Nina Rao and Keli Reddy interview author Vrinda Sheth about Sita’s Fire, a retelling of the Ramayana that brings Sita and the other female characters from the story to center stage.
Vrinda Sheth was raised in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition in Sweden. She is an alumnus of the reputed Kalakshetra institute, holding a First Class Diploma in Bharata Natyam, Indian classical dance. She remains devoted to tradition while exploring ways to bridge the gap between the modern and the ancient. Vrinda is passionate about bringing women’s voices and stories center stage and is the author of the award-winning Sita’s Fire Trilogy. She has a B.A. in English from the University of Florida and is pursuing a Masters in Literature. She lives in Florida with her husband and three children.
Check out the Sita’s Fire Trilogy at sitasfire.com
Keli Lalita Reddy, ERYT, received a BA in Writing, Literature, and the Arts from the New School for Social Research in NYC. She is the founder of both the Bhakti Marg Yoga teacher training and Mantralogy, a record label that promotes sacred music. She teaches Yoga asana and philosophy in both Saratoga and in the Hudson Valley and is currently pursuing a Masters in Cultural Anthropology. She is the guitar player of Krishnacore band 108, as well as a kirtan enthusiast and singer. She divides her time between Albany and Columbia County, where she raised three children, now grown, with her husband.
Get more chanting and wisdom from Nina Rao at ninaraochant.com
Nina and Keli team up for this conversation with Vrinda about Sita’s Fire, which is a retelling of the Ramayana that focuses on the internal story of what’s happening with Sita. They discuss the process of writing these books, how motherhood inspired Vrinda’s work, and how she was able to flesh out the often one-dimensional female characters from the original Ramayana texts.
“There was all this missing stuff in between that I really had to drop deep into prayer, into just, ‘Sita, please, I’m just trying to understand you, please help me understand what your process was, what was your role, your agency,’ and then just really trusting the creative process, which any artist will tell you is quite a challenge…” – Vrinda Sheth
Nina Rao, Mirabai Starr, and Dena Merriam explore the untold story of Sita in BHNN Guest Podcast Ep. 75
Sita and Ram (27:45)
The conversation turns to how Vrinda explores the bond between Sita and Ram. They talk about how crucial Sita is to the story and how Ram would not be able to defeat Ravana without her. Vrinda brings up some of the misconceptions we might have around Ravana, plus the group discusses some of the female characters who are allies for Sita when she’s in captivity.
“I just want to highlight that for me, that was a huge premise… Ram was needed to slay Ravana and the darkness, but he couldn’t do it without Sita. She was crucial to this happening. So that really was one of my main premises.” – Vrinda Sheth
Raghu Markus, Krishna Das, and Rameshwar Das discuss the Ramayana and how it can impact our daily lives in Mindrolling Ep. 191
Shining a Light on Hierarchy (49:00)
Keli praises Vrinda for how much depth she was able to give her female characters; it helped her fall in love with the story of the Ramayana all over again. Nina reads a powerful moment from the story, while Vrinda talks about how Sita is shining a light on a hierarchy that is no longer needed. They end by discussing the benefits of exploring these ancient texts.
“So I found it so interesting that you were able to kind of take these female characters and present them in all the many, many layers of what it is to be human and female. And for me, that is one of the most important reasons to really read this text and to revisit this text through the eyes of Vrinda.” – Keli Reddy
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