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This Valmiki Jayanti, Here Are 6 Books That Retell the Ramayana Through Unique Perspectives

While various versions and renditions of Valmiki’s Ramayana have surfaced over centuries in different parts of the subcontinent, the narrative has always lingered around Prince Rama’s perspective, quite similar to the original poem.

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Sage Valmiki’s name is probably the one of the very few that has stood the test of time, in respect to the ancient Indian literature.

The author of the Ramayana, one of the greatest epics ever written on Indian soil, Valmiki is revered as the Adi Kavi, or the first poet in Hinduism.

Consisting of 24,000 shlokas and seven kaṇḍas, the epic poem by Valmiki is believed to have transcribed somewhere between 500 BCE and 100 BCE and is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature.

Every year, Valmiki Jayanti is commemorated to mark the birth anniversary of the great poet and sage.

Valmiki transcribing the Ramayana. Source: Wikipedia.

Falling on Purnima (full moon) during the month of Ashwin as per the Hindu calendar, the day is mostly observed between September and October in the Gregorian calendar.

While various versions and renditions of Valmiki’s Ramayana have surfaced over centuries in different parts of the subcontinent, the narrative has always lingered around Prince Rama’s perspective, quite similar to the original poem.

Here are some of the books and novels we have picked that have the epic saga narrated through the eyes of the other significant characters and give you an insight into their parallel lives with different perspectives on the same legend:

1. Asura

Statue of Ravana at Koneswaram Temple, Sri Lanka. Source: Wikimedia.

The epic tale of the Ramayana has been told innumerable times. As in the pages of history, it seems only the version of the victors lives on. But what about the voice of the vanquished, which continues to remain silent? Enter Asura.

The novel tries to repaint the tale through demon king Ravana and his people’s perspective. Narrated by Bhadra, an Asura, one gets to witness a tale of a mighty king who was wronged – in the eyes of his countrymen. Crafted intelligently, this novel by Anand Neelakantan will make you rethink the tale, as one has been told through the ages.

You can check out the novel here.

2. Sita’s Ramayana

Sita Bhum Pravesh, a painting by Raja Ravi Varma. Source: Wikimedia.

The novel shifts the point of view of the timeless epic from its male protagonist, Rama to his wife, Sita. Narrated by the queen, the plot is a strong rumination on the fate of women, who invariably become pawns in the wars between men and kingdoms.

Refusing to be just a patient victim of events, she faces her fate with fortitude and remains steadfast until the moment she decides to challenge it. A collaboration of two women from very different backgrounds, Sita’s Ramayana is the brainchild of Samhita Arni, corroborated with brilliant illustrations by Patua scroll artist Moyna Chitrakar.

You can check out the novel here.

3. The Queen’s Play

Hanuman stealing Mandodari’s weapon. Source: Wikipedia.

The novel unfolds the account of a character from the epic who finds rare mention throughout the plot—Mandodari, the queen of the demon king Ravana. Interestingly, more than a focus on the Ramayana, the plot brings the queen to the forefront as the inventor of chess.

Intertwining the origin of chess into the narrative cycles of the Ramayana, the novel draws amazing parallels between the game and the themes of the epic poem.

Like the board game, where the queen rests in the centre and slowly emerges as the most powerful piece on the board, Mandodari finds herself witness to an epic battle taking place not far from the royal palace—a battle which she is refrained from joining and a battle where she will lose her king.

With new narrative variations that highlight certain episodes from the vast tapestry of the epic, the novel is an interesting take by Aashish Kaul.

You can check out the novel here.

4. Hanuman’s Ramayan

Rama’s ardent devotee. Source: Facebook.

Written by Devdutt Pattanaik, the tag of a ‘children’s book’ must not fool you. With a humorous touch, the story of Hanuman’s Ramayana unfolds with the premise being the completion of the epic by the Sage himself.

After being informed by the nosy sage Narada of another rendition, one is lead to the narrative of the same chain of events by none other than Rama’s most ardent devotee, Hanuman.

The story is made all the more appealing with Mithila folk painting style-influenced illustrations by Nancy Raj.

You can check out the book here.

5. Sita’s Sister by Kavita Kané

The tale of Urmila. Source: Facebook.

One of the most overlooked characters in Ramayana, the novel takes the course of narration through Urmila, who is Sita’s sister and the neglected wife of Lakshman.

As Ram and Sita leave their kingdom for exile, Lakshman chooses to accompany his brother to the forests, not even giving a second thought to his wife and wedded life. The plot stands apart with its intense and tragic narrative of a woman with immense strength and conviction.

Instead of joining her husband, as did Sita with Ram, she willfully opts to be left behind in the doomed palace of Ayodhya, and wait for a neglectful husband for a painful period of fourteen long years. Written by Kavita Kané, who is famous for her novel, Karna’s Wife, the novel retells the epic tale through the standpoint of a woman with a resolve and dedication that can find no parallel.

You can check out the novel here.

6. Lanka’s Princess

Surpanakha being spurned off by Rama. Source: Wikipedia.

Surpanakha, Ravana’s famous sister, often deemed as the perpetrator of the bloody war has always been perceived as ugly and untamed. More hated than the hateful, this novel dwells deeper into the life of the most misunderstood character in Ramayana and tries to decipher her course of actions that eventually culminated into a bloody war and annihilation of her entire family.

Written by Kavita Kané, Lanka’s Princess unfolds the familiar set of events from the eyes of a woman who grew up in the shadows of her brothers and ended up chalking a path filled with misery and revenge.

You can check out the novel here.

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Written by Lekshmi Priya S

Shuttling between existentialist views and Grey's Anatomy, Lekshmi has an insanely disturbing habit of binge reading. An ardent lover of animals and plants, she also specializes in cracking terribly sad jokes.