After all, the author has revisited the myths several times to give it a special touch - be it the Shiva trilogy or the Ram Chandra series.After all, the author has revisited the myths several times to give it a special touch – be it the Shiva trilogy or the Ram Chandra series.

By Riya Mehrotra

We all know Sita as the wife of Lord Rama, the Hindu goddess and heroine of the Ramayana, the kidnapped one who crossed Lakshman Rekha. But who was Sita, the woman?

When author Amish Tripathi says his interpretation of Sita in his 2017 novel Sita: Warrior of Mithila is closer in spirit to the ancient versions—rather than what most modern urban Indians know about the Ramayana, which is largely based on the 1980s TV series—those words make one ponder himself and reimagining it. After all, the author has revisited the myths several times to give it a special touch – be it the Shiva trilogy or the Ram Chandra series.

So, was the sita we’ve been seeing on screen, big and small, the making of a director or the mind of a writer? If yes, who was Sita? How did you write about it in the original texts that few of us have seen? Was she a fighter? Was she strong? And if we get the wrong interpretation – the interpretation of the devout, voiceless, suffering and oppressed woman – is there a need to retell her story? The writers think so.

Writer Chitra Banerjee Devakaruni, who retold Sita’s story in her 2019 book The Forest of Enchantments, Tripathi’s second opinion. “I have always felt that Sita had more than the traditional patriarchal interpretation which presented her as meek and light and obedient, passive and long-suffering. When I read the ancient texts myself, I saw that it was not so. She was brave, adventurous, forthright and strong.”

The need for retelling

The fact that Sita was only strong and brave. She chooses her husband through Swayamvar to live in exile and out of Lakshman Rekha, but remains a single mother. Indeed, Volga’s The Liberation of Sita, which follows Sita’s journey toward self-realization in the forest, rather than Ram’s journey, is one of Sita’s most important accounts of its symbolism and reasoning. Aside from Sita, the book also follows the journeys of other women who have been overlooked or abandoned in the saga.

Not just the authors’ narratives but every time a parent, grandparent or children’s story tells the story of the Ramayana, a little bit of the narrator or writer’s mind makes the story retell itself. Author Amish Tripathi feels that the Ramayana has always been told and retold in Indian history. “Indians never get tired of hearing the story of Ram and Sita,” he says.

Author and mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik has tried to retell Sita more than once with books such as The Girl Who Chose: A New Way of Fiction of Ramayana and Sita: A Graphic Novel of the Ramayana. Previously, he wrote that no one in the Ramayana, except for Sita, had options. He calls her both Gauri and Kaali – the goddess who follows her husband wherever he goes because it is her duty to be by his side and when raising her children and Kaali when she is not constrained by the rules of civilization. Refused, she refused to return to Ayuda as queen or wife. She does not feel the need to follow her husband this time as a wife. And she does not feel compelled to represent the well-being of the family that has rejected her.”

Retelling her story with such authenticity rather than through a paternalistic lens that is imposed through misinterpretations of the epic, becomes more important in our time.

Interestingly, as author Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, who comes from Kolkata, shares them and parts of eastern India, Diwali is a celebration of Kali rather than the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya. “To me Sita is Kali,” says Kondo, whose book The Curse of Sita explored how the hero paid for her beauty, felt her husband was unloved, and eventually ran away with the man she loved. Explores pent-up female desire.

Chitra Banerjee Devakaruni says, “Sita remains a key figure in our Indian culture and girls are still told that they should try to emulate Sita’s virtues. So it is important to understand what these virtues are and how they relate to today’s world.”

The lack of access to the original texts and the lack of adequate and unbiased copies in the epics are what prompt contemporary authors to rethink the stories of the characters. Aditya Iyengar, who wrote Bhumika: A Story of Sita in 2019, feels that there should be more novels from her point of view and that besides finding new perspectives in Ramayana, we need to make some older works available as well.

But as the novels emerge, authors say authenticity must be preserved. Amish Tripathi advises authors to reach that perfect middle ground, between giving modern liberal philosophical messages and respecting ancient traditions, while maintaining a fast-paced story line. “That’s what I’m trying to do,” he adds.

Recently, author Chetan Bhagat’s book 400 Days published by Westland came out. The book talks about the missing girl, Sia, and her mother’s search for her. Taking into account the timing of the release and the reference, he shares, “There is a certain indication. It makes the reader connected. But the story is not about the Ramayana. Yes, this is research and the name Siya is appropriate here, it will make people connect with the reference.” However, he says myths aren’t his cup of tea and he prefers writing a motivational book or OTT series afterwards.

sita on screen

Ragini, the wife of a policeman kidnapped by Bera’s bandits. Yet she looks like someone who is not afraid of death. Later, he confesses to her the reason why he had to avenge his sister who was taken hostage and arrested by a group of policemen. Because she could not stand the humiliation, she committed suicide. When her husband Dave comes to her rescue, he accuses her of infidelity in order to lead him to Bera. When he tracks down the thieves, he shoots him though Ragini tries to save him and Bera dies with a smile – like a hero.

It is possible that the audience was not ready to recreate the Ramayana novel that was set in a modern setting over a decade ago in 2010. Mani Ratnam Raavan movie starring Aishwarya Rai as Ragini and Abhishek Bachchan where Beera brought a new perspective to the Ramayana though failed at the box office. Earlier, films like Ram Rajya (1943) and Sampoorna Ramayana (1961) were hits but did not humanize Ravan or Sita like Ravan did.

On the small screen, the 1987 movie Ramayana starring Arun Govil and Dipika Chikhlia remains one of the most popular TV series of all time and has been rebroadcast during lockdown so people get a message. However, the 2015 TV series Siya ke Ram, although not as popular as the cult classic, brings a new style to the table as the Ramayana is retold through the eyes of Sita. Speaking of current times, it seems that the epic Ramayana has become a golden script for filmmakers with many films in the pipeline. With the character of Sita portrayed by contemporary actors such as Alia Bhatt as Sita in

For filmmakers trying to retell the novel, Chitra Banerjee advises keeping original works in mind but also asking themselves, “How will their films affect the current generation? How can they balance authenticity with relevance?”

Sita in modern literature

Ramayana Sita by Samhita Arni (2011)

The Lost Queen by Samhita Arne (2013)

The Girl Who Chose: A New Way of Narrating the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik (2016)

Edit Sita by Volga (2016)

Setayana by Amit Jamjodar (2019)

Sita: An Ancient Love Story by Bhanomathi Narasimhan (2021)

Vrinda Sheth’s Sita Fire Trilogy (Coming 2022)

Bumika: The Story of Sita

Aditya Iyengar

grudges

magic forest

Chitra Banerjee Divakaroni

Harper Collins

Sita: Methila Warrior

Amish Tripathi

Westland Publications

Sita: A Graphic Novel of the Ramayana

David Patanaik

Random Penguin House

Sita’s Curse: The Language of Desire

Sreeemoyee Piu Kundu

grudges

400 days

Chetan Bhagat

Westland Publications

Chitra Banerjee Divakaroni

Magic Forest author

“I have always felt that Sita had more than the traditional patriarchal interpretation that presented her as meek and temperate, obedient, passive and long-suffering. When I read the ancient texts myself, I saw that this was not the case. She was courageous, adventurous, outspoken, and strong in upholding her values ​​under pressure.” I wanted to write a book that would highlight these heroic and timely qualities that might inspire our current generation.”

David Patanaik

Author of Sita: A Graphic Novel of the Ramayana

“I don’t think Indian women are passives or victims. I don’t think Indian men are savages and scandalous. I think the Ramayana is not just a piece of literature designed to celebrate gender oppression as many Western academics seem eager to show. It is a broad story that has shaped the Indian mind for 2,500 years.” I wanted to draw attention to the whole story to the best of my ability. This means locating the Ramayana in the vast jigsaw puzzle of Indian thought”

Aditya Iyengar

Author of Bhumika: The Story of Sita

“I think I was watching a play on Ramayana, and I suddenly wondered what would have happened if she hadn’t met Sita Ram? What would her story be like? It was a fun starting point that I feel led me to some interesting conclusions. At the same time, I was totally inspired by Sita’s Liberation “For Telugu writer Volga – Somewhere I felt I could draw on these themes and write my own feminist novel”

Sreeemoyee Piu Kundu

Author of Sita’s Curse: The Language of Desire

“While Ram was performing his duties, Ravan was the only man who wanted Sita and respected her enough not to touch her without her consent. If I were to write a retelling, my book would be set in the modern era where Ram is considered an IITian and does not acknowledge his wife enough. She prefers that Contemporary Sita makes her escape from Ravan, whom she wants to portray as a gloomy, manly and nasty character whom she eventually falls in love with.”

Amish Tripathi

Sita author: Mithila Warrior

“I just open my laptop and the world opens up and I record what I see. I write more as a witness rather than as a creator. Having said that, Goddess Sita’s vision as a warrior, is actually inspired by an ancient version of Ramayan called Adbhut Ramayan, which is also attributed to Valmiki ji “

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