More than a few thousand years old and celebrated epic, that too a religious chronicle for many Indians, in a retold tale of a woman’s misfit in her husband’s so patriarchal ‘Ram Rajya’, and the more important focus on her life and journey in the pages of the Ramayana, is perhaps the story told in Devdutt Pattanaik’s Sita- An illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana. For anyone who’s first read of this eulogy for the first time, it would seem as traditional tales twirled in a written narrative of the ideal civic life (or as suggested by are oh so noble ancestors and their books on dharma!) and the bards of our glorious and dynamic history. Yet, a recent read by “today’s” “modern” Indian would definitely agree with the story that Pattanaik has to tell in his latest release.
With a much added to this age old chronicle, it’s original text, as claimed yet debated by many, tells the story of that idealistic prince; who leaves home and lives in exile as the ideal son, rescues his wife when she’s abducted by a demonic king, as the ideal husband would do, and then returns home to reclaim the throne only to rule and then abandons his wife in pursuit of carrying out the image of an ideal sovereign. While the retold versions of this story have been moulded and twisted to the vantage of those who wrote it and wanted to triumph over their existing erstwhile oppressors, and indeed glorify their own religious beliefs. It is but evident to the 21st century Indian who argues the claim of Sita, who toed on the lines her husband asked her to follow yet faced a much injustice as has not been retold in many versions. It thus becomes important to delve into her story, as an individual, as a woman, in the lines of the epic.
So Pattanaik questions, how should this tale be retold? Well, in the quest to do so and to reflect upon Sita’s version of what the story of Ramayana must be seen as, along with many who have attempted to do so over the passing centuries; this wordsmith of an author recapitulates the narrative of Ramayana with ingenious and witty illustrations in this recent work.
While many know of his awarded and celebrated works, this fresh take on the Ramayana is this week’s recommendation by Indians’ Read!Image courtesy: Illustrations by Devdutt Pattanaik in his book, Sita- An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana