Essay on the Ramayana and Sita Sings the Blues
Number of words: 1368
The epic, The Ramayana, first-authored by Valmiki, is one of India’s ancient poems describing societal norms and view on relationship, marriage, and kingship. Sita Sings the Blues is a film by Nina Paley, describing the life and adventure of Rama and Sita. The two works recount Ramayana’s epic, with the latter one adding musical and personal interpretation of the former. Both pieces, therefore, have similarities and differences. The epic’s description captures mainly the ancient period, as opposed to Natalie’s version, which is a contemporary filmed Valmiki’s version. Besides having similar storylines, the two pieces, The Ramayana and Sita Sings the Blues, have significant differences regarding relationship, gender roles, and stereotypes.
Ramayana and Sita Sings the Blues starts by describing the love between Prince Rama and Princess Sita. Rama strived to attain Sita’s love and he emerged a victor in a contest held within their kingdom to marry the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. From an excerpt, “Dear brother, Ravana, have you seen Rama’s wife Sita…? She is the most beautiful woman in the world. Her skin is fair, like the lotus blossom. Her eyes are like lotus pools,” it is explicit that Sita was beautiful, worthy of contest (Ghosh 31). The description of women in the two versions of the story is similar. Sita’s beauty is acknowledged in the epic even though the work concentrates mostly on the Rama’s virtues. He stated, “Holy One, I wonder if any man born into the world was blessed with all the virtues by your Father in heaven.” Rama was banished by his father from the kingdom and he had to live in the forest for fourteen years. Sita then followed him to the forest while holding on to their love and marriage despite the forest being a dangerous place full of evil spirits. This act by Sita was a show of love to her husband. She stated, “If you had been banished to the Dandaka vans, then so have I. She dovoted to staying at Rama’s side at all time. Moreover, Sita vowed to “walk down the paths of hell” with Rama, a sign of devotion to their love, as she adds that the “jungle will be like heaven for” her. In the Paley’s film, Sita accompanied Rama to the forest, a scenario similar to that in TheRamayana, showing love and devotion to her husband. Therefore, in both works, women are depicted to devote love to their husbands.
The Ramayana tries to portray men’s authority in society while Paley’s version of the story is about women’s fights for equality and the need for society to judge and treat women the same as men. The story book delves much on the qualities and responsibilities of man while associating women with home keeping and ensuring their marriage work. The two versions agree on the reason for Rama’s banishment. Both highlight Rama’s stepmother as the agent and cause for his expulsion from the kingdom to create room for her son to be crowned king despite Rama being the next in line and the most loved in the kingdom (Ghosh 57). The description of Rama’s stepmother’s attitude and role in his expulsion shows the extent to which women can go in trying to protect and make their own better and in a chosen position. Lakshmana accompanies Rama and Sita into the forest. The first evil spirit in both versions is of a man, Ravana, who kidnaps Sita in the forest. Men are depicted as the soul providers and breadwinners for their women in the epic. Sita’s kidnapping was as a result of her being alone after Rama and Lakshmana had trailed a lamb that would impress Sita. In the epic, The Ramayana, Sita requested Rama to chase the lamb on her behalf. This analysis reveals gender roles in society, characterised by a man’s duty to provide for the family.
The aftermath of Sita’s kidnapping is the eventual war that unfolds between Rama and Ravana in the rescue mission. Rama gets support from the monkey army general Hanuman. The war results in Ravana’s death and rescue of Sita. Sita’s problems and woes begin after what should be a celebration after her rescue. Ravana wanted Sita to be her wife and tried to persuade her in all manner. Sita being a loyal, devoted, and faithful wife, did not give in until her eventual rescue. Paley’s take dwells much on the accounts of betrayal shown to Sita. Rama questioned her fidelity issues and even led to her taking challenges to prove her innocence (Dodd 16). Society defines kingship based on one’s definite life. Despite the flaws in Rama’s life, for example, how he treats his wife and eventually banishes her to raise their two children independently, the society still views Rama as a hero and virtuous enough to hold the crown as described in TheRamayana. Goldman, in his work, describes Rama as a heroic person, denoting that him as “virtuous, heroic, true” person (Goldman 97). The argument is that whatever negative aspect Rama’s life may hold, it is to act as a sacrifice for the kinship position. The society is proud of him as a man despite the family issues he was experiencing. Sita’s raising of their children independently as a woman seems a norm and so expected by society. Women are portrayed to be loyal beings who should suffer for the welfare of the family. Marriage breakups are blamed on women, and therefore as described on Valmiki’s Ramayana, Sita’s marriage problems were her doings (Goldman 43). The society cherishes men in authority while blaming women for their marriages fate. A narrator in the film stated, “I’m messing up the names… God, they’re going to be after me!” referring to the society challenging his views on Rama and Sita.
The two versions of Ramayana seem to concur on the idea of men and their roles in society. Rama is portrayed to have gone through a lot in his life to achieve the kinship title at the end of the epic tale. Rama had to live in a devastating forest for years while taking care of Sita, and his younger brother; as Valmiki states, “The stream Rámáyan leaves its sacred fount the whole wide world from sin and stain to free.” When Sita was kidnapped, Rama had to find ways of tracking her location and eventually put up a fight with Ravana to rescue her. All these events portray man as being the protector and provider in the family and determinant of their destiny.
The two pieces of Rama and Sita’s epic tale shows similarities and differences in equal measure. The differences, for example, in highlighting gender roles, may be attributed to the difference in the era of the two versions. The societal perception of gender roles changes with time, and therefore, the roles of men and women in the present time differ significantly with that during the ancient eras. Sita’s fate and the societal view of her and her marriage may be attributed to the analogy of the society when Valmiki was composing his work. Paley’s description of the role of women and men in society is also largely dependent on the time when her work was written. Paley’s version comes at a time when the society primarily advocates for equality in gender roles as opposed to Valmiki’s era when women were under looked in society. The societal perception of man is consistent. The versions, therefore, speak of a similar story, but the difference in time and societal nature defines the details of either version of the tale in terms of the era of composition.
Dodd, Kevin V. “Sita Sings the Blues.” Journal of Religion & Film, vol. 13, no.2, 2016, pp, 16.
Ghosh, Asmita. “A Feminist Reading of Sita Sings the Blues.” Feminism in India, 2016.
Goldman, Robert P. The Ramayana of Valmiki (Vol. 1) Balakanda an Epic of Ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass Publishe, 2007.
Paley, Nina. Sita Sings the Blues. GKIDS, 2008.