This graphic novel is an interesting retelling of the Hindu epic The Ramayana from the point of view of Sita, the queen of Ayodhya. The words are written by Samhita Arni, who as a child wrote an absorbing retelling of another Hindu epic: The Mahabharata: A Child’s View. The colorful, dramatic, appealing pictures are by Moyna Chitrakar, a folk artist who lives in West Bengal, India.
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 girls’ list.