Sita: Warrior of Mithila

by Amish Tripathi

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Yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānirbhavati suvrata
Abhyutthānamadharmasya tadā prakr̥tisambhavaḥ

It was almost a couple of years since I read the first book in the series: Scion of Ikshvaku. I had to read the last few chapters of the first one, thanks to my great memory. Slow release aside, what I love about Amish’s books is the reinterpretation of our epics; an open-minded reinterpretation.

Contrary to the popular image of Sita as homely, soft-natured… what’s the word… (docile?), she here is an entirely different persona: one you want to look up to, one you want to fold your hands and bow to. One you feel proud of.

Cover: Sita: Warrior of Mithila

Cover page

According to the note on the narrative style at the beginning of the book, the point of convergence of Scion of Ikshvaku and Sita: Warrior of Mithila is the kidnapping of Sita. And the cover is an image from that scene, where Sita fights her kidnappers—the Lankan soldiers.

It’s dramatic. The agility and the aggression are captured beautifully in the picture. It also gives a glimpse of what one could expect in the book—the warrior Sita.

Characters

The versions of Ramayan (other than Vālmīki Rāmāyan) we’ve read, heard and watched, mostly focus primarily on the Ayodhyan princes, Sita, and Hanuman. This series (and so the book) places focus on many, many other characters including the queens of Ayodhyā and most importantly, Sita’s mother, Sunainā.

And oh, Nārad is in a never-imagined-before form in the book.

Content

My opinion, of course, I loved the content in the book. It wasn’t gripping in the Immortals of Meluha way, but at the end of the book, the only thing I felt bad about was that the book had ended.

The reinterpretation of a good amount of things is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise stalely patriarchal, corrupted, sometimes-anarchical world we live in. And then there’s talk of real equality between men and women (which is a pretty good start), and the non-birth-based caste system and the talk of fight for it. Maybe this would be brought up in more detail in one of the future releases.

In addition, there’s a surprise in the very first chapter, for those who missed the clue in the last chapter of the previous book.

I also liked the multi-linear style of narration. In other words, it’s like two camera angles of the same scene, one from the perspective of Person A, and the other from the perspective of Person B. Therefore, there are places where you come across overlapping scenes. Although this doesn’t require you to necessarily read the Scion of Ikshvaku, you’d enjoy the book more if you did.

Language

The story is lucid. The language is simple. The narration, at some points, is compelling. Overall, it’s a good piece of work, in terms of language. Some of the conversations feel a little formal, deviating a little from colloquialism, but hey, that’s what we’ve been used to with epics—so much that we’d find common colloquialism a little weird, had it appeared in the book.

Good Points

Many conversations in the book are food for thought. There is economics, there is politics, there is philosophy, and the characters feel real. There is talk of balance, and a very good justification given to why violence is needed sometimes; the reason for soldiers and wars. There’s also analysis on a few of the social phenomena from the past.

There have been societies that have attacked the Brahmin way of life, becoming proudly anti-intellectual, because a few of their Brahmins became closed-minded, elitist and exclusivist.

In all, it is a good package.

Bad Points

In some situations, the author seems to have taken an easy way out, which is not a bad thing as long as it doesn’t meddle with the character in question. I’d refrain from mentioning anything more about this since I don’t want to give spoilers here.

Overall

Overall, I liked the book. A lot. I loved how Sitā maiyā has been portrayed in the book. I love how it is not corrupted by popular beliefs. I love how the book takes a different approach towards a few of the characters and incidents.

Whom do I recommend this to

Anyone who loves fan-fic. This is a fan-fic of large scale.

I recommend this also to those who like reinterpretation of our epics. I recommend this to those who believe in gender equality. And to those who believe in law.

Quotable quotes

I’ve been waiting to reach this point. Here you go:

No, I am not committed to the Charvaks, Guruji. If I am pragmatic, then I should be open to every school of philosophy. And accept only those parts that make sense to me, while rejecting other bits that don’t.

You must use your heart to decide the destination, but use your head to plot the journey.

There are those who simply want a socially sanctioned way to kill… Many great warriors, celebrated by humanity, narrowly escaped being remembered as social degenerates.

This is how Bhaaratas felt that heaven could be created on earth: by making strength powerless, and weakness powerful.

Reverse-bias is also bias.

The sages preferred that scriptures were not written down and remained oral so that as times changed, they could change easily as well. Writing things down brought rigidity into the scriptures.

How does Ram abiding by the law make any difference? The people also have to follow it. And, Indians will never do that. In fact, I think we enjoy breaking rules. Pointlessly. For the heck of it.

When two elephants fight, the grass is the first to get trampled.

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Ram Iyer

Writer, PowerShell addict, typographer, self-acclaimed rationalist.

Bangalore, KA ramiyer.me