Source : The Hindu
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni on revisiting the Ramayana from Sita’s perspective
Almost a decade ago after penning Palace of Illusions, a retelling of the Mahabharata from Draupadi’s point of view, author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is back with a retelling of the Ramayana, from Sita’s point of view in her latest novel, The Forest of Enchantments. In a free-wheeling interview, prior to the Bengaluru launch of The Enchanted Forest, the author spoke about the need to tell stories from the perspective of women, on the battle between myth and history and more. Edited excerpts:
On The Forest of Enchantments and her reading of Sita
I have always felt that Sita was a very complex character and not the docile, meek character that we were told about while growing up.
That’s the sense I got from reading various versions of the Ramayana. She was very mature and extremely strong-willed. For instance, when faced with challenges such as being abducted and kept captive by Ravana or being abandoned in the forest when she is pregnant, she does not lose hope. She brings up her kids in the forest on her own. Such a character deserves to be talked about in these times when violence against women and the #metoo movement is becoming a point of discussion. It is very relevant for the times. I feel that she is more mature than Draupadi.
Re-imagining the epics
The good part about re-imagining the epics is that you do not have to worry too much about the ending. It gives you the space to build character arcs, try to explore the motivations behind their acts and so on. There is a lot of material to rely on. I do keep coming back and changing character arcs during the writing process. I have also felt that the perspective of women has been largely ignored in the retelling of the epics. I found the stories of these women interesting and felt that they must come out.
The divide between myth and history
I feel that the events described in epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana did take place. I do not know whether they took place in the manner described in the epics. The exaggerations, such as aircraft and huge weaponry could have been poetic licence too.
I think that holds true for mythology all over the world. I feel that the epics and mythology tell us symbolic truths about real characters.
On the religious elements in the epics
I have always felt that the original texts, the Valmiki Ramayana showed Ram as an avatar of Vishnu, but in human form, with the propensity to commit mistakes and make the wrong choices. There is a lot of magic and spiritual side to the characters, but they are people, who occasionally get a glimpse of their celestial selves.