The mighty Indian epic- Ramayana recounts the bravery of Rama. However, the life of Sita is almost overshadowed in the epic. Her journey, emotions, lessons and the ultimate Liberation of Sita has been portrayed by Volga in her book.
Volga raises certain pertinent questions about the lives of women and womanhood, as such; most of which are still relevant. Women, from time immemorial, has been placed as objects of politics and entertainment in the society. Often political relations were established by giving off a princess in marriage to the allies or enemies; like in the instances of Gandhari from Mahabharat or Jodha to Mughal Sultan Akbar. But ‘Do women exist only by men to settle their scores?’ Ar their lives always engulfed by the clouds of politics? One such woman was Surpanakha, often seen as a villainous and lusty character in the epic. However, the only mistake committed by Ravana’s sister was to be bold enough to profess her love for Rama. Should women bold enough to accept their feelings, silenced with the same fate as Surpanakha? Or was this a political strategy played by Rama to invoke the wrath of his enemy, the Demon King? Surpanakha, on the other hand, suffered many hardships to realize ‘ that the meaning of success for a woman does not lie in her relationship with a man.’ A woman is capable to be a successful person on her own and at times more successful than men.
During her life at the Palace, Sita had heard of Ahalya and how men and women alike despised her, for no mistake of her own. Despite being warned to stay away from her, Sita befriends her; and Ahalya becomes her guide during some of the roughest phases of her life. She taught Sita the essence of trust in the relationship between a husband and wife. ‘What does conducting an enquiry mean, Sita? Distrust isn’t it? ‘ A man repeatedly puts his wife through tests definitely distrusts her and her actions. To this Ahalya takes the stand of self-authority. she tells all women to refuse to bow down to these tests and patriarchal subjugation. Nevertheless, Sita did bow down once when Rama asked her to walk on fire. But years later, upon her return from the forest, she refused to submit to any more conditions and embraced the touch of Mother Earth.
The Liberation of Sita narrates the tale of Renuka who was the mother of Parashuram and was instructed to be beheaded by her husband. Parashuram took the responsibility of doing so on himself. Sita was taught the lesson of sacrifice by Renuka. Renuka experienced that although women gave birth to the future of the Kingdoms, they had no control over the future heirs. the allegiance of a son lies wholly towards his father and not his mother. Thus, Sita at the end of her life’s journey decides to leave Luv Kush with Rama before departing from the world. The same can be seen in the Mahabharat when Ganga sacrifices her son Devrath and asks him to pay allegiance to his father, King Shantanu. It was believed that sons were given birth to, for the greater good of the Kingdom and the society; and thus it was best to let them perform their duties rather than be tied down by personal relations. The knowledge of ruling a Kingdom could only be passed down from one King to another, or from Father to Sons. Hence, the fathers had a greater hold on their sons as opposed to the birth-giver.
One of the most forgotten characters in the Ramayana is that of Urmila, the wife of Lakshmana. She went through the severe penance of separation from her husband during his exile for fourteen years. Any woman in her place would have been red with anger throwing tantrums against the injustice brought on her. But Urmila chooses to adopt a higher path of self-discovery, self-authority, self-contentment, and liberation. She realized that an individual is bound by no authority and relationships in life, but by self -authority. Maintaining self-authority through gaining knowledge and meditation is the ultimate stage of life that one can achieve. The idea of being unchained gives one the power to forgive and forget, and embrace any situation with practical understanding and an open heart.
As a reader when you pick up the book the name of the novel would quite literally mean the Liberation of Sita, but the implied meaning also suggests the liberation of Rama. Sita, by learning the importance of the many facets of life from women of strong mettle liberates herself from the shackles of society and its so-called imposed ways of life. And by doing so, in fact, protects Rama. She forgives and forgets the wrongs done to her and frees Rama from the bondage of a relationship which he could not justify, as his duties demanded him to act otherwise. She even went on to sacrifice motherhood by leaving her sons behind with Rama.
The Liberation of Sita is an ultimate realization of women empowerment. The fact that a man is not necessary for the survival of a woman and that she alone has the ability to embrace peace, thus liberating herself and those around her, are the biggest takeaways from the book. The Liberation of Sita is written in Telugu by Popuri Lalitha Kumari (Volga) and translated into English by T. Vijay Kumar and C.Vijayasree. The book is available in all major bookstores and can be ordered online through Amazon and Snapdeal .