Liebe Leserin

Ich hoffe, ich verwirre dich nicht zu sehr, aber das ist mein erster Blog auf Englisch.


Weil es eine Abschlussarbeit für ein Seminar in meinem Studium der Südasienkunde ist. Ich beschäftige mich mit der Frage, wie sich Frauen aktuell mit der Figur von Sita aus dem Ramayana identifizieren können.

Am besten du hörst hinein.

Der Blog enthält das Skript das mir als roter Faden durch das Live-Video geholfen hat.

Das Video


Hier ist der Podcast

Sita sings the blues – Skript

Let me tell you a story… A long time ago, there was a princess named Sita and a prince called rama… Do you love stories like I do?

This podcast episode is something special. I don’t know if I told you that I am not only a yoga teacher, but I am also studying languages and cultures of south asia at the university of vienna. It’s quite a gift to be able to dive deep into the knowledge.

and last semester I attended a wonderful lecture with Wendy Phillips-Rodriguez. The title was: “The Sanskrit epics: from ancient India to pop culture” It is amazing and really  interesting how the stories of the epic are still quite modern. The characters  are still alive and have evolved and made their way into our time-zone and culture. Studying or practicing Yoga, you can’t help but learn about them. And then, you find that there is lots and lots more. The main characters of the Ramayana are Rama, Sita, Hanuman and some now a little about Ravana.

Have you heard of hanuman? Hanuman is the big monkey-god. Often presented with his chest, torn open and inside you can see Rama and Sita. Hanuman is believed to be the perfect Devotee. Rama and Sita are said to be the perfect couple, which – seen with modern eyes is hard to believe. But this is another story.

Within the lecture we learned about how the epics evolved and were told in different contexts. For the Ramayana we had – upon others – the movie “Sita sings the blues” An animated movie made by an American cartoonist, animator, and free culture activist. Nina Paley. She got to know the Ramayana when she lived in India with her husband, who divorced her in 2002 – she coped with her loss and grief, creating the Movie Sita sings the blues which premiered in 2008 at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 11. Nina garnered more than 35 international awards.

But first things first. What is the story of the Ramayana? 

The Ramayana is One of the two big epics in india. It’s called an Adikavya. This translates as “very artistic poem”. Adi means first, and so it can also be translated to be the first of all poems, which means the best.

Correction: the Ramayana was compiled between the 4 cent. bc to 2 cent past Christ and has 24.000 Verses. I am sorry for the confusion. In the spoken version I said, the Ramayana was written, and no, it was compiled during this episode of time and contains 24.000 Verses. I confused the numbers.

The Ramayana tells the Story of Prince Rama and his adventures. The biggest of all his adventures is – I believe – the rescue of his wife sita. 

There are 7 books in the Ramayana. 

  1. bālakāṇḍa – the book of the childhood of Rama
  2. ayodhyākāṇḍa – the second book is about the things happened in Ayodhya, his fathers kingdom
  3. āraṇyakakāṇḍa – since he was banished for selfish reasons, the third book tells the stories about what happened in the wood – this is where Sita was kidnapped by Ravana, Demon and King of Lanka
  4. Kishkindha-Kanda tells the Story of how Rama gets to know the apes and helps their king to get back his kingdom – in return the monkeys will help Rama. Kishkindha is the Prince of the apes
  5. sundarakāṇḍa means the book of beauty and tells the stories of hanuman, one of the main characters, since he is the first one finding sita and he is achieving quite some heroic actions
  6. then yuddhakāṇḍa. This book describes the battle which is fought to rescue sita
  7. and finally the uttarakāṇḍa – the last book

As I mentioned before, the Ramayana is one of the two big Epics in India. The Second one is the Mahabharata. Rama is the main character and Sita is his wife. 

They got married, then Rama was sent into exile into the forest, where she was kidnapped.  One can say that the Ramayana is the story of her rescue, although there is lots more to it. 

Not many of the people I spoke with knew that Rama was not sure about her faithfulness after rescuing her from the demon Ravana, who kidnapped and kept her for almost 12 months. And although Sita proves her purity to him – and the world –  threw a fire ordeal, people were chatting. So Rama decided to send her away … being pregnant with twins. 

Back in the forest she finds shelter with Valmiki, a wise man. 

When one day Rama finds her and asks her to prove her faithfulness again. And Sita chooses that, that if she had always been faithful, mother earth shall open up and take her back into her womb, which happens and Sita vanishes from the earth. Rama 

It is believed that the first and the last book were added later. When thinking about the Ramayana please keep in mind that it is believed that the story was compiled from the 4th century BC until the 2nd century past the birth of christ. 

It is said that this story was told at the end of the second yuga, the Treta Yuga.

You may ask, what a yuga is. yuga, in Hindu cosmology, is an age of humankind. Each yuga is progressively shorter than the preceding one, corresponding to a decline in the moral and physical state of humanity. We live in Kali Yuga, the last of the yugas, which is 12000 devine years long, so for us that will be 4,320,000 years. 

In the first one, everything was fine. The best of Yugas, everybody was happy and life was easy. Today we are in the fourth yuga. Every Yuga humanity loses stability. So, Treta was the second Yuga. Rama is understood to have been the seventh incarnation of lord vishnu, who descent to put things back in order in the world.  

The Ramayana is told with Rama as the main character. Sita sings the blues, tells the Story from Sita’s point of view.

When I watched the movie and reflected on it, I was wondering how I might have reacted if I would have been on Sitas side. It’s not so easy, when you think about it. She was faithful, but Rama himself was doubtful. She proved it but people were gossiping and since Rama – first and foremost had to be a good king, sent her away, being pregnant with his sons.

Just imagine that happening to you, so I thought about asking other women. I was sending out a request for help and I have to be honest with you was quite disappointed with the reaktion.

So why do I speak about this old Story in my podcast? isn’t that about heroines?

Yes I am! My question is: how do nowadays women react, when struggling with crises and Nina Paley – not only working it out but also creating something wonderful, inspiring and quite impressive in regards to the many awards and public attention she got. But also Sita endured so much and in the end, she stopped it, outgrew her ability to suffer and freed herself in the best way she could.

What is the movie about?

In Sita sings the blues, Nina Paley tells her own story alongside the story of sita. This is quite a thing, since the Ramayana is not about her. It’s about Rama and when you are familiar with Indian epics, women are having a hard time there. 

5 women answered my question and let me celebrate with them at this moment!  

3 of which had a yogic background. I asked them questions about how the movie touched them and about if they could find some parallels to their own lifes.

The questions were

  • Did you know something about the Ramayana before watching the movie?
  • What do you think about Sita?
    Can you relate to the questions about her behavior in the movie? 

With this question I tried to point to a scene within the movie, where questions were asked about her behavior like – why didn’t she tell anything, why was she asking for Rama to fight for her instead of letting hanuman rescue her. (30:40)  But it seems that I was the only one reflecting on this

  • Can you relate to the character of Sita? Please explain your answer
  • When you think about your life – do you find similar challenges?
  • Do you find resemblances with the Story of Sita and your own?
  • Did you like the movie Nina Paley has woven the two stories together?

The main subject of this podcast ist to share the answers

Question #1: Did you know about the Ramayana

All of the women knew the story or at least parts of ist. The main answer was: yes, but. After the rescue, so after book #6 the knowledge ends. For me this shows that for educational reasons in yoga-teaching only the big main and happy parts were taught. Hanuman is quite popular. He is a monkey, did great things like jumped from india to lanka, got a mountain and brought it back with the medicinal-plant growing on top of it to heal Rama’s brother Lakshana

Question #2: What do you think about Sita

She is seen as passive but till the end, where she frees herself by asking to be taken back to mother earth. I could see a big difference in the viewpoint between a woman, having children and a woman, like myself, without children..

Questions 3-5 

  • Can you relate to the character of Sita? Please explain your answer
  • When you think about your life – do you find similar challenges?
  • Do you find resemblances with the Story of Sita and your own?

What I found very interesting is that almost every woman, including myself, could relate to sita in a younger version of themselves. Being badly treated, and not standing up for themselves, b/c they were not thinking that this could be also done differently. But all of the women answering the question had similar challenges and quit the relationship. So they could – and I too can – relate to the behavior of sticking to a man, who does not treat them right.

Most of the time I had the feeling that they see themselves now as having stood up for themselves. Growing personally and that the lessons learned helped them to see their value clearer.

There were no actual resemblance but lots of compassion with the character of sita. 

For me it made clear that we know how devastating it can be, to be hurt by someone you love and trust, but also that there is something in us that knows that we deserve to be treated in a good and respectful way. 

Having translated the story into the now in Vienna, Austria I can also see how much culture plays a role in the reflection of stories. Thinking about how long ago the core of the story has been made up, in a cultural setting, not resembling a bit with our actual state of being. Can we relate at all? How is putting into relation work, but only on an emotional and personal level?

For me, watching the movie was kind of healing.  It’s never easy to be in a situation like Sita was. 

From marrying the man she loved to being kidnapped, tossed away, being faithful, mistrusted, proving and then again being put out on the opinions of the people. How many of us would judge today, if a similar story would’ve happened in the media. 

Some days ago I heard the singer Miley Cyrus in an interview sharing about the public view on her private life and divorce. Can we relate to sita at all? She was a princess, being put out to so many opinions? Event till today.

What I am asking myself is: Can we learn something about being truthful to ourselves through the Story of Sita or our own challenges? Can we take something with us so we can be stronger in the world?

How can we handle mistrust,or handle being badly treated by someone you love. 

Will this inquiry will ever bring a “right” answer? Istn every story and every woman special and has to find her own path? This was something that occurred to me while reading through the answers given to me.

Did you enjoy the movie?

I got a yes from the women, answering the questionnaire. The reflection of Nina’s story, synchronizing it with the one of Sita, was taken up very kindly. Nina Paley achieved something great. Not only did she cope with her own loss, but she found a way to give a reflected summary of the Ramayana, while upholding the question about Sita and touching lots of difficult subjects in Indian culture like gods and demons, ethics, and the purity-question. Plus she gives lots of explanation and information through the three silhouettes, traditional Indian shadow puppets.

Personal Reflection

Doing this assignment was harder than I thought and I learned a lot about the Ramayana, Nina Paley, posing questions, and how hard it can be to find participants for an inquiry, even though I thought it would be even rewarding for the woman watching and reflecting on the movie and the questions. For my podcast I usually interview just one Woman, asking her about her gains out of her crises and the stories behind it. 

What I have learned trew my own path is that there is not just one truth, everything we live through has something for us to learn, to grow and understand. 

For me one significant thing within the story of Nina is her cat. The first cat she had, jumped on her, to wake her up to be fed. I didn’t see too much love or devotion for Nina. The cat shown in the end, is completely different.  It seems that the cat loves Nina, and is happy to be with her. 

My understanding ist, that it is something inside of us, which changes our behavior, thoughts and stories we are telling ourselves about us, the things happening and the people – and man – in our lives.

The one thing which is shown so perfectly for me through these two stories being interwoven is: You have to choose to love yourself, and you have to choose, whom you love and then you have to choose, how you want to love.

Watch the movies here:
Sita Sings the Blues

The Legend of Prince Rama


The Ramayana as a Book
The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki: The Complete English Translation (Princeton Library of Asian Translations Book 160) (English Edition)**
**Amazon Link