Book review: The Liberation of Sita
Updated: Mar 22
A powerful book that opened my eyes to things I was not at all expecting
Ramayana is about Ram’s exile and journey of getting back his wife, Sita from Ravan who abducted her. The Liberation of Sita by Volga is Sita’s journey of self-awareness and actualization. And I’d pick Sita’s story any day.
This book, translated from Telugu, is not a re-telling of Ramayana through Sita’s point of view. It only explores certain characters and events and not in chronological order. If you do not have any background about Ramayana, it may be hard to keep up with what’s happening in this book. But. I’d encourage you to brief yourself up on the epic and then pick this book up anyway.
What is this book about, then?
It’s a collection of five stories – independent yet intricately connected because each of them helps Sita see her truth and unlearn society’s messed up version of it.
The Liberation of Sita entails Sita coming across four women who have had to suffer and endure the unjust nature of our extremely patriarchal and male-serving society. These women have heartfelt discussions with Sita and impart their wisdom which came to them after several trials and tribulations. But eventually, they liberate themselves. Because who is stronger than a woman who finally sees the truth?
These four women include Surpanakha, Ahalya, Renuka Devi, and Urmila – all minor characters in Valmiki’s epic. Despite what all these women had to go through, they have found a way to reach contentment and enlightenment. And Sita doesn’t see the depth in their words until she too has to suffer her own seas of grief.
Women support circle
You know how on a Friday night out (when we still had those) every girl in the dingy washroom of the club or restaurant seemed like a supportive, inspiring, and adorable stranger? I’ve often had the experience myself, feeling this sort of kinship with women whom I don’t even know but feel so encouraged and motivated by. And all heart-eyes emoji. This book is kind of like that.
Volga surprised me by taking a very harmonious take between Sita and certain women characters that I wouldn’t expect. And possibly will never again see again in any other related book. The women in this book were not trying to one-up the other or weren’t bitchy to each other for the attention of men or in the vanity of their beauty or the pride of their kingdom.
So, yeah, I loved The Liberation of Sita, not only for the refreshing mythological perspective it and possibility it opened my mind to but also because it just made me cheer on for these women and made me want to go like ‘yaaaaas’ in some scenes.
The Liberation of Sita is not a “re-telling” but “re-visioning”.
Re-vision — the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction — is for us (women) more than a chapter in cultural history, it is an act of survival. Adrienne Rich
Yes, it’s feminist literature
And I am so glad to have come across it thanks to Hear Me Out’s really cool post: 6 Underrated Books That Deserve More Attention. This one truly deserves A LOT more attention! I can’t believe I had never heard about it until last week!
There were so many moments in The Liberation of Sita that boiled my blood. Men really haven’t learned anything, have they? Thousands of years ago they let their idiotic ego and unnecessary + burdening sense of white knighting women wage wars and do stupid things. And it’s horrifying that even today the mentality and behaviour of our partiarchal society has managed to remain unchanged.
Look, feminist books don’t mean books that bash men (just like feminism doesn’t). They just mean books that give women a voice for their thoughts and opinions that naturally end up revealing all the sugarcoated narratives of society that lauded men for things that should have not happen to begin with. And this book is certainly one of them.
Lost in translation?
I’m really grateful for Volga to have written this book and to C. Vijayasree and T. Vijay Kumar to have translated it to English. Do I think the essence of the book was lost in translation? No.
I do believe the writing style, however, may have. Of course, I really have no way of knowing this since I have only read (and can only read) the English translation. I did, however, see hints of poetic sentences that weren’t as lovely or impactful as they probably originally were.
Nature is all-healing and the best way to really know yourself and make peace with the way of the world.
Women are the ones who can protect themselves and set themselves free – never depend on a man or you’ll wait forever.
Holding onto labels of various relationships is entangling and detachment can truly be a way of becoming one with yourself.
Your truth is yours. Don’t agree to go on trial to prove it to others – especially not to men.
Go pick it up! It’s a short book of about 100 pages and the story will definitely keep you engaged. It may also make you want to read up more about the epic and form new conclusions on the same. Definitely, a five-star read for me!