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article imagePenguin Books releases Devdutt Pattanaik's Ramayana retelling

By Sravanth Verma     Jul 10, 2014 in World
Penguin Books India has released mythologist and author Devdutt Pattanaik's latest book, "Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana."
The book is part of an increasing number of books that offer a retelling of the Indian epics. Pattanaik is the author of several books in the Indian mythology genre including Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata, Myth=Mithya: A Handbook of Hindu Mythology, and The Pregnant King. His latest book also targets readers in the graphic book sub-genre, and is also one of the latest re-tellings of the ancient epics through women’s eyes.
The Ramayana story is traditionally told as the story of Rama, Prince of Ayodhya and Sita's husband, his banishment from the court, and his battle against Ravana who abducts Sita. Though Sita is portrayed as an ideal and pure wife and her situation is given adequate space in the story, most versions of the epic focus more on Rama's efforts to find her and save her.
Pattanaik's book looks to tell the tale more from Sita's perspective, providing more details about a woman's life, for example his description of Sita, as a child, entering the kitchen. However, Live Mint's book review says, "[...] while ostensibly structured around Sita’s life, it is stuffed with too much else to feel consistently like her story: Hanuman often seems more of a presence."
The Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) offers a glowing tribute in its review, "Outstanding! There can be no other adjective for this book. It is not easy to woo readers to the Ramayana, an epic which every Indian knows by heart. [...] Pattanaik’s Ramayana is not a simple retelling of Valmiki’s account. That would have still made this work attractive but it is much more. The book has taken into account all the Ramayanas starting from the 1st to the 19th centuries including versions popular in Southeast Asia. So you get to read stories that are not widely known."
Pattanaik's website offers a description of the book, explaining his idea in creating the book: "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."
The 318-page book is available online at Amazon, Flipkart and Penguin Books for INR 499 ($8.5).
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