The Girl Who Chose: Devdutt Pattanaik

A new way of narrating the Ramayana

Puffin Books, Rs 199

The story of Sita
India’s favourite mythologist brings to you this charming illustrated retelling of the Ramayana that is sure to empower and entertain a new generation of readers. Over centuries, hundreds have retold the tale, in different languages, adding new twist and turns. But few have noticed that the tale depends on five choices made by Sita. As a reader you will find Ravana, Ram and Sita inside and around you.

Make your choice and help others as only humans can do. It is a tale of Ram, the sun-prince of Ayodhya, who is obliged to follow family rules and so makes no choices. 

Ravana on the other hand does not care for other people’s choices, the king of Lanka, who tricked a princess called Sita, dragged her out of her house in the forest and made her a prisoner in the palace. He was later killed by Sita’s husband, Ram. 

This story of Ravana’s killing is part of a longer tale called the Ramayana, which tells the story of Ram from his birth to his death. However, in the din of Ravana’s cruelty and Ram’s valour, something is often overlooked- the story of Sita, the girl who chose.

In the story Sita makes five choices. And that is why Valmiki sometimes referred to the Ramayana as the Sita Charitam, the story of Sita.

1) Her first choice was to choose to follow and take care of Ram and his brother Lakshman in the forest.

2) Her second choice was to take the risk of stepping out of the rekha to feed the hermit sage. As soon as she crossed the line, the hermit changed into a fierce man and grabbed her by force. Her act of goodness had bad consequences.

3) Her third choice was when Hanuman came to help her after being abducted into Lanka. She wanted her husband Ram to cross the sea, come to Lanka , slay Ravana and rescue her thereby restoring the reputation of the family.

4) Her fourth choice was when Ram defeated Ravana and rescued her and asked Sita that she is free to go wherever she wants. She responded that she would go back with Ram.

5) Her fifth choice was when Ram raised her bow against Luv and Kush and that is when she came running in between them and said: “These are your children and mine”. Sita told Ram that she cannot come back to city where reputation matters more than love. She chose to stay in the forest. 

She at last told her sons to go to their father and serve the sun-city. It is when Sita called to the earth beneath her and slipped into the earth’s embrace.

Ram tried to catch her and tried to pull her out, but by that time Sita was gone. 

At last Ram shared his kingdom with his sons, Luv and Kush. He decided he could not live without Sita by his side.  He walked into the Sarayu River and never returned.