My knowledge of Indian mythology is meager. It’s as if I had correctly placed only 10 pieces out of a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. According to the synopsis, The Liberation of Sita is a feminist retelling of the ancient epic, the Ramayana. Here, Volga places the women from the Ramayana center stage and imagines an untold life for them. Through Volga’s fierce and unapologetic championing of these women I can see just how one-dimensional the original epic must be.
The book is a collection of five short stories. In “The Reunion” Sita encounters Surpanakha, in “Music of the Earth” she encounters Ahalya, in “The Sand Pot” she encounters Renuka Devi, and in “The Liberated” she encounters Urmila. These women had suffered the consequences of patriarchy and misogyny and through that suffering become wise and emancipated. Sita comes across each woman at a different stage of life- at times eagerly seeking them out and at other times unable to see eye to eye with them. Each woman shares her wisdom and her experience, which set Sita on the path of self-discovery and freedom. The final story “The Shackled” is the story of how Rama must relinquish personal freedom to be the ruler of the kingdom.
The Liberation of Sita shatters myths perpetuated by patriarchy to continually keep women on the sidelines. Volga presents themes of sisterhood, individuality, self-discovery, and personal growth from the female perspective- which make this retelling of the Ramayana more whole for me.
I had the hope of picking up a book on Indian mythology at some point. That hope was on the back burner until a new friend recommended The Liberation of Sita by Volga. It was also a short book. But what really had me sold was that my friend really enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri’s works. So naturally, I reached the conclusion that if we both enjoyed Lahiri’s works, I would most likely enjoy this one by Volga- which I did. I’d encourage you to pick this book up- but if you have zero context for the story of the Ramayana skip it.