“You are bound by rules, but not I. I am free to choose.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
The Ramayana exists in many versions in India, Valmiki’s Ramayana. Krittibas’ Ramayana, the tale of Hanuman in the underworld, Sita’s Ramayana which dwells on Ram’s betrayal of their marriage.
Devdatt Pattnaik, who enjoys retelling Indian legends for children has studied the Ramayana and come to the conclusion that it hinges on five choices that Sita made.
She is, in fact the only one in the Ramayana who seems to have the freedom to choose. Ram, the sun prince of the Ayodhya dynasty is bound by the ties of duty. Ravana of Lanka believes his way is the only possible way to be and has no respect for people’s choices or for duty. Lakshman is bound by loyalty to his brother. It is because Sita deliberately makes these five choices that the Ramayana takes the route it does.
The book has delightful illustrations and is peppered with interesting titbits on Ramayana history so that children can learn more about the epic, while learning about how the freedom to choose is sometimes more important than duty. For example, Sita steps outside the protecting circle drawn by Lakshman because she takes pity on the wandering beggar who is Ravana in disguise. Knowing that it may be dangerous, she follows the generosity of her heart which reaches out to a person in distress.
Each of Sita’s choices has very specific results and the way it is told is designed to keep children turning the pages. Apart from helping children to rediscover the Ramayana, the book has a lesson to deliver on the importance of value systems which go beyond strict duty and family loyalty and which respect the rights of individuals. Ancient wisdom for modern times.
Added 29th July 2016