Sumitra was the third queen of king Dashrath. The eldest queen of Dashrath was Kaushalya, the second and most favourite queen was Kaikayee and the third was Sumitra who had a very prominent place. The king used to spend most of the time with her and Sumitra herself was very much fond of Kaushalya and tried to be present near her as much as possible. Sumitra's love and affection for Kaushalya knew no bounds.
After the completion of the religious sacrifice, which was accomplished for begetting a son, the king Dashrath gave half of the part of the Kheera ( a dish made out of boiled rice in the milk) which was received from Agni to queen Kaushalya. Kaikayee received the other half of the portion and the remaining fourth portion was again equally distributed between Kaushalya and Kaikayee. But both the queens gave the last portion to Sumitra. Since the king Dashrath had several hundred queens and giving Kheera to Sumitra would have meant that he had to give it to the other queens also, otherwise he would have been accused of partiality. So, the king Dashrath gave the Kheera only to the two queens.
Where Kaushalya gave birth to Lord Rama and Kaikayee gave birth to Bharat, Sumitra gave birth to two beautiful and fair looking sons. Lakshman was born out of the portion of the Kheera, which Kaushalya had given to her and Shatrughana was born out of the portion given to her by Kaikayee.
All the four princes spent much of their time in Sumitra's proximity. Lord Rama and Bharat were so fond of her that if by chance Kaushalya and Kaikayee made Lord Rama and Bharat sleep with them respectively and if by chance they were woken up, not finding Sumitra by their side, they used to cry as a result Kaushalya and Kaikayee were forced to go to the place where Sumitra used to sleep and after waking her up used to say- " Sumitra, here is your son, he does not sleep without your lap, see how red his eyes have become due to his incessant crying."
As soon as the children were taken by Sumitra into her lap, they immediately used to stop crying.
When Lord Rama grew up, after getting up in the morning and making salutations to his parents, he had to enquire about the whereabouts of Sumitra because she was not found at a fixed place in the palace, she had great responsibilities on her, like looking after the management of the whole palace, the appointments of servants and maid servants, managing things essential for worshipping and doing charity whether the invited guests were being well treated or not etc.
After abandoning Ayodhya, according to his father's order, Shri Rama before going for an exile took permission from Kaushalya but did not go to Sumitra himself but instead sent Lakshman to take her permission because as per the sayings of the scriptures, step mother Kaikayee was more respectable to Shri Rama than his own mother Kaushalya and Kaikayee had insisted but then Kaushalya would have been accused of being selfish. But it was not so with Sumitra, because if she had taken a stand in Shri Rama's favour, Kaikayee would have been forced to change her mind and decision.
Both Laxman and Shatrughana were very obedient sons of their mother and Rama feared that perhaps in his presence, Sumitra would have hesitated to make a decision after all which mother would like to send her son to the forest?
When Laxman told Sumitra about his decision to go along with Shri Rama into exile and sought her permission, Sumitra agreed without any hesitation. Not only that, advising Laxman, she said: " O son, being far from me, don't ever think that you are far away from your parents, Sita will be your mother and Rama will be your father because the elder brother is just like a father and do not regret of being far away from Ayodhya because Ayodhya is at the very place where Rama resides. You don't have any business in Ayodhya in the absence of Rama."
Further, she said: " In this world, only that woman is fit to be called a mother whose son is the devotee of Raghunath, otherwise it would have been better if she were incapable of giving birth to a son.
Although, Sumitra knew that one and only person responsible for Ram being sent into exile was Kaikayee, yet she did not condemn her while giving advises to Laxman. On the contrary she condemned Laxman for Rama's exile. She said: " O son! Only your misfortune is responsible for sending Rama into exile and there is no other reason and you must consider it as your good fortune that you would be getting an opportunity to serve Rama and Sita while in exile."
Sumitra also envies Laxman's good fortune and laments about her own misfortune and bad luck because Laxman was getting an opportunity to be in Rama's proximity and on the other hand, she was being deprived of it. She also advised Laxman not to seek his own comforts but rather serve Rama with his thoughts, words and deeds. She also warned Laxman not to commit any action, which might hurt Rama's feelings.
Advising Laxman like this, Sumitra allowed Laxman to go along with Rama and Sita.
When Sumitra came to know about Laxman being hurt by the 'Shakti- Bana', the first thought which came to her mind was about Rama and not her son, Laxman. She knew very well that Rama loved Laxman so much that cannot be described in words. So, she could easily understand the pain and suffering which Rama would have been facing. Even though, her own son Laxman was wounded severely and the chances of his survival looked very dim, yet she did not think about him, but was bothered about Rama's pains and sufferings. Even in those trying situations, she asked Shatrughana to go to serve Rama, as he was alone.
The above mentioned two incidents clearly illustrates the depth and greatness of her character who even after knowing that her son's chances of survival was not bright, was most willing to send her second son, Shatrughana to serve Rama. This only goes to prove about the unlimited love and affection for Rama. It is impossible to find another character like her in the world, what to say about scriptures.
Sumitra was never touched by the grief for her own son's separation; on the contrary she was grieved and lamented about her misfortune, as she did not get an opportunity to embrace Shri Rama.
It was but natural that Laxman had imbibed all these exceptional qualities of his mother and just like her, there was no limit to the love and affection towards Shri Rama.
If there is a comparison made between Kaushalya's love for Rama and that of Sumitra's love for Shri Rama, we find that Sumitra's love was more intense and of greater value. She had sacrificed her love and affection for her own son and had dedicated it completely at the feet of Shri Rama. There is not a single female character like Sumitra in the Ramayana with such unbounded love for Shri Rama. Even Tulsidas has dedicated the qualities and virtues of an ideal woman at the feet of Sumitra. He has considered Sumitra as the best role for a woman.
Sumitra felt that it was not proper for Laxman to come to her for permission, rather he should have sought Kaushalya's permission. By not doing this, Sumitra felt that Laxman had committed the first mistake. She was deeply pained by this mistake of his.
The second mistake, which Laxman committed, was by leaving Shri Rama alone for some time when he came to ask permission from his mother Sumitra. This second mistake angered her.
But when she realized that Laxman committed both these mistakes unknowingly and undeliberately, she felt pity for him.
And ultimately, she gave permission to him without any remorse or grief.
'Blessed was the mother' and 'blessed was the son'. Tulsidas, during the characterization of Sumitra has proved about the unbounded love and affection of Sumitra for Rama. Only such type of mother who is like Sumitra is worthy of being called a mother and a child having taken birth from the womb of such a mother is worthy of being called a son.
Salutations to such a mother like Sumitra.