Priya's Reviews > Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana

Sita by Devdutt Pattanaik
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really liked it
bookshelves: indian-mythology

I never really liked the Ramayana. Reasons:

1. I thought it was too righteous or glorifying the righteous
2. I did not like the fact that Rama abandoned Sita
3. I thought it did not have shades of grey like the Mahabharata.

But 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 inspiration.

Plus 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 rituals/origins/heritage 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 inspiration.

As opposed to the tiresome, elongated, highly wannabe prose rich version of Ashok Banker, Pattanaik is clever with his brevity.

Most 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 quote 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 times!

Apart from all this, I like the art too. Devdutt Pattanaik cleverly puts in wonderful unique mural like art all over the book, which makes it more interesting to read. I loved the way the publishers have dealt with the book as well, its design, its art, everything.
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Reading Progress

October 31, 2014 – Started Reading
October 31, 2014 – Shelved
October 31, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
November 16, 2014 – Finished Reading
July 24, 2016 – Shelved as: indian-mythology

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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Vidya Ananthanarayanan I have always preferred the Mahabharata too. But some of it, I attribute to how the stories were presented. Ram and Sita are typically presented as the ideals we ought to live up to - the Divinity that Ram began to represent in layers years as the author himself indicates. In contrast, the Mahabharata characters are as flawed as us mere mortals, and perhaps, in that way, we relate to them better.

I am still reading the book, but like you, the wisdom that both Ram and Sita demonstrate, the choices Sita makes out of free will, after all she did lift the bow first ;), how they, and the brothers balance and complement each other has certainly made it a far different and much more enjoyable tale.

This one, I need to reread so I can annotate and reflect :).

message 2: by Sreeja (new) - added it

Sreeja can u pls share the pdf copy if you have.

Kedar Kshirsagar great review mam..I hope may he someday I would be able to put my thoughts/feelings in such a organized way

Ansh Great review. I recently read the book and I have never been more satisfied with Ramayan before. I completely agree with your review and to be honest I liked this better than Mahabharat.
While Mahabharat has shades of grey in it, I don't think I have seen women with as much freedom as in Ramayan (at least in this version of the text).

message 5: by Shashwati (new) - added it

Shashwati Pandey While I’ve never had a strong dislike for Ramayana on the whole per se, I’ve always thought of Sita’s abandonment just plain wrong - both the tricky manner & the abandonment itself.
Because I learnt of it when very young, not all the details stuck or were remembered, but this did.
But reading this book (which embarrassingly is the first version Ramayana I’ve read myself & not heard from others, apart from that small summary book we do during school) I also realised how I always looked at that part of this story in isolation and thus felt quite resentful for it.
His book essentially made me consider it wholly & I realised that I think more highly of it now because (and this is my personal interpretation) even though I’ve not changed my stance on whether the abandonment was wrong or not, it showed me that the decision to do so wasn’t without Ram facing personal loss and suffering. Not in a revenge sort of way but more making me realise that what Ram did was less as an act of patriarchal suppression and more of his tendency to put the law above EVERYONE, even himself.
In terms of lessons learned, I look at it as even divinity not being free of karma. I look at Ram as a divine mortal, the human avatar of Vishnu, who always upheld dharma, and when he made a decision that may have followed the rules of society but also wronged a person who was innocent, he also caused his own suffering because every action has a reaction, this was his.
I look at it as how when you turn the law in an end itself and not a means, you may upheld the law of a society but you end up hurting someone too. In this case he ended up wronging Sita and causing his own suffering as well.
My personal belief has always been that if we're allowed to question everyone, even gods and deities, then we can also choose to disagree with them or their actions.
In this case, I choose to appreciate many of his actions and qualities, and respectfully disagree with his decision to not only abandon Sita, but also do it through trickery.

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