She leaped into the fire as if reaching for her abode
of lotus that rose above hard-to-swim floods*;
as she leapt in, the fire was burnt to a cinder
like white cotton, by the fieriness of her chastity.
நீந்த அரும் புனலிடை நிவந்த தாமரை
ஏய்ந்த தன் கோயிலே எய்துவாள் எனப்
பாய்ந்தனள்; பாய்தலும் பாலின் பஞ்சு எனத்
தீய்ந்தது அவ் எரி அவள் கற்பின் தீயினால்.
* Legend of Lakshmi – She rose from the milky ocean, seated on a lotus, when it was churned.
Trial by fire is one of the dramatic peaks in Kamba Ramayanam. After Rama has killed Ravana, Sita comes to see him in the battlefield. She is overwhelmed with joy at being rescued by her husband. But Rama chides her and says she should have taken her life when she was kidnapped. He accuses her of enjoying the comforts of Lanka and not killing herself.
Sita is shocked. She says, “I kept myself alive in hopes of seeing you. Now that you yourself doubt me, what is the point of me living. Let me end my life by entering the fire.”
Sita is incarnate of Goddess Lakshmi. Kamban says “She leaps into the fire as if she is reaching her abode of lotus that floats above the immense flood”. One of the legends of Lakshmi is she rose seated on a lotus when the milky ocean was churned. So Sita entering the fire gladly is like she going to her abode of Lotus from where she originally came.The fieriness of her chastity is such that it burns the fire itself to a cinder, like how a white ball of cotton is burnt by fire.
நீந்த அரும் – difficult to swim
புனல் – flood
நிவத்தல் – rise
ஏய்ந்தல் – suitable
கோயில் – abode
பாலின் – like milk (white)