The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I’ve got some serious catching up to do on blogging about the recent books I’ve read. I’ve not been reading as much as I would have wanted, but I’ve definitely been reading more than I am writing! Here are the books that I’ve read since the start of the year –

  • The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney
  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
  • The Woman in the Window by A J Finn
  • False Impression by Jeffrey Archer

Hopefully, I do not procrastinate anymore and write about my thoughts on each of them!

So moving to the first book from the above list…

The Forest of Enchantments

I’ve always been a fan of Indian mythology. It is the first world of fantasy that most kids in India are exposed to growing up. In some form or the other – from the Sunday morning rituals of watching either the Ramayan or the Mahabharath on Doordarshan to bedtime tales narrated by grandparents to the wonderfully illustrated Amar Chitra Kathas – my childhood was filled with these.

But as a kid, I only listened and read and watched in awe about these larger-than-life characters. Only when I grew up and re-read some of these stories did I realize how astonishingly male chauvinistic these were. The women’s point of view was never expressed. It was always assumed the women were damsels in distress, waiting for the men to come to save them. And a grave injustice was brought upon some of the most influential female characters to be written. None graver than that upon the character called Sita.

The Forest of Enchantments, as you would have guessed by now, is Ramayan told through the eyes of Sita. It is Sitayan – the version that everyone deserves, men and women alike. The book takes us through Sita’s life. About her childhood in Mithila, how she meets Ram, the famed Prince of Ayodya, their marriage, Ram’s banishment, their experience in the forest of enchantments, her abduction by Raavan, her struggles at Lanka, her first meeting with Hanuman, the battle between Ram and Raavan, and her return to Ayodya. Now, while I was a kid, this is where most books, cartoons, and narrations of the story end. Nothing about what happens in Ayodya after their arrival. And what happens after that is the most crucial part of Ramayan. Sita’s banishment.

Looking at things from Sita’s perspective is refreshing and brings a very human touch to this epic. If I was moved to tears at specific points for Draupadi in The Palace of Illusions, I wept buckets when I read this one – at the injustices wreaked upon Sita and how no one came to her rescue when it mattered. Though this is a tale whose plot is well-known to everyone, I found myself glued to the pages.

The Forest of Enchantments came out almost 10 years after The Palace of Illusions. That was quite a wait. But I am glad the author did finally write this one. Because to understand the Ramayan better, you definitely have to read the Sitayan.

P.S. I love the names of both of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni‘s books I’ve read so far. The Palace of Illusions and The Forest of Enchantments. They have a nice ring to them, don’t they?


Favorites from the book:

Line– “Could love, which I’d taken to be powerful and everlasting, be so frail as well? Could you pluck it out of your heart as easily as you’d pull a weed from a bed of flowers?”

Character– I don’t think I’ve to answer this one. Sita, undoubtedly.

Takeaways– Stand up for yourself when it matters because no one else will!


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