Sita…. by Devdutt Patanaik

Ended up buying this book while I was looking for another book by the same author. The reason the book pulled me was the name…. “Sita”. One thing that has always troubled me in the famous epic of Ramayana is that in the end, after fighting a war and all the pain and trouble that Sita herself goes through by walking through the jungles with Ram on his exile, for a long period of 14 years is that she is separated from her husband. Why and what is the deeper meaning behind the whole act was something I always wanted to know. The excerpt from the book, made me feel that somehow this book shall be able to answer my query. And hence….

First why I liked the book…. An excellent retelling of the ramayana. The author has been perhaps very very thorough in his research on the famous epic. Ramayna has been narrated by various people over time accross history. The author throws light on the various retelling s of Ramayana and across the book at every point he brings out the differences between the various versions.

The story of Ramayana is perhaps known to every child from my generation. In our growing up years it was a major television series, which was followed by more or less everyone I know of. Also the stories from Ramayana are something we have heard from childhood… from grandparents, parents, in story books, text books and various other places. Inspite of being such an old and often repeated story…. the book was very engrossing all through. The narrative is simple. Each episode is very beautifully explained giving a background detail as well.

Another thought that occured to me while reading the book… it has been classified as Mythology… which has the root word as myth…. So that makes me wonder are these stories myths or reality. Did this really happen years ago… The kind of miracles  that entire Ramayana is composed of, the creatures that it talks about are no less than the ones we come across in a fairy tale… So is it just a fiction coming from the mind of perhaps a learned person or did the happening actually take place and were narrated years later by the famous sage Valmiki. Perhaps it is just a matter of faith… Like god is not seen but still we have such strong beleif in this unseen power… beleif in divine intervention… and yes even in the present miracles do happen… maybe the magnitude is not as much…. and only someone who has been blessed by a miracle can know….

Inspite of all the questions that come to me… in my heart I know I shall always beleive in this epic and the characters therein. What is engraved on wet cement stays forever… similary what the young mind is made to beleive will always hold their faith. So inspite of the magical quality of the story, and grand magic it seems like, I yet feel that there must have been a time many many years ago when the god himself stepped on earth and brought about a change, eliminating the Rakshas. (and perhaps its time for him to come again )

So does the book give me the answer I was looking for? Yes, but and a big “BUT”…. it did not satisfy me. Ram is a god as per our culture and god must never be unjust… And what he did was perhaps as a king to strengthen the trust of his people. But having known himself of the purity and sanctity of Sita was it not more important for him to have stood by his wife, to show his people how important it is also to lay trust.  By his actions maybe he proved to be a very good king but he surely failed to be a good husband. She was abandoned in her pregnancy and left in the middle of the jungle to fend for herself…. The woman who left all the comforts of a palace and moved around in jungles with him, without a complain, was not given due justice by her husband.

But then at the same time he never remarried, when he could have easily done so as a duty to get a queen and heir to the kingdom. It was an equal suffering for him to have been separated from the woman he loved. The book talks of him building a statue of Sita in gold (signifying her purity) and placing it next to his throne. So though the book gives me the answer it still does not justify how he treated his wife. The book explains it as Karmic circle. Perhaps the only thing that makes my mind not to question anymore…

Also I loved the attitude it portrays of Sita even after she is left in the jungle. It does not falter her love for her husband and she completely respects and understands his decision. At various points there is much to learn from Ramayana and the characters. And this book brings out the learning very well.

I surely do recommend this book to anybody with interest in mythology.

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