Of sense and sensibility…

Bhanumathy Narasimhan’s ‘Sita: A Tale of Ancient Love’ is a book brimming with lesser known incidents related to Sita’s life.

Ranjani Govind

Retellings of epic tales have always been attention-grabbers as one gets to read different perspectives. The last two years have seen nearly half-a-dozen retellings of the story of Sita from the Ramayana, and where the recent release, ‘Sita- a tale of ancient love’ by Bhanumathy  Narasimhan  strikes a chord is her narrative that converses through the memoirs of the Mithila Princess.

As Sita is confined to Ashoka Vatika after the Lankan King Ravana abducts her, her thoughts swing back and forth with colourful metaphors and descriptions, as retold by Bhanumathi with wonderful evocative poems sprinkled in. “I went through several versions of the classic epic in Sanskrit and other local languages. I have heard pastoral melodies in Indian vernacular, and folktales and ballads from oral traditions related to the Ramayana and Sita.

My understanding and assimilation comes from a literary background and knowledge of traditions present in my family. My father would tell us these stories and later, when I heard my brother and spiritual mentor Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar, founder of the Art of Living, speaking about the wisdom beyond the events, a new dimension of understanding opened up and this is what I have tried to share in my narration of this endearing epic,” says Bhanumathi, an author of bestselling books who holds a masters degree in Sanskrit Literature from the Bangalore University.

Adding that she thoroughly enjoys and respects the sincerity and devotion with which the earlier scriptures like the Valmiki Ramayana and the Ramacharitamanas have been written, she says, “My book is a perspective from the eyes of Sita as I have understood her.”

Bhanumathy Narasimhan speaks about her appreciation for Sita that led to choose her style of narrative, in an exclusive interview with AVADHI MAG


* I am curious to know why this abiding interest in the character, Sita?  How long did you take – from research to writing this book?

While the world got silent during the pandemic, I set my sail on this project. The research and the writing went hand in hand, not one after the other. Reading through the scriptures was a delight and had so many flavours of devotion. Sita’s subtle strength, the way she made her choices and faced challenges and remained unshakeable in her faith and unconditional in her love – all these aspects fascinated me and I felt she is a perfect example of a woman of strength.

* Sita, the beloved princess of Mithila, is one of the most revered women in Indian history. How do we understand her subtle strength and power that you have brought out?

Sita is highly respected, yet probably the least understood. At every crossroad of her life, she chose acceptance and grace over self-pity. When a drop feels connected to the ocean, it feels the strength of the ocean. This is subtle strength. The strength in a mind that feels connected to creation, the strength in a mind that is in the present moment which is the field of all possibilities. It is amazing when you think how a mere child, not even in her teens, effortlessly lifted the bow during her childhood which hundreds of soldiers struggled to move even one inch during her Swayamvar. Certainly it was not a test of physical strength! Even Ravana could not move the Shiva Dhanush which was feather light in Sita’s hands. So, what is the difference? While the others connected with the Dhanush (bow), Sita and Rama connected with Shiva. This connection is the subtle strength!

* Were there days when Sita’s strong character helped you internalize certain temperament and disposition? Basically what is the message you have after attempting this huge body of work?

If women were to see the world through the eyes of Sita, I feel the world will be a much more peaceful and prosperous. My mentors say learn to find wisdom beyond the events, and love beyond personalities. While the events of the Ramayana and those impacting Sita directly are quite well-known, very little is understood about Sita’s state of mind. It is this aspect that is new in this narration. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar says, “Rama is the soul, Sita is the mind, Lakshmana is the awareness, Hanuman is the prana or breath, Ravana is the arrogance or ego. When the mind is kidnapped by the ego, the soul becomes restless. With the help of the prana, the mind reunites with the soul.”

* At every crossroad of her life Sita chose acceptance and grace over self-pity…

It reflects on Sita who grew up in the company of the wise. Her father was a Brahmagnani and she herself had such a pure, refined and mature intellect.  Many saints and seers would visit Janaka, and Sita had the opportunity to serve them, to learn from them and receive their blessings. When you are anchored in wisdom, life cannot shake you so easily. Her mother was also a refined person, trusting, sensitive and both parents encouraged a very all-inclusive attitude.

* Your work reveals several events in the epic (eg. Lakshmana bidding farewell to Urmila before he sets into his forest journey with Ram; how Rama appreciates Sita’s quality of cooking and insists on everyone having her kheer; or the beautiful time described in Panchavati where the three play a quiz), apart from bringing in a contemporary relevance that people can relate to…     

These incidents that you mention show the sensitivity and loving relationship that they shared with each other. I have not attempted to justify any of the incidents. Whatever happened, happened. They took the best decisions based on the kind of situations that they may have been facing at that time. The circumstances may be different now. However, the emotions that they had to go through are the same – joy, curiosity, nervousness, excitement, fear, insecurity, anger, anguish – they are faced by people even today. The values which were the basis of the decisions that were made are the same – truth, integrity, dharma, caring and sharing – these are important in today’s society too.


Consider this extract from the book, where Sita explains the concept of Maya to Trijata, the daughter of Vibhishana  

……. ……

 At first, Sita had thought of her new-found love as a beautiful feeling, a powerful emotion. But years later, as she sat watching the flowing waters of the stream in Ashoka Vatika, she was very clear that this love was her very existence.

Trijata had walked with her, listening to her stories, and now stood behind her, giving her some space to just be by herself. Sita’s complete attention was on the sound of the flowing water. To her sensitive ears, it made the sound ‘Rama’. She shifted her attention to the gentle wind, and its whistling also sounded like ‘Rama’ to her. As she walked, she was touched with the cool rays of the moon.

In that pleasant and calm space, a few melodious notes of the veena were carried by the breeze and mixed with the moonbeams like honey with milk. It was an evening raga and was rendered wonderfully. Sita listened to the music and, when it ended, asked Trijata about the musician. Trijata hesitated for a moment and sighed. She looked down at the ground and reluctantly said in a low voice, ‘Devi, that was the lord of Lanka.’ Sita’s eyes widened a little in surprise.

‘He plays the veena at the altar of his ishta, Lord Shiva,’ explained Trijata. Sita sighed. ‘Look, Trijata, such divine music flowing through someone whom we know to be a terror is enough to show you that the core of every being in creation is pure and innocent. Divinity resides in every heart. This divinity is truly the source of power. When one does not recognize this truth, arrogance takes over and pulls one into a downward spiral.’

Trijata was surprised. She had expected Sita to reject the sweetness of the music when told who the musician was. She told Sita so. ‘Sita, I hesitated to tell you because I thought you would not want to listen to any music from Ravana.’ Sita smiled. ‘Yes, Trijata, for a moment I retracted my appreciation when I heard you, but the music was an offering to the divine. And it only brought me closer to my beloved. When the mind is pure, in that natural state, whatever flows through us is the voice of divinity. But when the small mind awakens, the dance of maya begins.’

‍ಲೇಖಕರು Admin

November 24, 2021

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