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THE GIRL WHO CHOSE: A NEW WAY OF NARRATING THE RAMAYANA


Hansika Chhabra

THE GIRL WHO CHOSE: A NEW WAY OF NARRATING THE RAMAYANA
A Project of Devdutt Pattanaik
Year 2016, pp. 112, Rs.199.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

In line with Devdutt Pattanaik’s philosophy which portrays myth as a subjective truth, he essentially tries to tell a story that has been told innumerable times in history as a more flexible and consequencedriven recount of events. He takes on the Ramayana by delving into Sita’s psyche while breaking the epic into five seamlessly knit together chapters, each one unfolding as one of her choices. It is his perception on the reasons behind a character’s actions which makes it an original account. For a young mind, these justify the behaviour and choices of the various characters and highlighting their contrasting characteristics clearly. For example, the Sun kings and princes fulfil the most unreasonable of promises because they are governed by the unspoken laws of their dynasty; their word is of the highest honour and they rule to serve the people of their kingdom, thus Rama respects strict rules through the course of events. But Sita knows when she is free to choose differently from what rules might dictate. She is loyal in choosing to follow her husband into the forest; kind to help a seemingly harmless hungry hermit by crossing the Lakshman Rekha; stays true to Rama’s honour, by choosing to stay captive in Lanka when Hanuman offers to take her back to Rama, bestowing an opportunity for him to reclaim reverence for the Sun dynasty, and equally adamant about asserting her selfworth when she chooses not to return to the Kingdom of Ayodhya in the end. Devdutt actively uses this contrast of Rama’s character against that of Sita’s, and the differences in the kingship of Rama and Ravana, both devotees of Shiva, to create layered characters driven by a unique moral fibre. He draws application to the current world from these, explaining that people too make choices everyday and that rules are meant to encourage helping society, but they too can be challenged and altered. Sita is introduced as an infant that King Janka of Mithila serendipitously finds inside a clay pot underneath the ground during the first ploughing of the fields. Shiva had told Janaka that only she would be able to pick up the bow he gifted him and that her future husband would string it. We follow her life until her second exile in the forests where she takes her fifth and final choice of not returning to Ayodhaya with ...


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