Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
The chariot stopped far from the city in the middle of the forest.
Sita alighted, eager to walk amongst the trees. The charioteer, Lakshman, remained seated. Sensing he had something to say, Sita paused. Lakshman finally spoke, eyes to the ground, ‘Your husband, my elder brother, Ram, king of Ayodhya, wants you to know that the streets are full of gossip. Your reputation is in question. The rules are clear on this: a king’s wife should be above all doubt. The scion of the Raghu clan, therefore, has ordered you to stay away from his person and his palace and his city. You are free to go wherever else you please. But you may not reveal to anyone you were once Ram’s queen.’
Sita watched Lakshman’s nostrils flare. She felt his embarrassment and his rage. She wanted to reach out and reassure him, but she restrained herself.
‘You feel your Ram has abandoned his Sita, don’t you?’ she asked gently. ‘But he has not. He cannot. He is God; he abandons no one.
And I am Goddess; I cannot be abandoned by anyone.’
A mystified Lakshman returned to Ayodhya, while Sita smiled in the forest, and unbound her hair.
While this book is no Palace of Illusions in terms of narrating the feminist viewpoint in mythology, Devdutt Pattanaik’s Sita provides an account Ramayana and how it evolved through time along with various backstories that we might not be aware of.
Devdutt Pattanaik does manage to provide an unbiased account of the entire epic. But, when the book is named “Sita” and not Ramayana…one expects a bit more.
While the way the author manages to explain the difference between varna and jati…how in earlier times, people were categorized based on their occupation, which then turned into rigid caste based society was quite impressive, I felt that even the attempts to show Sita as a strong, independent women who faces everything that comes to her…did not quite cover up for the wrong that Ram did to her, which was lacking in a way in this retelling. Just because she is accepting the injustice…or even understanding the motive behind it…does not make the injustice justified in any way. I mean does an “ideal king” and more importantly a “maryada purushottam” (a man who lives by the rules)..throw someone (forget his own wife..just about any human) who is innocent to go in exile..because people are “talking”. An ideal king needs to follow rules with his brain..you can’t have a king who does not think about the implied meanings and gives out punishment based on “people are talking”.
The book did contain some interesting and informative back stories, like that of Shanta and Sita’s childhood. Excellent research has been put into this book. If you go into it expecting Ramayana…instead of Sita’s viewpoint of Ramayana…it would be better..