Bhatt, Archana Pathak. “The Sita Syndrome: Examining the Communicative Aspects of Domestic Violence from a South Asian Perspective.” Journal of International Women’s Studies, vol. 9, no. 3, 2008, pp. 155+. Questia, www.questia.com/read/1G1-229721206/the-sita-syndrome-examining-the-communicative-aspects.
While not technically about the Ramayana, this article provides insights into the South Asian diaspora in the United States and offers a cultural basis for the “ways in which cultural narratives and everyday interaction co-constitute a space of verbal and emotional abuse” for South Asian women who do not fall into convenient categories of physical domestic abuse.
Desai, Santosh. “Ramayana—An Instrument of Historical Contact and Cultural Transmission between India and Asia.” The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 31, no. 1, Nov., 1970), pp. 5-20. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2942721.
Excellent examination of the transmission of the Hindu Ramayana throughout Asian countries, by both Buddhists and Hindus. The author describes the many cultural adaptations, including the addition of local settings and the removal or transformation of key events, most often the Uttara Kanda, the last book of Valmiki’s Ramayana which describes Sita’s return to her Mother Earth upon Rama’s insistence on a second trial by fire to prove her purity.
This article is especially helpful in showing how the non-Valmiki versions of the Ramayana spread throughout South Asia, moving from a Northern Indian tradition rooted in Hinduism to countries with other religious practices, particularly Buddhism.
Hess, Linda. “Rejecting Sita: Indian Responses to the Ideal Man’s Cruel Treatment of His Ideal Wife.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 67, no. 1, Mar. 1999, pp. 1-32. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1466031
Fascinating exploration of the discomfort over centuries with Rama’s treatment of Sita, expounded on in versions like the Tamil poet Kampan’s translation, glossed over or even omitted in other versions. Hess concludes that revisionist efforts to present Rama as the flawless ideal man do not fully commit Indian women to a sense of servitude and lesser status—Sita remains a potent example of a woman whose power lies in her commitment to dharma, a woman whose dharma is superior to that of Rama.
Mangharam, Mukti Lakhi. “’Rama, Must I Remind You of Your Divinity?’: Locating a Sexualized, Feminist, and Queer Dharma in The Ramayana.” Diacritics, vol. 39, no. 1, 2009, pp. 75-104. Project MUSE. http://muse.jhu.edu
Mangharam contrasts a patriarchal reading of the Ramayana that “normalizes” the role of women in India (citing the dharmic duty of a wife to be like Sita) with a reading that explores Valmiki’s version through the lens of “flexible sexualized, feminist, and queer identities” (78).
Mangharam, after establishing the enduring popularity of the Ramayana in popular media, both visual (film, television) and print (calendars, comic books), asserts that not only does the Ramayana exert significant influence on the majority of Hindu young women, it has been long used by conservative and nationalist groups to further specific political goals and “desexualize” the Ramayana, removing any interpretations that include premarital/extramarital or queer love within the path of dharma. According to Mangharam’s reading of Valmiki’s Ramayana, the dharmic practice of kama (which includes sexual desire) is an important spiritual practice that has been stripped from patriarchal teachings of the Ramayana.
Murty, G. R. K. “Sita in Valmiki Ramayana: A Feminist Archetype!” IUP Journal of English Studies, vol. 8, no. 4, 2013, pp. 67+. Questia, www.questia.com/read/1P3-3245126251/sita-in-valmiki-ramayana-a-feminist-archetype. Accessed May 2017.
This paper examines a claim by some feminists that Sita’s position as the embodiment of ideal womanhood, specifically because of her submissiveness and complete subjugation by her husband, has contributed to domestic abuse in India. Murty argues that Sita can easily be seen as a feminist role model, citing specific passages in the Ramayana describing Sita’s role as assertor, insisting, often with harsh language, on following Rama into banishment; as the voice of dharma, rebuking Rama on his use of a weapon in the sacred forest; her endurance against the advances of Ravana, her powerful kidnapper; and her decision to leave Rama and return to her mother after his insistence on a second trial by fire.
Parpola, Asko. “Bala-Rama And Sita: On the Historical Background of the Sanskrit Epics.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 122, no. 2, Indic and Iranian Studies in Honor of Stanley Insler on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, Apr.-Jun. 2002, pp. 361-373. http://www.jstor.org/
Interesting archaeological and historical connections between the Ramayana and Sri Lanka, including variations in Sinhalese myths as to Ravana’s origins.
Richman, Paula, editor. Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft3j49n8h7/
This book offers a wealth of information on the diversity of the Ramayanain its many incarnations. Of most use in teaching the Ramayana is the introduction, which includes a synopsis of the Valmiki version, the most familiar to scholars, and an explanation of why there is no “Ur-text” of the Ramayana, only variations that point to forms “which reflect differences in religious affiliation, linguistic allegiance, and social location.”
Of particular interest is Chapter 5, “Fire and Flood: The Testing of Sita in Kampan’s Iramavataram,” which describes the Tamil poetic tradition in the Tamil version of the Ramayana written by Kampan, a twelfth-century Tamil author. Kampan’s version privileges Sita’s righteous anger at Rama’s bitter rejection after her abduction over Rama’s status as god in human form, highlighting the potential error of worshipping Rama as perfect and without human weakness. Kampan’s version of Sita’s ordeal by fire is far more harrowing than Valmiki’s, focused more on the unfairness of Rama’s behavior towards his pure wife than previous or later versions of the Ramayana.
— Ramayana Stories in Modern South India: An Anthology. Indiana UP, 2008.
This anthology by Paula Richman is a combination of primary texts and secondary criticism, gathered with the goal of removing North Indian roots from the Ramayana, including much of Rama’s story, in order to concentrate on Sita and the importance of her tradition in modern South India. This collection of essays is aimed primarily at a North American audience unfamiliar with the Ramayana, according to reviewer S. Shankar.
Sutherland, Sally J. “Sita and Draupadi: Aggressive Behavior and Female Role-Models in Sanskrit Epics.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 109, no. 1, Jan-Mar 1989, pp. 63-79. http://www.jstor.org/stable/604337.
This article, which begins with a survey of young men and women in the Northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, argues that Sita has emerged as the ideal female role model in Indian culture because of her unquestioning devotion and loyalty to her husband, and her subsequent suppression of anger and aggression towards male wrongdoing by engaging in masochistic actions.