Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Forest of Enchantments is a retelling of the Ramayan from Sita’s perspective . Ramayan is Ram’s story ,holding Ram on a pedestal, glorifying Ram ,talking about his valour ,his fastidious correctness ,his charms and his charisma ..But the story of Sita has largely been forgotten .Her identity is just as Ram’s faithful consort …What the author has accomplished with this book , is to give us a glimpse into the lives of the royal women who more often than not melt into the tapestry in the background ,despite the immeasurable contribution to the lives of the men who take centrestage .
It is a very difficult task to attempt a retelling of mythological stories like Ramayana & Mahabharat ,that are an intrinsic part of the Hindu way of life . Thus ,this book is a further accomplishment in that ,the author has told the stories of the women without casting any aspersions on the stories of the men told before .
What I like is that Sita has been portrayed as a woman who acts under her own agency and is not just the helpless princess who followed Ram into the forest …The untold stories of Urmila ,of Sunaina ,of Kaushalya,Mandodri and even Kekeyi is of significance .That all these women were a reservoir of quiet courage ..This quiet courage is seen even now in tiny ways everyday ,as we women go on about our lives.. The ending of the book is the most powerful bit ,where Sita steps up to say No more ..That there comes a point where it is not enough to love or have loved . There comes a point ,where self respect assumes far more importance than love .What struck me is that this feeling came without malice and recrimination ,almost stoically ..Something to ponder upon…
The language is as always flowing and easy ..The imagery is vibrant ,and the reader sees the luscious green forests with the profusion of flora and fauna ,the palace and the sprawling city of Ayodhya and the like ..While this one was definitely an enjoyable read ,I must confess I enjoyed the Palace of Illusions more ..A full 4 stars to this book!!
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