Let’s read the story of Urmila from Ramayana.
Urmila was the younger sister of the goddess Sita. The sisters lost their mother Sunaina at a very young age. Their father, King Janak was a spiritual man. After the death of his wife, he submerged himself into religious texts. Sita took the responsibility for Urmila. She was like a mother to her.
While Sita was outgoing and adventurous, Urmila was gentle and tender-hearted. When Sita learned the skills of riding horses and archery, Urmila learned cooking and medicines. Sita led the external front like military and foreign relations in the absence of their father’s authoritative figure. Urmila on the other hand managed the kingdom from the inside, managing people and their needs.
When Sita was of the right age she got married to Rama. On the occasion of their marriage, King Dasrath purposed the marriage of his other sons as well. He was very impressed by the values and cultures of Janka’s kingdom. Hence Urmila was married to Laxman.
In the early years of her marriage, Urmila was joyous beyond the limit. All her childhood she had felt the absence of motherly love. But in Ayodhya, she had three mothers-in-law. All three of them treated her like their daughter. It was a match made in heaven. Urmila wanted motherly love and the mothers-in-law wanted a daughter.
But all good things must come to an end. The news of Rama’s exile shattered the royal family of Ayodhya. Laxman informed her about the event with tears in his eyes. He also apologized to Urmila as he too was planning to go along with Rama. Urmila was devastated.
Finally, the day had come. Rama, along with Sita and Laxman was ready to go into exile. Urmila’s eyes were dry and her face looked determined. She had promised Laxman to take care of her parents as he takes care of Rama and Sita. Laxman was leaving his mother in Urmila’s care and Urmila was leaving her mother like Sita in his care.
A few days after the exile of Laxman, the Goddess of sleep, Nidra, visited Urmilla. She informed her about the vow that Laxman had taken. Laxman had vowed not to sleep and guard Rama-Sita all the time. Nidra informed that for someone to stay awake, someone had to sleep. Urmila would have to sleep on behalf of Laxman as well. Urmila proudly took the offer.
For the next fourteen years, Urmila slept for sixteen hours. For the remaining hours, she cared for her mother-in-law.
During the battle between Laxman and Meghnath, both of their wives were praying for their husband’s victory. After the defeat of Meghnath, Sulovhana, his wife, came to collect his head. She told Laxman to not feel much pride in this victory. If not for Urmila’s sacrifice he could not have touched Meghnath.
After returning from exile, Laxman was attending the coronation of Ram. He suddenly started laughing. He was reminded of the promise he made with the goddess Nidra. After all these years it was time for him to sleep. Urmila attended the coronation on behalf of Laxman.
Urmila had a minor role to play in the story of Ramayana but her sacrifice was unparalleled. On the same day, she lost the companionship of both her husband and beloved sister. But only in the time of adversity, do true heroes rise. She understood the need of the hour and took decisions accordingly.