The Ramayana (5th to 4th century BCE) by Valmiki does not mention Maya Sita. Sita, the princess of Mithila, is married to Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. Rama is forced to go on a 14-year exile and is accompanied by Sita and his brother Lakshmana. Ravana, the demon-king of Lanka, plots to abduct Sita, aided by Maricha, who transforms into a magical golden deer (Maya mriga, an illusional deer), that entices Sita. While in exile in Dandaka forest, Rama goes after the deer and slays it. The magical deer gives a call of help in Rama's voice. Sita forces Lakshmana to go and help Rama, leaving her alone. Ravana comes disguised as an ascetic and kidnaps her. He imprisons her in the Ashoka Vatika grove of Lanka, until she is rescued by Rama, who slays Ravana in war. When Rama doubts Sita's chastity, she undergoes a trial by fire (Agni Pariksha). Sita enters a burning pyre declaring that if she has been faithful to Rama let the fire not harm her; she comes out unscathed with the fire-god. In some version of Ramayana, during this test the fire-god Agni appears in front of Rama and attests to Sita's purity or hands over him the real Sita and declares it was Maya Sita who was abducted by Ravana. The Thailand version of the Ramayana, however, tells of Sita walking on the fire, of her own accord, to feel clean, as opposed to jumping in it. She is not burnt, the coals turn to lotuses. Rama accepts Sita back and returns to Ayodhya, where they are crowned as king and queen.
The Kurma Purana (c. 550–850 CE) is the first text where Maya Sita appears. The key event of the Ramayana story – the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana – was replaced with the abduction of Maya Sita (an unreal Sita) by Ravana; meanwhile Sita is protected in the refuge of Agni, the fire god. In the Kurma Purana, Sita prays to Agni just when Ravana arrives to kidnap her. Agni creates Maya Sita – an exact double of Sita – who takes the place of Sita and is abducted by the demon. While Sita is taken by Agni to heaven, Maya Sita is confined in Lanka. After Ravana's death, when Maya Sita enters the fire at Agni Pariksha, Agni restores the real Sita to Rama; meanwhile Maya Sita is destroyed in the blaze. The Chaitanya Charitamrita, a biography of the Vaishnava saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1533), by Krishnadasa Kaviraja (b. 1496) alludes to the Kurma Purana tale. Chaitanya meets a brahmin Rama devotee in Madurai. The brahmin is devastated after learning that "mother Sita, mother of the universe and the supreme goddess of fortune" was stained by Ravana's touch and gives up food. The saint consoles the brahmin saying that Sita's spiritual form can not be touched by the demon; it was Maya Sita that was taken away by Ravana. The brahmin feels better and accepts food. Chaitanya then travels to Rameswaram, where he listens to the Kurma Purana and obtains the authoritative proof to comfort the brahmin. He returns to Madurai with the Kurma Purana manuscript, leaving that brahmin overjoyed. While Agni is the saviour in the Kurma Purana, the Rama-centric Adhyatma Ramayana replaces Agni with the omniscient Rama as the mastermind. Rama knows of Ravana's intentions and orders Sita to place her chaya (shadow) outside the hut for Ravana to abduct and go inside the hut and live hidden in the fire for a year; after Ravana's death, she would unite with him again. Sita complies and creates her illusionary form, Maya Sita, and enters the fire. After Ravana's death, Maya Sita has to face the Agni Pariksha and vanishes in the fire. Agni reinstates Sita and declares that Rama created the illusionary Sita to bring about Ravana's annihilation and with that purpose served, the true Sita returns to Rama. Inspired by Adhyatma Ramayana, the Ramacharitmanas has a very similar narrative; however, Agni Pariskha narrative is longer and Maya Sita is explicitly stated to be destroyed in the fire The NepaliBhanubhakta Ramayana by Bhanubhakta Acharya (1814 – 1868) portrays Rama creating the illusionary Sita from the sacred Kusha grass and entrusting Sita to Agni; at Agni Pariksha, the grass turns into ashes while the true Sita reappears before the world.
The Brahma Vaivarta Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana narratives are similar to each other and divulge about Maya Sita's life after Agni Pariksha. The Devi Bhagavata Purana states: Agni comes, disguised as a brahmin, to Rama and informs him that he had purpose of his birth on earth and slay Ravana; Sita would be abducted by Ravana and would lead to his downfall. Agni requests Rama to hand over Sita to him for safekeeping and substitute her with Maya Sita; after Ravana's destruction when Sita would be asked to prove her chastity by entering fire, Maya Sita will be replaced with the real Sita again. Rama consents. Agni mediates and creates Maya Sita, who looks perfectly like the original Sita. Maya Sita and Sita switch places and Agni disappears with the real Sita, extracting the promise from Rama that the replacement of Sita remains secret; not even Lakshmana should know. Maya Sita longs for the illusional deer and is consequently kidnapped. As per the plan, Maya Sita vanished in the fire at Agni Pariksha and real Sita comes out.
When Rama abandons the young Maya Sita at Agni Pariksha, she – worried about her uncertain future – questions Rama and Agni about what should she do now. They advise her to go to Pushkar and perform austerities (Tapas) and prophesy that she will become Svargalakshmi ("Lakshmi of the heaven") as the result of her asceticism. Shiva is pleased with her penance and promises to grant her desired boon. Maya Sita, who is transformed into Svargalakshmi by practising austerities for three lakh years, anxiously repeats five times that she get a husband. Shiva blesses her that she will be born as Draupadi, the princess of Pancala, who will have five husbands. Draupadi, the heroine of the Mahabharata, is born out of the flames of a yajna (fire sacrifice) of Drupada (King of Panchala) and later becomes the common wife of the five Pandava brothers, princes of Kuru kingdom. The text also declares that in previous birth, Maya Sita was Vedavati, a woman Ravana tries to rape and who curses Ravana that she will be the cause of his ruin. Since she has taken birth in three yugas (ages; a cycle of four ages is believed to repeat) – Vedavati in Satya yuga, Maya Sita in Treta Yuga and Draupadi in Dwapara yuga, she is known as Trihayani, the one who appears in the three ages.