By Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar, published 2011
“War, in some ways, is merciful to men. It makes them heroes if they are the victors. If they are vanquished, they do not live to see their homes taken, their wives widowed. But if you are a woman, you must live through defeat…”
Diwali, the Indian the festival of lights, celebrates the return of Rama and Sita to the kingdom they had long ago been banished from. Just as the Diwali holiday was approaching, I happened upon this version of the classic Ramayana for children in our library. It is unique in two ways. First, it is a graphic novel, with very traditional Bengal artwork. And second, it tells the story of Rama from a woman’s point of view. Apparently this is not that rare, and there have been versions since the 1600’s giving a different view of the Ramayana. However, this is probably the first and only Ramayana for children in a graphic novel form.
I thoroughly enjoyed the re-telling of this classic tale. For any Waldorf or other classroom studying classical India, this would be a very novel way to introduce the story to children. What I love about this version of the Ramayana is how clearly it depicts the tragedy and uselessness of war.
I don’t know how to categorize this version of the Ramayana for children. Is it a classic? Well yes, but it’s written in contemporary language. Is it historical fiction? Well, yes, sort of, and no, since many believe this tale happened. So I put it in all the categories. No matter how you categorize this children’s book, it is a wonderful addition to the re-telling of Sita and Rama.