The book is a retelling of the Ramayana. Mythologist and illustrator Devdutt Pattanaik retells the Ramayana drawing attention to the many oral, visual and written retellings composed in different times, in different places, by different poets including Thai Ramakien, Malaysian Hikayat Seri Rama, Javanese Ramayana Kakawin etc.
Here the narrator is Hanuman. A ring slips from Ram’s finger and falls into a crack in the palace floor. Ram requests Hanuman to fetch it for him. Hanuman reduces himself to the size of a bee and slips into the crack which leads him to Nagaloka. There Vasuki [the king of snakes] asks hanuman who Sita is – whose name is whispered by the root of every tree that enters the earth. Vasuki agrees to point the ring if hanuman would tell him about her. So hanuman narrates the story to all the serpents gathered around him.
This book approaches Ram by speculating on Sita- her childhood with her father Janaka, 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, her sisters, with nature, her role as the goddess in transforming the stoic prince of Ayodhya into God.
After each sub plot in the story the book give details of various sources available for that subplot. The reader is able to get an idea which source is used by the author and various other narratives available for the same part of the story. The author also gives detailed explanations regarding certain rituals and practices of those times and also the reasons for the differences in the various narratives. The reader is therefore truly enriched as they get an insight regarding the various versions of Ramayana.
Reviewed by Ms Asha Devi, PGT (Geo.)