Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana was Devdutt Pattnaik’s attempt to re-write the epic with Sita’s character as the focus of retelling.
Not From Sita’s Perspective
I started reading the book with the impression that it will be all about Sita and she might be telling her story in the first person. But there was nothing as such. It is indeed a retelling of the popular epic in the trademark style of Pattanaik.
Compilation of Various Version of Ramayana
The author has done a through research on Ramayana both extensive and intensive. He has collected all the unique stories related to Ramayana and fitted them in the sequence of the main story.
Pattanaik , actually, did not change the events of the epic. But simply wrote the epic with many lesser known but interesting stories collected from all over India written in different languages, age, time by various authors. In other words his retelling of Ramayana is the collage of various other works. Pattanaik’s other work like Jaya Retelling Mahabharata has also been written in the same pattern.
As a consequence of it readers will get to read many new stories some could be read for the first time. The sequences were completely different from one which we have read regularly or seen on TV. That is the USP of the book which will make you read the book word to word. It is so engrossing.
Coming to characters, Ram, Sita, Ravan, Hanuman, Laxshman, Urmila, Mandodari, Surpanakha etc all of them got the equal weightage as and when needed. It is only after Sita’s exile from Ayodhaya that author fully concentrates on Sita especially Sita as a single mother.
I have read many version of Ramayana. Some writers skip the episode of Sita’s abandonment completely and ends the epic with Ram’s coronations. Tulsidas Ramayan being one of the example. A few feebly try to give some explanations in order to cover Ram’s decision. But majority supports Sita.
Pattanaik has chosen a middle path. He didn’t supported Ram’s decision but offered an explanation as well. That the King Ram had abandoned the Queen Sita. But the I personally think if Ram loved Sita so much then instead of abandoning Sita he should have given up his kingship. May be when I choose to write the epic I will end it in this way. Just a dream.
Vivid Portrayal and Writing
And the author has done fully justice to it. His writing is flawless, effortless, smooth like Silk.The language is lucid. Apart from stories there were deep insights and analysis and thought provoking quotes which will force you to ponder and admire Pattanaik’s writing style and grip over subject. It’s a reason why he is called master writer of Hindu Mythology.
Few Terms to Understand
Pattanaik has used a few terms like Aham and Atma, Yagna and Tapasya, Sanskriti and Prakriti etc throughout the book. Those meaning has to be understood fully then only one could decipher the inner essence of the Ramayana written by Pattanaik.The author had explained it well.
There are some excellent conversation between the characters. I particular liked the one between Janaka and his wife Sunaina when latter ask him to conduct a yagna for son just like Dasaratha. But Janaka refuses saying, “The earth grants Janaka what he deserves. The fire grants Dashratha what he wants. I choose the destiny of daughters. He submits to the desires of sons.”
Similarly there is a wonderful conversation between Shiv and Parwati which leads to the creation of the bow, breaking which Ram marries SIta. Another mindblowing conversation written by Pattanaik was between Vishwamitra, Ram and Janaka’s daughters.
All in all most of the conversation came out real well and contributed in bringing out the story and carry forward the story. Good job done as always.
Like his previous works, even Sita has some beautiful and expressive perfect pencil sketches throughout the book. It has become another trademark style of Pattanaik’s book which has been increasingly adopted by other authors. Pictures really make the book looks interesting. It breaks up the contents which makes reading easier.
I was a bit disappointed when I realized that it is not written from Sita’s POV. But disappointment was quickly replaced with engrossment due to interesting stories, intriguing analysis, wonderful illustrations. One can’t resist to admire the kind of research Pattanaik puts into the book.