The chariot stopped far from the city in the middle of the forest.
Sita alighted, eager to walk amongst the trees. The charioteer, Lakshman, remained seated. Sensing he had something to say, Sita paused. Lakshman finally spoke, eyes to the ground, ‘Your husband, my elder brother, Ram, king of Ayodhya, wants you to know that the streets are full of gossip. Your reputation is in question. The rules are clear on this: a king’s wife should be above all doubt. The scion of the Raghu clan therefore has ordered you to stay away from his person and his palace and his city. You are free to go wherever else you please. But you may not reveal to anyone you were once Ram’s queen.’
Sita watched Lakshman’s nostrils flare. She felt his embarrassment and his rage. She wanted to reach out and reassure him, but she restrained herself.
‘You feel your Ram has abandoned his Sita, don’t you?’ she asked gently. ‘But he has not. He cannot. He is God; he abandons no one.
And I am Goddess; I cannot be abandoned by anyone.’
A mystified Lakshman returned to Ayodhya, while Sita smiled in the forest, and unbound her hair.
With that blurb, I don’t think anyone could’ve stopped me from reading the book. Leave alone the blurb, just the name of the book – SITA – was enough trigger for me to get to the book. ‘Sita’ is nothing but a retelling of Ramayana; and Ramayana is goodness personified. And then, there is Devdutt – I’m his eternal fan-girl.
This book approaches Ram by speculating on Sita: her childhood with her father, Janaka, who hosted sages mentioned in the Upanishads; her stay in the forest with her husband, who had to be a celibate ascetic while she was in the prime of her youth; her interactions with the women of Lanka, recipes she exchanged, emotions they shared; her connection with the earth, her mother, and with the trees, her sisters; her role as the Goddess, the untamed Kali as well as the demure Gauri, in transforming the stoic prince of Ayodhya into God.
I’d always loved mythology. Combined with Devdutt, it is a brilliant combination. And, Sita is no exception.
A lot of reviews floating around speaks of how the title of the book is misleading. As in, the title gives a feeling that the book is from Sita’s point of view. I’d like to differ here. Although the book is not a first-person-retelling from Sita herself, Devdutt has built Sita’s character like no other author until today has ever done. (Digression – I’ve not read Samhita Arni’s graphic novel Sita’s Ramayana yet, although it has been on my radar for a long time now. Sometime!) The Sita of Devdutt is the learned daughter of Janaka, loving wife of Rama and the brave princess of Ayodhya, unfortunately stuck in the hands of Ravana – she is the Sita I’ve always imagined her to be.
And, Ram. I’ve tried hard to side with Ram’s actions on any argument but haven’t been able to articulate my thoughts as well as Devdutt does. Thank you, sir, for defending this man called Ram, who knew nothing but Dharma; Dharma that existed during his times.
As usual, Devdutt’s illustrations are a treat to the eyes. I also loved the colour of the cover – the bright green that allures you instantly. Like Jaya, those small grey boxes with hoards of information are such treasures for any mythology obsessed.
Now, the verdict. If you enjoyed reading Jaya, there is no reason why you’ll not like Sita. Needless to say, I loved it.