Before writing anything about this book, if I were to rate the book, it would be 5+/5.
Have you ever thought of women in Ramayan and how their lives must have changed after playing their role in the multilayered epic? Majority of the scripts that have been passed on to us rather widely believed have glorified every act of Lord Rama, the dharma he followed, his ideals and beliefs for attaining the ultimate purpose of his Avataar. Who is to tell us about Sita, her feelings, the endurance, the wisdom, the truth-untruth, the other side of story and the intricate complexities of Ramayan. The candid conversations of Sita with Surpanakha, Ahalya, Renuka and Urmila are covered in four different chapters each of which igniting Sita's rationality. Every conversation is profound, enigmatic yet refreshing and eye opening. Most of the situations hold true in contemporary scenario as well if you have an eye to look from feminist's perspective. Probably I will have to re-visit the book after few years to completely absorb the philosophy.
Answers that I always search for while reading Ramayan are
1. Is there any dark side to Rama Rajya? Humans are born with defects and do survive with corky emotions. If people of Ayodhya were benevolent, why were there rumours about Sita's chastity?
2. Was Ramarajya really bereft of thieves and burglars? If so, from where did the thief later turned sage Valmiki come from?
3. Sita conceived after almost a decade and a half after her marriage. Was she not a victim of incessant inquisitiveness of procreation?
4. Why did Lakshman not for a second think about his duties towards Urmila. Does Arya Dharma say that for a Kshatriya duties towards his father, brother are more important and high than any other duty? What about the marital vow he undertook to look after his wife and her needs?
5. The same story which gave high importance to Kaikeyi, her wishes, doesn't talk about Urmila's consent while Lakshman left to the forest. Isn't her life entwined with his?
and some more I may encounter in future.
Interesting, all the questions are answered by various spiritual gurus as per their understanding of this great epic quoting other versions of Ramayan along with Sage Valmiki's. I am equally astonished to learn that Valmiki's Ramayan is dissimilar in many ways to the story we believe in.
Co-incidentally, I am learning to sing "Nama Ramayana" in M.S. amma's style. I indulge in the song, in hope to find some answers, trying to match my music teacher's expressions as she utters melodiously "Rama rama jaya raja ram, Rama rama jaya sita ram".
About Author: This is a translation of "Vimukta" written by a popular telugu feminist writer Volga (Popuri Lalitha Kumari).