Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Sita, not Ram’s story retold


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By Sanskriti Singh
Indian mythology has been a genre I have grown up reading or listening to the stories, especially from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. For example, the stories of Rama and Sita, the demons and the gods in the Ramayana are fascinating. I have always been interested in the Ramayana and to read a retelling of this epic has to be interesting enough and must provide new aspects.
The book Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of The Ramayana retold by Dr Devdutt Pattanaik has all the contents of the epic but are presented in a new way. We always hear about Rama but this was the first book which described Sita as a goddess — Sitayan instead of Ramayan could well be its title.
The book has 3 major parts. First, an author’s note — what Shiva told Shakti.
This part mainly explains the story or the core of Sita and Rama’s life. Shiva explains the different incarnations of Vishnu. The author has also brought forward the concept of Suryavansh as the story revolves around the Solar Dynasty. He explains the birth of Rama and the reason he came to Earth.
The second important section of the book is the ‘Prologue’ that starts with Hanuman illustrating the story of Sita to Vasuki, the God of the Nagas. This is followed by the birth of Sita. She was born of the earth and raised among sages. She was found by Janak, the Rajrishi, and he brought her up amidst an environment of knowledge and the Vedas. Thereafter comes her Marriage — ‘Janak told her to bring happiness to marriage rather than seek happiness from it’.
The next section deals with the Exile — ‘She followed her husband to ensure that he never feels incomplete’. This deals with her experiences during the exile.
Next is the Abduction — ‘Her body could be imprisoned, but never her mind’, illustrates her captivity by Ravana, the king of Lanka.
How can we forget Sita’s patience and faith? Hence this section is named Anticipation — ‘From her faith came her patience’.
Ram would have never left Sita in any bad situation but people in Ayodhya brought the purity of a Sati to question. Rama rescued her in the Rescue — ‘Lanka desired her submission, Ayodhya demanded her innocence’.
And then the last section considers the freedom of Prakriti from the bounds of Purush, explaining the injustice that Ram and Raghukul meted out to the Pure Goddess who had submitted herself to her husband’s family. Here we are also introduced to Luv and Kush, the twin sons of Rama and Sita, and her role of a single mother.
The conclusion signifies Sita’s return to Mother Earth, aptly called the Freedom — ‘He remained trapped in culture, but nature set her free’.
This whole Prologue ends with the grief Rama felt without his Sita and how he decided to leave Earth and go back to Vaikunth, the dham of Vishnu. This section brings the book to an end with the Epilogue — Ascent to Ayodhya.
Devdutt has done justice to the epic by retelling the Ramayana and giving it a different angle. Being a constant reader of mythology, I found the book reasonably justified and fascinating. And surely we cannot forget the artwork that has been applied by the author in each section. The presentation is amazing. What comes to my mind when I read this book is the artistry and splendid narration.
I came across various parts which helped me discover the unknown facts of the characters. Before reading this book I never knew that Rama was a person who never questioned things or contradicted them, he accepted life the way it came to him, nor did I ever know that Sita was a curious princess who had hundreds of questions about everything, or the sacrifice Urmila made for her husband. These untold aspects of the characters are graciously revealed in the book.
The book has many vignettes and the author has offered his personal views and provoking new questions to arise in our minds. As a reader, look for the answers between the infinite myths.
The interesting plot, which explains
women’s point of view and the indirect metaphors, have explained what a woman’s decision depends on. Sita as an example of women in general is a perfect way of defining truth, grace and knowledge along with rules and regulations of marriage and motherhood.
The book is a splendid representation of literature. It must be read by one and all. It is easy to understand and the narration will keep you spellbound. And you are sure to love it more with the beautiful lines conveyed by the author:
“Within infinite myths lies an eternal truth/Who sees it all?”
(The author is a
Class X student of
B.K Bajoria School)
 Book: Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of The Ramayana; Author: Dr Devdutt
Pattanaik; Publisher:
Penguin Books India;
Pages: 220; Price: Rs 328

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