Sita's Ramayana Hardcover – 1 Mar 2012
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Description for Sita's Ramayana
A must-purchase based on the strength of its dramatic story and arresting art, enhanced by superior design and high-quality production. Brilliant and fresh. School Library Journal Gorgeous, vibrant illustrations ... The age range for this book is really boundless ... American Library Association Arni's retelling is a moving and important one Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Samhita Arni was Tara's youngest author - they published her version of the great epic Mahabharatha in 1996, when she was 12. The book, which she wrote and illustrated, has been published in seven languages. She has since studied film and religion at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, US, and is currently working with a Pakistani woman filmmaker. Moyna and Joydeb Chitrakar are performers and artists from the Patua scroll painting tradition of West Bengal. To watch a video of Moyna Chitrakar performing from the Ramayana scroll which inspired the book click here
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Top customer reviews
Illustrations are very well done.
Rather overpriced ..
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Sita is not known for being particularly active or assertive. In fact, her obedience and devotion to her husband Rama are legendary. Yet by focusing on Sita's point of view, this retelling has something to say about a woman's perspective on war and justice.
The story begins at the end, with the queen Sita entering the forest and begging the forest to shelter her. The forest wants to know why she was banished from Ayodhya, and she tells her story.
This retelling emphasizes Sita's compassion for other women, including those who are considered enemies by the men. She believes that Lakshmana's rash decision to cut off the demoness Surpanaka's nose is the cause of her (Sita's) abduction and the war in Lanka. "Violence breeds violence, and an unjust act only begets greater injustice," Sita says.
When she is Ravana's prisoner in Lanka, Sita becomes close to one of her demoness guards: Trijatha, who, unlike the other guards, feels compassion for Sita. It is Trijatha who tells Sita the story of the war between Rama and Ravana.
As much as Sita is overjoyed that Rama won the war, she still feels compassion for Mandodari, Ravana's widow, as well as for all the other "enemy" women. "They would be queens no more, and their people had met death on the battlefield-for what? For one man's unlawful desire. . . . It was such a high price to pay."
The story also features a few other powerful females, including an apsara (divine female) who warns Hanuman about a sorcerer, and the goddess Chandi Devi.
In the end, of course, even Sita's devotion to Rama cannot help her against the rumors that surround her because of her sojourn with Ravana. Sita finally makes a decision to leave Rama and return to her mother, the Earth.
I have included this book on my online Gender Equality Bookstore.
I've come to love this book -- but it wasn't love at first sight. At first, I was rather put off by the illustrations -- definitely not my style and I found them difficult to "read." I often had trouble telling one character from another, or understanding the action. My daughter, who is quite accustomed to reading graphic novels and manga, read half the book and put it down in frustration, saying that it was hard to understand and then her favorite character was killed (I never found out who that was, but it must have been a bad guy!).
However, as I read the book slowly and carefully (having first studied the portraits of the "cast of characters" at the beginning of the book), I got better at reading the illustrations and found that I could understand the story quite well -- and it was beautifully told. And my daughter picked up the book again, finished it, and said she thought she understood it well enough.
Then I read the book again, aloud, to my daughter (and we worked together on understanding the illustrations) and this time the poignancy of Sita's story struck me even more strongly. The entire scene of Sita's reunion with Rama after he wins the war with Ravana (a scene which does not appear in the original Ramayana; it must have been created by the author and the illustrator of this book) -- this scene is heart-wrenching, but also uplifting because of Sita's strength, clear vision, and willingness to "speak truth to power." Sita's confrontation of Rama about the destructiveness of his actions, and her profound statements of the effects of war on women and children -- these are some of the most powerful and moving statements of truth I've ever read, in any work.
To my surprise, my daughter was captivated by the cantos of Dutt's Ramayana that I read aloud to her: The Tale of the Hermit's Son, The Breaking of the Bow, Mandodari's Lament, Ordeal by Fire, Woman's Truth Vindicated, and Sita Lost. (When a couplet was difficult to understand, I would read it, explain it to her, then read it again.) She says she wants to read the entire Ramayana. I'm hoping to find Dutt's translation in book form, and the Chandrabati Ramayana (another retelling of the myth from a womanly point of view).
This experience has been a reminder to me that we shouldn't underestimate children's capacity to understand and appreciate the great epics. Pre-teens and young teens seem to crave heroic tales, and the same kids who gobble up "fan fiction" series can be fascinated by literature like the Ramayana, if we give them the opportunity.
But back to Arni and Chitrakar's beautiful Sita's Ramayana -- Moms, read this book to your daughters! And perhaps even more important -- read it to your sons...again and again as they grow, if necessary!
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