Subverting Patriarchal Interpretation of the Ramayan through a Feminist Lens: A Critical Study of Sita’s Ramayana
“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 more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival”, writes Adrienne Rich in her seminal essay, “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-vision”. Rich firmly advocates that women authors should create spaces for subversion of patriarchal values and ideals through their literary works. Revisionist mythmaking, from a feminist literary perspective, evolves through challenging a preceding text which predominantly manifests androcentric ideas. The present paper aims to examine a female reinterpretation of Ramayan, Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Arni, as a revisionist text. Sita’s Ramayana is a graphic narrative in which Arni’s retelling is complemented by patachitra or scroll painting by Moyna Chitrakar, a female patachitra artist from West Bengal, India. Sita’s character is one of the major literary tools through which women writers often attempt to re-view the Ramayan and subvert the male-centric reading of the epic. This paper seeks to understand the elements of revisionism in Sita’s Ramayana in the context of a sixteenth century retelling of Ramayan, Chandrabati’s Ramayan, a verse narrative composed by Chandrabati, the first women poet of Bengal. Chandrabati’s Ramayan, a fierce Sita tale, has been the primary influence on Arni in subverting the patriarchal, popular representation of Sita’s character. This paper attempts to interpret how Arni has altered the patriarchal understanding of the epic by foregrounding the tale through Sita’s viewpoint. It also aims to analyse how these female authors, Arni and Chandrabati have assigned Sita’s character an agency to challenge the androcentric notions that dominate the interpretation of Ramayan. Further, the paper seeks to interpret how the folk-art form of patachitra contributes to the meaning-making of a contemporary subversive retelling of the grand epic.
"Subverting Patriarchal Interpretation of the Ramayan through a Feminist Lens: A Critical Study of Sita’s Ramayana,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 24:
2, Article 11.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol24/iss2/11