Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sita - An illustrated retelling of the Ramayana - Review

The famous mythology Ramayana has been told many times by many poets and rishis.  In today's world we get to see the same mythology retold as in the point of view of Sita.  This book also retells about Ramayana but it brings much praise to the female protagonist Sita.  Whenever Ramayana is told, it sings praises of the male protagonists Ram, Lakshman, Hanuman among a few others.  But this book does not retell anything different, does not reflect the emotions of Sita, but just focuses on the part of Sita more and how the events had happened with relevant proofs and references.

The author has given different short stories coined in and they intertwine and set the stage of the story in Ramayana.  These short stories may be introduction to a character or events leading to the particular stage being discussed in Ramayana.  When the author has a fact or reference to be given, he gives it as a table which can be read later too without affecting the flow of the story.  But it is best understood when read taking a break from the story.

The author starts the book with Hanuman describing the events of Ram's life to the great serpent Vasuki.  The book divides into different chapters, which the author calls as Book. 

Book 1 Did you know that Dasharatha had a daughter Shanta who indirectly payed way for Dasharatha to have sons.  So the first chapter discusses the birth of the princess of Mithila as well as the princes of Ayodhya.  It discusses in great deal about the ruler and the rishis than the protagonists themselves.  Sita is still in her young days though the story revolves around her. 

Book 2 starts with the story of Prithu which is very uncommon in our mythology.  Then it moves forward to the war between Vashista and Vishwamithra.  Soon we find the familiar backdrop of ramayana when Vishwamithra requests prince Ram to protect his yagna.  We enter the Bala-Kanda of Ramayana.  The story of Ramayana starts growing from there intertwined with famous stories of rishis and other king who ruled in the past.  It is said Ram and Sita meet before the svayamvar.

Book 3 talks about exile.  How the promise or boons came into being, how Mantharai churned the queen's heart and how Ram with holds the promise of the king are discussed here.  This chapter also talk about how the trio survives in the forest and the interesting rishis they meet.  Meanwhile the boys become men and the girl becomes a woman.  It is shown that Dasharatha, the father of 4 boys had to be kept in a vat of oil till one of them set fire to his body.

Book 4 talks about the events in the Dandaka forest and what led to the abduction of Sita.  The aftermath of the abduction is also discussed here with an interesting titbit that Sita had invented many board games that our children play today.  Also it is said that Sita is the daughter of Ravana.  It was a new fact and explained with various possibilities available to us.

Book 5 introduces the most important character Hanuman.  Hanuman narrates the events that had happened after her abduction.  He then goes on to introduce himself and how Ram has the aid of the vanaras on his side.  Finally Hanuman makes it to Lanka and meets Sita.  When he leaves Lanka, he sets fire to the city leaving it in a shaken state.

Book 6 is all about rescue.  The vanara army builds the famous bridge across the sea.  So when they cross the bridge, the epic battle begins.  Lakshman is wounded and Hanuman saves him with herb Sanjivini.    All of Ravana's brothers and sons are killed and Vibikshana is made the new king of Lanka.  Sita is rescued and passes the test of fire.

Book 7 is the final chapter of the book.  It is all about the coronation of Ram and the rejoicing of the people of Ayodhya.  Just as everything slides back into place, Sita is sent into exile.  This part discusses about her life in the woods, Rishi Valmiki, the twin boys and her motherhood.  The the grievious part of the depart of Sita, Lakshman and Ram happens, in that order.  Finally the book comes a full circle with Hanuman in the Naga lok.

Read this book with its illustrated drawings of various scenes.  Many parts of the story were replaced with some rare telling of the Ramayana with reference given and the various possibilities of the same plot that are spread worldwide.  One plot would surely be familiar to us. 

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