Mythology is a genre I’ve grown up reading or hearing stories from; especially Indian mythology. The tales of the Kauravas and Pandavas, Krishna, devas and daityas, gods and goddesses… they were my bedtime stories. The avatars of the gods also came into the picture, and I remember not just hearing stories from the Ramayana, but also watching the serial on television. So reading a retelling of the book began with the expectation that the magic of the original would be retained.
Like his retelling of the Mahabharata, Devdutt Pattanaik does the retelling of the Ramayana justice. He goes in depth into the great epic but doesn’t just tell its story again. He offers his thoughts on the vignettes after them. My focus was primarily on the retelling, and I felt that how he narrates it keeps it short and interesting. And again, his artwork spread across the book helped in that aspect, and also to bring a picture to mind. He manages to keep me engaged from the start, and also makes me happy to read about some parts that I hadn’t previously known. He also explains some aspects of today’s culture/traditions that I’d seen but felt a mystery.
These are characters which are so well known, yet the sketches when read seem fresh. I’d not known Rama as a character who never questioned, but accepted the way of life that had been taught to him, nor had I known the way Sita was born, or the quick tongue of the princess that always caught on a question. Similarly, I didn’t know Lakshmana hadn’t slept during the period of the exile. So there were aspects to each character that I liked discovering.
The Ramayana has many versions in India, original and retellings, both. At the end of each vignette, the author offers his thoughts on the vignette but also tells us which version he has referred to. And more often than not, those thoughts offered me food for thought, just like the original had. Some parts even made me wonder if what I had read before was true, or if it happened the way it is written in this epic retelling.
I’d felt Jaya: the retelling of the Mahabharata was the best I’ve read for retellings of that epic. I’ve no doubt that this book is the best retelling of the Ramayana that I’ve read to date too. Well researched, magically narrated, aptly illustrated… this book will remain a favorite.
|Title: Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana|
|Author(s): Devdutt Pattanaik||Genre: Mythology|
|ISBN/ASIN: 9780143064329||Publisher: Penguin Books|
(© 10th January 2016)