Revisiting Sita: The Subversive Myths of Womanhood in Contemporary South Asian Women Writers

Abstract

Sita, the heroine of the Indian epic Ramayana, is one of the most defining role models for womanhood in the Indian subcontinent and as such exerts a powerful influence on the collective psyche. This paper proposes to focus on the revisionings of the Sita myth by contemporary South Asian women writers writing in English like Anita Desai and Niaz Zaman, or in regional languages like Mallika Sengupta and Nabaneeta Dev Sen both of whom write in Bengali. It would also analyse examples of modern day adaptations of the Sita tale like Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar's graphic novel Sita's Ramayana or Meena Kandasamy's provocative poems. It would try to explore the different ways that these writers, through their creative re-workings of the Sita myth, at once posit their connectedness to the mythical woman as well as their alienation from the stereotypes of the ‘eternal woman'-silent, submissive, sacrificial and selfless-perpetuated by the patriarchal culture. These subversive re-tellings interrogate/erase Sita's identity as a Token Woman pervasive in the repressive patriarchal myths while simultaneously imagining a much more egalitarian identity for Sita that endorses alternate points of view, lending different/deviant connotations to traditional modes of understanding. The writings of the South Asian women perform as creative rewrites, fluid, irreverent and deviant (sub)versions which they build into the gaps and absences, the fissures in the traditional male narratives of power thus not only questioning conventionally accepted ideas and norms, but also creating space for the silent voices of the women to be heard.



Author Information
Sutapa Chaudhuri, University of Calcutta, India

Paper Information
Conference: LibrAsia2013
Stream: Literature

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