(Spoiler alert, of sorts.)
Reviewing a writer like Amish is always a challenge. It is easier to write off trashy books, but admiration takes time. Praise demands investment of thought, or so I conclude from personal experience.
Even though Sita: The Warrior of Mithila is the second book in the Ram Chandra series, it is not really a sequel. Making use of the multilinear narrative, Amish has chosen to explore a character per book, delving into their past, their upbringing, and the course their narratives could potentially take in the future.
The first book was about Ram, second about Sita, and the third would be about Raavan. It is interesting to see Amish attempt to portray the same situation from different perspectives in different books, positioning the reader at a vantage point.
5 Cool Things You Find in Sita: Warrior of Mithila:
- Sita is a skilled warrior and chosen avatar of Vishnu. Patriarchy, take note.
- Ram is five years younger than Sita.
- A contemporary Indian writer has introduced a female protagonist with zero emphasis on her conventional ‘beauty’. Yes, it can happen.
- The book has one of the most bad-ass assassins ever.
- A book can talk about philosophy, use proper grammar, and yet appeal to readers.
Didn’t see that coming, did you now?
A Warrior Sita
The cover of the book sets wonderful expectations with a muscular bodied Sita launching a brutal assault on a soldier from Raavan’s army.
With this book, Amish has given us a Sita who is fielding armies single-handedly, is a champion archer, an efficient queen, and an able administrator.
Additionally, it is refreshing to find a female protagonist in mainstream art whose physical appearance is not prioritised in her portrayal.
Ram – the Supporting Character
The book is a fast paced drama about how Sita, and towards the second half of the story, Ram, choose the paths of dharma (roughly translated as ‘duty’) in their own respective ways.
Ram’s marriage with Sita is portrayed as a move born out of pragmatism by the latter, though love and companionship are achieved by the two characters almost immediately after their first meeting.
Over the years, Sita has often been portrayed as a meek and coy ‘good woman of patriarchy’. Amish, however, turned to the lesser known Adbhuta Ramayana, a version of the Ramayana attributed to sage Valmiki for this book. This version spends more time exploring Sita’s character.
The book constantly continues to casually subvert accepted gender roles. In 3400 BC, when Sita’s name is suggested as an avatar of Vishnu, her gender is never discussed as a point of concern.
Contemporary and Ancient India – Not So Different After All?
At various points in the story, one realises that over the years, human tendencies have pretty much remained the same.
In the book, for instance, Rama allows a criminal guilty of gangrape and murder, to be released from incarceration because he’s a juvenile. At one point, the writer delves into the manner in which Vaishyas are viewed in society, echoing the way present day capitalist society is viewed.
Names keep changing, but characters remain the same. We can only wonder if these parallels were intentionally drawn by Amish.
The book, above anything else, comes across as a celebration of ancient India, its philosophies and its system of education. However, amidst all the action and plotting and politics, the narrative only touches on notions of law, governance and morality. As a reader, you are left craving for a deeper discussion on these topics.
Having said that, Sita: Warrior of Mithila is entertaining, well-researched, and offers an interesting glimpse into ancient India. It can comfortably win a spot on your summer reading list.
Sita: Warrior of Mithila