When we ponder about Sita in the Ramayana, our thoughts usually stumble upon a beautiful and dutiful wife who was kidnapped by a monster and later rescued by her husband. At the same time, in the great epic, Sita’s feelings and courage take the backstage as the spotlight shines upon Ram, his honour, and bravery. Quillopia adherently reviewed the book Sita: The Warrior of Mithila by Amish Tripathi.
Published in 2017 and authored by celebrated Indian English writer Amish Tripathi, the book is the sequel to his Ramchandra series. In the beginning, Amish Tripathi has described the series to follow a multi-linear pattern, which means that the events in the first three books occur at the same time and are only narrated from different perspectives. These books would then merge into a fourth, which would describe events from where they left off.
Sita: The Warrior of Mithila by Amish Tripathi is a retelling of Ramayana that redresses the casually overlooked persona of Sita. Changing the original course of events as depicted in the Ramayana, the story is more of a fanfiction rather than an interpretation. Still, its portrayal of Sita and the other women involved with her is genuinely feminist, carefully urging the story towards balanced equality rather than dominance over men. It forms a modern version of the Ramayana more apt to the Indian society of today, rather than its old version.
“Too much of anything creates an imbalance in life. This is true even of virtues such as nonviolence. You never know when the winds of change strike; when violence may be required to protect your society, or even to survive.”, he writes.
As usual, Amish Tripathi excellently sets a modern backdrop against the popular Hindu mythological tale. What I like best about this story is how delicately it balances not only the masculine and feminine but also goods and evils by showing the more humane sides of the characters. Each character has a positive and a negative side. Sita, for example, was excessively rebellious as a child and would severely hurt the people who offended her. Manthra, the wicked businesswoman of Ayodhya who wished harm to Ram, manifests a genuine reason for her actions that arouses deep sympathy even though the readers might disagree with her. No character in Amish’s story escapes this human portrayal, helping us understand each person so intimately that we can never really pick the good from the bad.
Feminism is one of the major themes of this book. All women in the story take the stage as strong, independent characters who do not need men to work for them, and several instances vouch for the cause. When Janak, King of Mithila, loses himself in the world of philosophy, his queen Sunaina single-handedly runs their kingdom, helping it grow into a prosperous, peace-loving city. Sita’s friend Radhika is shown as a reliable confidante, and another friend Samichi is fierce, who fights consistently for Sita even when she is at odds with her. Finally, Sita, a brave warrior, learns the pragmatic intelligence of her mother and the philosophical wisdom of her father. She combines those qualities as she is trained to be the next Vishnu for India, the lady who would save the country from its evils.
Tripathi has written the book with precision, starting it with an edge-gripping action scene. All the action scenes of the book are fluidly described, keeping its readers hooked. However, I felt dissatisfied with the dialogues and descriptions of the more tranquil scenes. Often the dialogue of a character strays towards life-teachings and quote-worthy sayings that would seem unnecessary and overdone. Characters go on and on, showing their wisdom off when really the conversation did not demand it.
The descriptions also feel sometimes prolonged, even when they hold little significance to the novel’s plot, and some seem redundant. Moreover, In a few instances, the author explains something out-of-context, then explains it again using the same words later when context appears. It may potentially throw the reader off-track while reading.
With all that being said, Sita: The Warrior of Mithila is definitely a must-read in the genre of mythology. Its portrayal of the society in Ramayana is far from ideal, but is, in fact, the most realistic. The modern setting to the epic tale is a breath of fresh air. It is far less than Amish’s Shiva trilogy in many aspects, but it has its golden moments, making the book worth reading.
By Soumya Mukhija
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