In the political battleground of Yavatmal-Washim, which will go to polls on Friday, a unique election narrative unfolds, not around the valour of Ram and Ayodhya’s grand temple but celebrating the venerable Sita.

Deep within the heart of Raveri village in Yavatmal district, an ancient temple dedicated to Sita Mata stands as a rare shrine that honours her resilience as a single mother. The temple prominently displays idols of Sita with her twin sons, Luv and Kush, while conspicuously omitting figures of Ram and Laxman. With women voters at the forefront, the local electorate passionately advocates for transforming this modest shrine into a monumental structure reminiscent of the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya.

The BJP has vowed to elevate Sita’s sanctuary to majestic heights. Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has made a promise, declaring that Sita and her sons will soon dwell in a grand abode akin to that of Ram’s in Ayodhya. While campaigning for the BJP-led alliance candidate, Rajshree Patil, Fadnavis, sensing the mood of voters in the region, said that Raveri would be developed like Ayodhya. 

Revering steadfast Sita

As the Lok Sabha constituency gears up for the upcoming Friday polls, it is not the typical electoral promises or party manifestos that dominate conversations, but the fate of this distinctive temple.

With limited resources at their disposal, the local village committee completed the renovation of their temple just in time for the grand consecration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. However, their ambitions stretch far beyond merely restoring sacred spaces. The committee plans to construct shelter homes to support abandoned women and widows and to integrate these women into community farming initiatives.

After being abandoned by Ram, local folklore holds that Sita sought refuge in this village, taking shelter in Valmiki’s ashram. Despite facing severe adversities, she remained steadfast, dedicating herself to the welfare of her children. In this village, Sita is not just a historical figure; she embodies the epitome of bravery and resilience. Thus, in recognition of her legacy, the committee aims to provide a dignified sanctuary for abandoned women who reflect Sita’s spirit in their struggles and triumphs.

Concerns of Abandoned Women

According to the 2011 Census, India has approximately 2.3 million women who are either abandoned or separated. Sunanda Kharate, an advocate for these women, highlights the dire situation of abandoned women and widows in the rural regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada.

“The prevalence of women deserted by their husbands is alarmingly high in these areas, as is the number of widows. Lacking support from both family and society, these women are often marginalised and denied their rightful place in society,” Sunanda explains. She emphasises that genuine efforts towards women’s empowerment should prioritise the needs of these abandoned women, a topic often overlooked by political agendas. Sunanda, who has been abandoned by her husband, argues that society and the law need to hold accountable those men who abandon their wives, leaving them to fend for themselves.