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Sita: A Neoteric Damsel in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Forest of Enchantments


Sita: A Neoteric Damsel in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Forest of Enchantments

S. Nithya Devi

Assistant Professor of English

Dr. N. G. P. Arts and Science College

Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India


Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (1956- ) is an Indian American author, poet, novelist, short story writer, children’s fiction writer, book reviewer and columnist.  Divakaruni is a co-founder and former president of Maitri, a helpline founded in 1991 for South Asian women dealing with domestic abuse. Indian Mythology represents diverse varieties of woman characters mostly revered and idolized amidst them Sita is an influential character known for her courage, wisdom and chastity.  From various writers of Ramayana, it is evident that Sita is known for both physical and mental excellence and also a weak and mute sufferer. The paper highlights Sita as the main protagonist, a warrior who is shaped to be a powerful fighter from the state of a delicate woman in The Forest of Enchantments (2019). The mind of people is broken to see women in manly attitude. Women are said to be mentally affected in many ways and they are always subdued, but this work depicts a paradigm demonstrates how and when a woman should raise her voice against male chauvinistic attitude.  It shows the endorsement of woman’s authority by shedding their vulnerability and also generates an inspirational model to the status of a woman in modern world.


Keywords: Feminist ideology; Inspirational; Paradigm; Self- discovery; Unsung narrative

Literature is the reflection of life; it essentially means works of prose and poetry that are particularly composed elegantly. Literature is a group of written works.  It classifies according to the national origin, language, genre, historical era and subject. Fiction is a literary narrative based on invented events, which has not taken place in actual life.  The unreal imaginary happening is called as fiction in general. In a specific sense, fiction stands for only narrative that is written in prose such as novel, short story; sometimes fiction is used as a synonym for novel.  Most of the philosophers and literary critics focus themselves to the literary utterances which constitute a fictional text.  They are concerned with the truth value of literary utterances.

Every writing in culture is loaded with the legend and fables that characterize their presence. Myth encourages individuals to comprehend their traditions and convention. The western desire is to great extent subsidiaries of the Greek and Roman folklores. In India, the greatest epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, and stories from Vedas, Upanishads, etc are familiar with every part of life from the early ages. The subject is people do not understand them completely. It offers specific viewpoints of the narrative that suits to the distinctive circumstances and does not offer the opposite side which nullifies completely.

Presently, retelling of the folklores offers a new assumption of the women personalities of these myths. Mythopoeia (retelling of fantasies) is collecting immense consideration in the recent literary situation. Sita is considered to be Valmiki's women's activist and soft hearten character of Ramayana and the extraordinary case of Pati Parayan (Blind devotee of Husband).

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the potential writer of the contemporary Indian English literature. She is the author of numerous works of poetry and prose, Divakaruni is known for her careful exploration of the immigrant experience, particularly that of South Asian women. Divakaruni’s recent work The Forest of Enchantments (2019) is a very human story of some of the other women in the epic, often misunderstood and relegated to the margins: Kaikeyi, Surpanakha and Mandodari. It also is called as ‘A sita’s version of Ramayan…’ It is said in Sita’s point of view.  Sita is portrayed as a sharp acumen and a resilient woman.  She is a different Sita who takes her own decision in her life, sacrifices her resentments and reclaims herself.  She takes up her challenges in a courageous manner.

Sita is an ultimate character of love and affection which she has towards all the people. Most of the time, Sita is advised by her mother Sunaina in order to bring her as a strong, powerful warrior, ruler and equally as a pride of the Prince. She once says to princess Sita on the eve of her marriage that, “If you want to stand up against wrongdoing, if you want to bring about change, do it in a way that does not bruise a man’s pride. You‘ll have a better chance of success” (TFE 46). In all the circumstances Sunaina has been with her daughter Sita which never makes Sita to disrespect or give up Sunaina.

Sita chooses Ram, the prince of Ayodhya as her husband in a swayamvara, bride choosing the most excellent from a mass of suitors after a contest, where Ram proves his intrepidness, bravery and soldierly power and defeat the extra seekers for Sita's hand in wedding. The performance of ‘Swayamvara’ reflects a moderate carry out of allowing women inclusive of right to prefer their partner. On the other side, an additional focuses gaze at the swayamvaras of the epic heroines like Sita, Draupadi and Uruvi (Karna’s wife) represent the lack of genuine right in the selection of their partners.

Sita, is the one who is typical as an empowered lady. She shines as a fighter, strategist proprietor and philosopher. Sita, the brave fighter, is a result of Sunaina’s nurture. Starting from her childhood, Sita’s mother teaches important instructions regarding life. For example, after Sita’s first visits to the slums that make her to turn to a terrified moment by means of a few rowdy boys, she is rescued by a slum-dweller, Samichi (one of Sita’s friends) takes her back to the palace. One harsh impression from her mother Sunaina and stillness, the major two possessions are more than sufficient to teach her a lesson which normal parents would do. That is the attachment towards her mother. The shrewd Sunaina turns Sita’s misfortune as an example to a certain extent than to blast her.  She informs Sita that criminals are found both in rich and the poor. Her first lesson is in disbelief and false trust. Her mother tries to teach her the emotional framework of both the rich and the poor and the way to obtain stability in comforting the two extremes.

Once Ram and Sita gets married, both leave to Ayodhya, the crowd thinks what has made Ram to find Sita in the light of the fact that such is her outside brilliance which is neither her attitude nor underestimating.  Later when they speak with Sita they know what might have made Ram to marry her.  Kaikey (Ram’s stepmother) takes utterance from Dashratha (Maharaja of Ayodhya) with the aim that their child Bharat would be the ruler of Ayodhya, at the same time Ram lives the life of an austere in forest for a long period of fourteen years. Ram, being factual to his imperial family, is too courteous to not present in.  Sita decides to go together with him where many are anxious. Sita lives a life of wealth, she sees herself as a wife to Ram and not in terms of wealth or richness. She, for the very first time chooses individuality for herself and decides to survive alone with her husband in the exile. Sita is not at all scared of letting go. She gives her life of privilege to her partner Ram. Through this observance, she is like a superwoman of any contemporary fiction who follows her sense as well as strict principles of reason.  Sita’s insight evolves herself over the years. She is a dutiful daughter who in no way predicts her longing for young gentlemen.

Sita’s concern of Mother Earth embodies new women towards desire for justice, to subsist life on her stipulations, disobedience against male bigotry, patriarchy and unhappiness of a woman.

Sita is impartial in estimating her skills. She reprimands Samichi for her sycophancy, knowing that at present there is no cause to boast, as her explosion is a meager one. She finds that regardless of misinformation and being resourceful assistants of a leader, they tempt to mislay their strength if worn to expose an ordinary performance in an overstated illumination. Emotional support is certainly of her knowledge in civic relationships. It requires bravery to move away from the temptation to fall for subservience.

When Sita is abducted by Raavan, the King of Lanka, it is assumed that Sita is talented enough to liberate herself commencing the custody of Raavan, but as obedient wife who in no way can harm the ego of her partner, she believes Ram to hoard her from her condition. She, from her side chooses to be enlightened by Ram. This situation proves how supremacy is rendered ineffective if it is not practiced to progress better with the state of the topic. The subject must be in a position to train power devoid of restrains. To become neutral with gender, courage, strength and power is highly risk. It would be endangering structure that institutionalizes male dominion.

It becomes at times where silence as the best medicine. Yet, Sita is shown as a submissive loyal and obedient wife. Her stillness is identical of her undoubting power and bravery. Sita, gets distress by her sterile feeling to Ram who however fails to hit the correct point of understanding. She grabs herself into stillness for the sake of harmony and out of abundant adore for her husband and her high opinion of Ram’s verdict to remain for two more years.  She prefers to remain quiet at the time when words swirl up in her mouth throughout the experience of Surpanakha’s visit to allure and fascinate Ram. She looks at Ram to talk on her behalf and reprimand Supanakha stating his wonderful marital life.

To Mandodari’s (Queen consort of Raavan) claim of ‘Sita’ being her daughter, she purports to stay quiet as she empathizes with Mandodari’s painful bareness of trailing everything in life, her partner, son, queenly privileges and empire.  Sita is ought to impose adversity on her own self to uphold constancy in the patriarchal classification. Thus, she becomes the stuff of legends and her power remains invisible.  She will be the eternal, imperishable, endless testimony of Ram’s courage. Sita, hence be required to be acknowledged as Ram’s consort who is coming up to be freed.

Ram effectively rescues her without any surprises. When she is back she raises with her chastity for which she spends a long period of her time with a man who is not at all her husband. The fascination with transparency mocks her forfeit and her faithfulness that she has towards Ram. In front of the society, Ram himself dislikes Sita’s imperfect image. He agrees to let her to go. Sita is ready to walk through the fire to provide evidence that she has forever been trustworthy to her husband, Ram. But, rumors ripe that she is ruined by Raavan.

She is said to be an object that is already used which will not suit the nature of a King to accept it. She gives birth to twins who cannot state their ancestry. Still, Sita does not put her questions on her lack of individuality. She is not worried about the norms of the society than her self-perception. Abandonment returns back to Sita taking more frightening stage. She loses her luck which she does not have. Even in her distress she becomes strong to take care of her twin babies being a single parent.

It is more essential for Ram to have Sita as a ruler or emperor whose figure is untarnished. Sita is revealed as a strong warrior than a character who is always in sorrow. Sita is physically as well as mentally strong. Sita’s representation in most of the epic is meek and normal, although her final insolence in the conclusion is that Sita wins her vanished self hood. Through refusing to suggest to the power-seeking, chitchat mongering sort, she embraces emancipation. It is painful that such emancipation is likely to put into death. Questions rise to liberate her from social obligations. Analysis and elucidation are the theme of individual in Sita’s tale. But she put a model by choosing to defy.

Works Cited

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee. The Forest of Enchantments. Uttar Pradesh: Harper Collins Publishers, 2019.

Frye, Northrop. “Myth, Fiction, and Displacement.” Evolution and Man's Progress 90.3 (1961): 587-605.

In Search of Sita: Revisiting Mythology. Ed. Namita Gokhale and Malashri Lal. UK: Penguin Classics, 2011.

Singh, Anjita, The Sitayan : A Retelling of the Ramayan in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's The Forest of Enchantments (June 7, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3861386 or <http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3861386/>

Shukla Chatterjee. (2019). Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, &lt;I&gt;The Forest of Enchantments&lt;/I&gt;. Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 13(1), 149–151. Retrieved from <https://journals.iium.edu.my/asiatic/ index.php/ ajell/article/view/1492/>