Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book Review : Sita

Title : Sita
Author : Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher : Penguin India
ISBN : 978-0-143-06432-9

"You judge him but I love him Lakshman. You see your brother as an ideal and are angry because he has not lived up to your expectations. I see my husband for what he is, and understand his motivations; at every moment he strives to be what he thinks is best. I will not burden him with expectations. That is how I make him feel loved. And he sees me, knows that I will support him no matter what, even when he resorts to such devious route like an errant child."

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.

Ramayana 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. Quite like what was done in Jaya, 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.  Furthermore, there is perfect dose of analysis and commentary part in the narrative which makes 'Sita' an introspective piece of writing.

In 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 queens of Ayodhya, Anusuya, Mandodari and Trijata. Their conversations make it easy for the readers to understand the personalities and thought process of various actors. 
The unmentioned and unacknowledged trivia may seem insignificant from the perspective of moving the story forward, nevertheless, they do wonders in giving a substantial identity to each character.

Though a religious epic, Ramayana is a story which leaves many wondering and questioning 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 adulation.

Devdutt Pattanaik has the acumen to bring out the untapped wisdom that is lying deep in the mythological stories of yore. After having read Jaya and Sita, one wonders, how much there is to learn from such epic tales, if one could just acquire perception like that of Pattanaik.

I cannot put a final full stop to this review before I quote 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. In daan only wisdom is asked in exchange, unlike dakshina - where wealth is asked in exchange and bhiksha, where power is asked in exchange.

  • Before 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 tapasya.

  • From desire come all problems and all desires come from fear.

  • What we possess is temporary but what we become is permanent.

  • Most people seek to be the sun around which the world revolves. Very few are willing to be the moon, allowing others to be the sun, despite having full knowledge that they can outshine everyone else. Ram's brothers served him to upholds the integrity of the royal clan. Sita was bound by wifely obligations but only Hanuman did so out of pure love. That is why Ram held him closest.

Here is an interview with him, that was done for the newspaper - The Tribune


  1. I have read Sita by Devdutt Pattanaik. It was great to read the book but even you have summed up the book very well. It was great to read your review and I also share you opinion about the book.

  2. Thanks for stopping by here Ritu. Glad you found the review appropriate. It is indeed a great read.

  3. A very well written review. I must read the book. That interpretation of the equation between Ram and Sita adds an entirely new dimension tocRam's act of leaving Sita. I wonder how the writer has interpreted Sita going back to Mother Earth. Like I said, I MUST read this book.

  4. Thanks Gita. I am glad you liked the review. This is a wonderful book and mus be read over and over again.


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