ayodhya”. Valmilki does mention her sacrifice as supreme, but then that’s it.

There are numerous folk stories based on Urmila’s “sacrifice”.  One of the folk stories says that Lakshman refused to sleep for 14 years as he had to guard and serve Ram and Sita in the forest. When the Sleep Goddess asks “Who shall sleep on your behalf”, Lakshman replies “Please go to my wife Urmila. She will sleep on my behalf”. So Urmila slept while Lakshaman lay awake.

I find these stories fascinating. No one knows the truth of how things happened then. In fact  no one knows whether Ramayana is a true incident or a story. Nevertheless, Ramayana does give us a glimpse of the social structure and prevalent hierarchies in ancient times. Ramayana is an idealistic fable where Ram is the ideal son and ideal king. However is he an ideal husband? an ideal brother in law?

No one knows and No one can tell. You and I can only interpret based on our minuscule understanding of the issue.