Book Review: Sita, An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana

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Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN13: 9780143064329
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 328
Source: Personal Copy

Ramayana is one of the two mythological Indian epics that have been told and retold over the years. It is the story of Rama, the son of King Dasharatha. He was the heir to his kingdom, an empire. Yet, due to the malice prevalent in the palace, the Prince was exiled for fourteen years. The Ramayana is all about obeying the rules and laws of Dharma, even at the cost of personal loss and unhappiness. She plays a prominent role in the epic, but is a very quiet and restrained character. Her abandons her in the end because of the persistent gossip among his subjects about Sita’s fidelity. Sita remains quiet, does not lose her composure, and does not vocally demand retribution. Sita’s silence is not the silence of the weak. It is the silence of the ascetic, who knows the truth, and so is patient. She knows her husband loves her, and she is indispensable to him. Moreover, she knows she is the Goddess who makes him the God, the woman who makes him the whole man.

The book explores the enigma of Sita and explains her real strength of character. “The journey to discover Sita makes you realize that the Ramayana is not a book, as most people assume, but a vast tradition manifesting itself in written, oral and visual traditions. And for some reason, children of India have been kept away from it. Yes, we are told of the Valmiki Ramayana, but we are not told that there are several versions of this original story itself a northern version, a southern version, an eastern version, which have barely a third of the verses common between them. Then there are Sanskrit plays written by dramatists like Bhasa and Bhavabhuti where Ram is a great hero, not necessarily God. Then we find Ramayanas of the Jains, the Buddhists as well as from South East Asia, which retell the same story but with a very different emotion. From the tenth century onwards we find the Ramayana in each and every Indian language, written by several authors, in different scripts, with different styles, all deeply immersed in bhakti. It is through these regional narratives, not the Sanskrit ones really, that ideas related to love, valour, fidelity and wisdom spread to every corner of India.” says Devdutt Pattanaik  in an exclusive article for Flipkart

Devdutt Pattanaik is a doctor who became a writer. Other books by this author include Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management, 7 Secrets of Vishnu, Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata, The Book of Ram, and Hanuman’s Ramayan.

Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana is a brilliant read. The illustrations add character to it. It makes you rethink the pre-set social norms of right and wrong. Devdutt is a master story teller. With this book he gives detailed insights about stories that have been told for ages. Yet again he effortlessly manages to makes you fall in love with mythology.

Rating: 5/5

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