Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Arni with illustrations by Moyna Chitrakar is a graphic novel re-telling of the Hindu classic as told through the eyes of two women: Sita herself (as the title implies) and Trijatha, who tells Sita what she has observed beyond the confinement of Sita’s imprisonment. I read this book as part of my exploration of Hinduism and it has proven to be an excellent choice.
The author does a good job of telling Sita’s story and by having Trijatha, the sister of Sita’s captor, telling part of the story the reader is able to learn more about what is happening, in effect sharing the visceral experience of Sita’s emotional journey from self-concern to universal compassion. As the battle for her freedom goes on, her empathy grows beyond her personal loss and suffering.
In many ways the story is indicative of the wall that has come up for me as I am reading The Rig Veda, as translated by ???. I want to appreciate it but the warrior rhetoric is distasteful and I find myself withdrawing from the text rather than losing myself in it. In many ways, I couldn’t help identify myself with Sita, wanting to be carried away while finding myself overcome with the cost of war. If the sacred texts offer no transcendence, it is because I am caught in sadness at the martial language.
So many traditional stories are told through a patriarchal voice and it is always interesting to hear these stories told through a woman’s perspective. Sita’s suffering if not specifically recognizable is emotionally familiar and I kept reading because I did not know what would happen next. The climactic ending of the war, when Sita is finally reunited with her husband Rama was not surprising and emotionally wrenching at the same time. (In Hinduism for Dummies I read another story about Sita that has some similar elements to it so now I am very curious to know more.)
The illustrations for this graphic novel are bold and brilliant, culturally evocative and distinct. There is simply no graphic novel to which I could possibly compare this wonderful book and I plan on seeking out other books from the publisher because I see that I have a lot more to learn about the stories that infuse the beliefs of Hinduism.