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Sita SITA AN ILLUSTRATED RETELLING OF THE RAMAYANAIt is significant that the only character in Hindu mythology a king at that to be given the title of ekam patni vrata devoted to a single wife is associated with the most unjust act of abandoning her in the forest to protect family reputation This seems a deliberate souring of an uplifting narrative Rams refusal to remarry to produce a royal heir adds to the complexity The intention seems to be to provoke thought on notions of fidelity property and self imageAnd so the mythologist and illustrator Devdutt Pattanaik retells the Ramayana drawing attention to the many oral visual and written retellings composed in different times in different places by different poets each one trying to solve the puzzle in its own uniue way This book approaches Ram by speculating on Sita her childhood with her father Janaka who hosted sages mentioned in the Upanishads; her stay in the forest with her husband who had to be a celibate ascetic while she was in the prime of her youth; her interactions with the women of Lanka recipes she exchanged emotions they shared; her connection with the earth her mother and with the trees her sisters; her role as the Goddess the untamed Kali as well as the demure Gauri in transforming the stoic prince of Ayodhya into God


10 thoughts on “Sita

  1. says:

    I never really liked the Ramayana Reasons1 I thought it was too righteous or glorifying the righteous2 I did not like the fact that Rama abandoned Sita3 I thought it did not have shades of grey like the MahabharataBut let me tell you that after reading this version this retelling of it I am blown I am impressed Particularly by Rama and his wisdom I have now learnt to appreciate Hanuman much better In fact this story shows not just the love of a man for his wife it shows love of an inspired soul towards the source of inspirationPlus the book always has Pattanaik's trait of explaining the deeply intertwined mythology And connecting the dots of various rituals all over India and threading them with Ramayana story In this book we also read about the Javanese and Sri Lankan ritualsoriginsheritage sites I loved particularly the verbal exchanges between Ram and Lakshman Ram and Sita and in many cases Hanuman and Lankites I was happy to know that Rama too was in despair He was normal like the rest of us He was freaking out he was losing it and the only reason why he was a much better individual is the speed with which he recovered from desperate situations The way he turned the situation into something that can grow inspirationAs opposed to the tiresome elongated highly wannabe prose rich version of Ashok Banker Pattanaik is clever with his brevityMost of all I appreciate the fact that the book showed whats actually evil I did feel exercising control against the will of another is evil That is certainly demonstrated well in Pattanaik's words Sita particularly talks a lot about free will in a way that is difficult to compare with the world right now The end is written in a way that doesn't spell distaste for Rama in your head as is usually the case Today Rama is slightly unpopular among urban audience because of what might be construed as chauvinistic and selfish decisions Pattanaik brings forth the power of Sita to turn around this perception He is God he can abandon no one and I am Goddess I cannot be abandoned by anyone is a perfect uote and note to start and end the book In short Pattanaik turned me into a Ramayana fan I would say this is the best retelling of the story in modern timesApart from all this I like the art too Devdutt Pattanaik cleverly puts in wonderful uniue mural like art all over the book which makes it interesting to read I loved the way the publishers have dealt with the book as well its design its art everything


  2. says:

    I never had a fascination for Ramayanabecause I've always seen Sita as a victim of gender oppressionwho spends her life loving and longing for Ram only to be rejected not once but twice for no fault of hersHoweverthis book gave me an entirely new perspective of the great epic Pattanaik does not write it in the conventional manner by focusing the tale on Ram rather his central character is SitaPattanaik draws Sita as an independentintelligent calm and courageous woman who argues with Ram to join him in exile stoically waits for Ram to rescue her from Lanka and later raises her children as a single mother It is now that I can see that Sita could always make her own life with or without Ram yet she gives up everything for Ram and his kingdomI've also discovered many unknown facts of the characters I didn’t know that Sita was a great cook or that she was the only person apart from Ram who could effortlessly lift Shiva’s bow or that she invented a lot of board games that are still played in rural IndiaThe book also brings new prospective to Ram Pattanaik justifies Ram’s actionspointing out that whatever Ram has doneis for the reputation of the Raghu Clan He is the 'Maryada Purushottam' who never breaks any rules and thus abandons Sita despite his own unhappinessHe also never remarried like most of the men in that timemaking him 'Ekam Patni vrata'Pattanaik blends together many retellings and narratives of the Ramayana from different regions across India and outside India and adds notes at the end of each chapter I loved the artwork that has been applied by the author in each section The conversations between the different characters are so well crafted and insightful After almost every paragraph it motivates us to pause and thinkand then introspect on our own lifeThe book stresses that there are various ways of looking at the Ramayana As Pattanaik puts it Within infinite myths lies an eternal truthWho sees it all?Varuna has but a thousand eyesIndra a hundredYou and I only two Sita is a must read and is one such book that uncovers layers on consecutive readings 


  3. says:

    Fantastic When I reached page 250 almost 56th of the book at which point Sita is freed I finally allowed myself the comparison that had been bubbling inside my head for a while Jaya an illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata by the same author ranks among my top five books of all time Thus far this book had not really touched those levels Rationalisation was easy the Mahabharata is perhaps a complex and interesting tale because of the sheer number of characters the back stories and the grey shades that permeate every character in it There were many little nuggets I hadn't known about earlier and that made the reading exciting On a relative note the Ramayana is 'linear' and there are a limited number of layers that the author can add to situations or characters I consoled myself with the fact that the narration was as spectacular as Jaya and I had gained at least a couple of perspectives beyond my current understanding of the epic and its underlying philosophies Aham and Aham Brahmasmi for example I did wonder though why the author had to call it Sita there wasn't really a justificationAnd then I continued reading It is in Uttara Ramayana that the author really comes into his own almost like a reflection of his protagonist Sita The author had mentioned a dichotomy of prakriti nature and sanskriti culture on several occasions and Sita's separation from Ram gives her the freedom to live her life in tune with the former This section shows the maturity of Sita's character and also becomes a justification of the title for we truly understand that Ram and Sita are inseparable as concepts Despite knowing the story the narration in the final pages really tug at your heart Ram's characterisation also deserves a mention He is steadfast in his dharma and does not expect any understanding from anyone else including fate He implicitly knows that Sita is the only one capable of understanding his reasons and actions fully His perspectives are not blind in fact several times in the course of the book he justifies the positions and actions of characters who might be considered antagonists His faith in karma and dharma are unflappable and the author brings out the Maryada Purushottam really well The narrative largely remains faithful to Valmiki's version but also has an eclectic mix of other versions At some points in the book we also get an understanding not just of the then prevalent societal s but also their reasons It is a wonderful read and takes its rightful place beside Jaya as a favourite PS If you have read Jaya and noted the difference between Jaya and Vijaya watch out for the parallel take on Durga and Shakti


  4. says:

    This book is fantasticMy mind was blown seeing the epic story of Ramayana in a different yet the very way we should and have to see itI've been introduced to Ramayana by TV series movies Never through literature I've its book in my home But every time I read it I have to put it down in the middle Next time when I read it I read from the start and the same story goes and is going since many yearsWhy this book is different than all the stories I've heard? I've heard stories from Ram's perspective watched series from Ravan's perspective All these years of wanting to read something from Sita's point of view but never really realizing it and coming across this book was I'll say totally coincidence I have lost the count of people I've told this story to The starting is superb The ending is mesmerizing All in all it filled the parts of Ramayana where I had doubts since ages Reading Sita in my opinion was reading a fan fiction of Ramayana but in a good way a way I would have liked to read Well it bugged me a big time that Sita is not the superhero of this book at some points When I saw the whole picture it didn't bother me I didn't mind who was the hero at what parts or anything


  5. says:

    One awesome read words fail me to describe this book But Pattanaik once again proved that however many times a story is repeated there's always something new if one is talented enough to get to know the reader's pulse It taught me many lessons of life which I oft forget But still I am irked at Ram foe all that he does towards Sita in the latter half of the book Lakshman is whom I can correlate with He thinks almost like the common man Sita was the strongest personality throughout the books perhaps that's why the book is named after herWould surely read this againAnd would surely recommends this to all provided they are somewhat versed with the happenings in Ramayana


  6. says:

    Within infinite myths lies an eternal truth Who sees it all? Varuna has but a thousand eyes Indra a hundred You and I only twoRamayana is an age old saga that has been passed on from generation to generation through two primary means of communication  maukhik orally and likhit written Another medium got added to the list much later that of moving pictures and this has been utilized multitude of times in narrating the epic tale But perhaps Devdutt Pattanaik's Sita is the one which has touched me in a way no other could Unlike Mahabharata Ramayana is considered to be a much simpler tale with lesser diversions and sub tales but here in Sita you get all that there is to read and understand about the story of Ram the seventh incarnate of Lord Vishnu The supporting tales mentioned here do not hinder the flow of the narrative rather they are brought out at the most logical junctures where they actually belong The author tries to bring many sub stories regional twists and beliefs into the fold of the main legend The action of Ravana is compared and contrasted with some Greek and Roman mythological figures as well  Further there is perfect dose of analysis and commentary part in the narrative which makes 'Sita' an introspective piece of writingIn order to stay true to the title 'Sita' the author has attempted to bring a woman's perspective in the proceedings which has otherwise been left unregistered by the earlier story tellers It begins with Sita's early years in her maternal house We have been generously introduced to the childhood period of Rama and his three bothers however there is not much that has been written about Sita as a child The things that interested her her pastimes her relationship with her parents sisters and others in the kingdom do not find much of a mention in many writings Here she is portrayed as a well read wise strong and confident character It is amazing how filling colours in a pencil sketch takes the whole creation to a completely different level and that is what happens to the character of Sita Pattanaik also highlights the relationship that Sita shared with other women characters the ueens of Ayodhya Anusuya Mandodari and Trijata Their conversations make it easy for the readers to understand the personalities and thought process of various actors Though a religious epic Ramayana is a story which leaves many wondering and uestioning about the fairness and rightfulness of the decision taken by Ram in banishing his pregnant wife In Sita Devdutt Pattanaik has tried to address this sensitive issue by highlighting the divine connection that Sita had with Ram and vice versa Sita tried to pacify the embarrassment of Lakshman thus 'Ram is dependable hence God I am independent hence Goddess He needs to do his duty follow rules and safeguard reputation I am under no such obligation I am free to do as I please love him when I am separated from him love him when I am rescued by  him love him when he clings to me love him even when he lets me go' This makes Sita a highly magnanimous person and one worthy of everyone's admiration and adulationThis book definitely comes strongly against the male domination and blind propagation of Dharma It is a perfect take on the inner strength and resilience of women and how they don't always need a man to feel complete But even when delivering a strong picture of women this book binds her to an image of sacrifice and withdrawal which has always been expected out of a woman As a reader there are few uestions that have been playing around in my mind Why do women always have to choose self retreat as a glorious option when fighting patriarchy? Even when self realisation is a great state of mind why can't we opt for a different ending to each life even in fiction?I would like to uote a few nuggets of intellect that would make one introspect and contemplate over and over again Kanyaa daan  I give you Lakshmi wealth who will bring you pleasure and prosperity Grant me Saraswati wisdom Let me learn the joy of letting go Indaan only wisdom is asked in exchange unlike dakshina  where wealth is asked in exchange and bhiksha where power is asked in exchangeBefore your wife came into your life you were a student with no claim on property After your wife leaves your life you must become a hermit with no claim over property Only as long as she is by your side do you have claims over wealth Without her you cannot perform yagna you must  only perform tapasyaFor many the Ramayana is Ramveda great wisdom and the relationship between Ram and Sita is of word mantra and meaning artha one cannot exist without the otherBy refusing to return to Ram Sita turns away from sanskriti and the rules of society She does not need social structures to give her status She chooses the earth where there are no boundaries and rulesSita An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana is a brilliant read It explores the enigma of Sita and explains her real strength of character Devdutt Pattanaik has the acuteness to bring out the untapped wisdom that is lying deep in the mythological stories of yore 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 and effortlessly manages to makes us fall in love with mythology


  7. says:

    This book is almost an Dissertation on Ramayana in it's many renditions across languages and continents And yet at the centre of the book is the many stories and tales that add up to the familiar story of Sita's Ram I loved the way the author tried to step aside from any agenda and diligently present the various disambiguation on the said story at the end of each storyLot of the stories I had already come across and hence i was interested in knowing what the various interpretations were For example I was surprised to find in Assamese Ramayana Kusa was actually created by Valmiki since he had lost the Lava while babysitting or how in Thai Ramayana Hanuman is not celebate but a warrior who sires many children These are nothing compared to some of the interpretations which have been extremely well researched by the author The philosophical debates around a good king vs good husband the concept of divinity varna vs Jati etc were sort of simplified I would have used dumbed down but then I think it is unfair to the author Lakshmana and Hanuman come out better than Ram and Sita becomes nature herself The subtle humor in some of the stories held the book from becoming a research paper The author is not trying to tell a compelling tale he just tries to tell a complete tale World of difference when it comes to which story to include and which to drop For example the story of Inderjit's taming of Lakshmana and Sugriva's excesses after his victory over Vali were there since it got represented in one of the interpretations The many interpretations are indicative of how the tale has inspired people to seek their own image of a perfect kingI think this is a edible non mega serial version of the epic which is a good goto book for all ages


  8. says:

    I've always liked Mahabharat than the Ramayan There's no fun when there are no shades of evil But then when I read the story again and again I found the righteousness and perfectionism of Ram to be the real evil I loved the prologue which compared Ramayan Mahabharat which actually sounded like a warning of Ram's actions to me To all those who believe that the Mahabharata is realistic and complex than the Ramayana In one the protagonist is a kingmaker who can move around rules while in the other protagonist is a king who must uphold rules howsoever distasteful they may be From Valmiki's script which was dated back to 2nd century BCE Devdutt has interpolated different works across centuries which are about Ramayana So what you have in your hand brings to light the stories you have never heard ofDevdutt Pattanaik's Sita throws a deeper insight into Sita's life Hanuman goes in search of Ram's lost ring inside the earth and in Nag log Vasuki demands Hanuman to share Sita's story Here it starts the story of Sita the martyr of RamayanaGreatest injustice in Ramayana according to me is done to Sita Being a princess she went to forest with Ram to accomplish his exile She was then kidnapped by Ravana where she spends the most stressful time of her life Her conversations with the Lankan women are all perfect Just perfect It doesn't stop there Sita's suffering Ram returns triumphantly rejoicing Ravan's death and gossips about Sita's purity perturbs RamLakshman takes Sita to leave her in the forest taking in account Ram's order Lakshman is very much upset and disturbed and Sita utters these words You feel your Ram has abandoned his Sita don't you? But he has not He cannot He is God he abandons no one And I am Goddess I cannot be abandoned by anyone I loved every bit of Sita from then on Her attitude is icing on the cakeKalidasa's Raguvamsa Bhoja's champu ramayana Kamban's Ramavatharam Akbar's collections of Ramayana Paintings 1943's film Ram Rajya the only film seen by Mahatma Gandhi Ramanand sagar's Ramayana Ashok Banker's Ramayana series are all taken into account while Devdutt penned down this book The thing which is lovely is Devdutt's book reveals new and minute details about Ramayana which includes rural side stories of itThe best book on Ramayan I've ever read


  9. says:

    First line To all those who believe that the Mahabharata is realistic and complex than the Ramayana May they realize thatWell researched and presented in a crisp format The illustrations are apt and marvellous and the author's commentary at the end of each chapter is the icing on the cake setting the context by summarising the various prominent versionsHas ignited the curiosity to read the various versions of different character's point of viewsLoved the contrasts and linkings with the Mahabharata1 The epic Ramayana is aligned along the Dakshina patha or the south highway that connects northern India to southern India while the epic Mahabharata is aligned along Uttara patha or the north highway that connects western India to eastern India Thus the two great epics cover the length and breadth of India2 In the Ramayana Vishnu as Ram supports Surya’s son Sugriva against Indra’s son Vali In the Mahabharata Vishnu as Krishna supports Indra’s son Arjuna against Surya’s son Karna Thus balance is restored over two lifetimes3 In the Mahabharata Vishnu as Krishna encourages the burning of a forest to build a city In the Ramayana Shiva as Hanuman resides in a forest and burns down a city4 Both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata end not with victory of the heroes but knowledge transmission a reminder that the war is less about things and about thoughts5 Both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata raise the uestion of whether kingdoms are the properties of kings Both agree that they are not


  10. says:

    I am utterly disappointed with this book Let me make it clear at the start that I'm disappointed because of my expectations of the author based on past books and not because the book itself has major flawsAfter reading and enjoying 'The Pregnant King' and 'Jaya' by Devdutt Pattanaik I had high expectations from this book DrPattanaik's story telling I thought had a marvelous way of constructing the narrative devoid of the over devout tone that one finds in all religious stories across India With 'Jaya' it allowed me to discern larger lessons intricate realizations from the nuances of Mahabharata since it did not stick to the formula of the Pandavas as starkly good and the Kauravas as big villians 'The Pregnant King' had a similarly objective tone while also telling a great storySita I'm afraid is a cop out It is a narration of the Ramayan exactly the way I've heard from every single religious person I've know The title appears to be picked to throw you off give the impression that this is another point of view of the Ramayan But truly Sita is a cardboard character at best in this narrative and appears in very few chapters Ram is the starring superhero who can do evil All his violent acts and decisions are miraculously vanished away by the victims claiming to be a curse that they are liberated from by being slaughtered by RamFrom a fiction point of view Lakshman is the classic sidekick character created only to glorify and showcase the protagonist's superiority The only thing he does is pitch fits at every given opportunity giving Ram a chance to say something profoundRavana is the worst depicted of the lot Unlike Jaya where character nuances were explored in this tale Ravana is depicted as an excessive supervillian His wisdom and kingdom sovereignity that have been talked about by historians are brushed away with flimsy explanations painting him out to be a bad guy simply because he is BAD'Jaya' referenced several local legends and religious myths to add detail and colour to a complex story 'Sita' in contrast consistently refers to 4 or 5 other tellings of the Ramayan and in this book just attempts to collate all of them in one narrative Since none of them really vary in any significant manner except for the most minor of details this barely adds anything to the storyIf you have never read or heard the Ramayana this is one narrative that's decently written That said it paints a very one sided stark view of a narrative that is much complex and thus is incomplete and superficial


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