Countless retellings, translations, and reworkings of the Ramayana’s captivating story exist-but none are as vivid, ingenious and powerful as Amit Majmudar’s Sitayana. Majmudar tells the story of one of the world’s most popular epics through multiple perspectives, presented in rapid sequence-from Hanuman and Ravana, down to even the squirrel helping Rama’s army build the bridge, and the medicinal herb Sanjeevani.
Read on to hear from six unusual voices in the Sitayana
The daughter of Janaka, the girl who played horsey with Shiva’s own Bow. Daughter of the Earth, found in a furrow. Her fear response never developed properly. That Indian princess-in-exile. Resilient.
“‘You know what the poets call Agni, don’t you? They always refer to it by epithets: “Purifier” and “Bearer Away”. It’s really the same epithet. What the fire “bears away” are impurities. That’s why goldsmiths use fire to test gold. When Agni encounters you, Sita, what can he get a hold of? What can he carry off? He can’t purify what’s purer than he is. You don’t burn, my love, because the Fire finds nothing to burn away”
Vanara. Half wind on his father’s side. No one size or strength by nature. A most metaphysical monkey.
God’s spy in Ravana’s court. Saboteur in waiting. Brahmin-Rakshasa hybrid. Least monster and most priest. Has an ‘unnatural proclivity for poetry.’
“It was never this way when I was a boy and my stepbrother Kubera was king. He used that aerial chariot to survey the streets for litter each morning, and come nightfall, he patrolled personally for window vandals. Lanka was a much smaller city then, and its epithet ‘golden’ came from the purity of its coinage, not its building materials. Today, our dominant trait is cruelty.”
Firstborn son of Ravana and Queen Mandodari. Formerly known as Meghnad. Warrior who defeated Indra. Next in line for the throne of Lanka.
“Imagine if I’d been one of only four or five sons, coddled and praised and known by name—what an underachiever I would be today! Instead of someone who defeated Indra, chief of the Gods, in one on-one combat. I would still be ‘Meghnad’, which was my birth name, instead of Indrajit. My father gave me that name after I got home from the battle, my head bandaged, my armour so dented it looked like foil crumpled and flattened back out.”
Half demon-half Rakshasa hybrid. The ten-headed one—the long-nosed philosopher, the one-eyed soldier, the wavy-maned lover, the square-jawed alpha, the messy-haired poet, the shifty-eyed gambler, the moustached actor, and the thin-lipped sociopath.
“If you think my ten heads are evil, wait till you see what’s coming—the thousand-headed bureaucracies of murder and the murderous million-armed street mobs. What are you trying to accomplish, with all your milquetoast goodness? The age of pious sons and faithful husbands is over. The future is one long dark age until the dancing Ascetic stomps it all flat in his sphere of fire.”
First Queen of Lanka. Ageing wife. Mother of Indrajit and Akshaye. Has pride of place in the household, but is humiliated in her absence by mistress after mistress.
“He will show me his true form again and love me with it. He will be once again what he always was. Temporarily eternally mine.”
Green medicinal herb, seven fronds—small pods. All green. Was as common as grass a yuga ago. Now only found on Mount Rishab.
“‘I’m sorry,’ said Vishnu to us plants, ‘but all those several eloquent tongues of yours, always gossiping and poetizing, are going to go still and limp. They’ll be called petals and leaves from now on, and that is that. If the world is getting nastier for the human beings and the animals they’re going to start eating soon, it’s only fair I inflict something on you, too.’”
Countless retellings, translations, and reworkings of the Ramayana’s captivating story exist-but none are as vivid, ingenious and powerful as Amit Majmudar’s Sitayana.