Tulika is celebrating Our Myths! This hugely popular series of books features timeless stories drawn from popular and marginal sources, which gently question stereotypes and rigid notions about myths.
Myths may share beginnings, meet in the middle or find themselves face to face at the end. Sometimes they're as multi-layered as nesting dolls, with one story concealed within the other. They unravel as they are told, and change as they travel from one place to another, one storyteller to another, one listener to another. And so there is always another version of the same story...
My earliest recollection of the story of Sita is that King Janaka prayed for a child and he was advised to prepare for a yagna to appease the Gods. Before the yagna he ploughed the land himself and while he was doing so, the lower portion of the plough hit something. On exploring further, he found a baby girl in the fields and adopted her as his daughter. He named her Sita because the land ploughed by the yoke of the plough is called Sita.
Recently, I heard of another version and read the same in a book by Ashok Banker. This connects to the story of Sita being found in the fields by Janaka and therefore creates a reason behind the same.
Sita was Ravana's daughter. Astrologers had predicted that she would be the cause of Ravana's death and therefore he had her abandoned and buried in a distant land. Where she was found by King Janaka, adopted by him and raised to marry Lord Rama.
Circumstances cause Ravana to abduct Sita and therefore she becomes the reason behind his downfall.
I like the festival of Vijayadashmi/ Dusshera / Navratri as there are multiple reasons for celebration of the same.
One it represents the war of Lanka and therefore most of Northern India play the Ramlila - the story of Ramayana and the final day of Dusshera is celebrated with the symbolic annihilation of Ravana, Kumbhkarna and Meghnad.
Two, it represents the defeat of Mahishasur at the hands of Goddess Durga.
The similarity between the 2 reasons of celebration is triumph of good over evil.
Shikhandi plays a pivotal role in the Mahabharata.
The simplest explanation of his presence is that he was the reincarnation of Amba one of the three ladies who were abducted by Bhishma to marry his brothers.
Another explanation I read in Devdutt Pattanaik's book The Pregnant King was that Shikhandi was born a woman and was raised as a man. He was married to a girl and on his wedding night, he entered into a deal with a Yaksha. The Yaksha became a woman and Shikhandi became a man on mutual exchange.