Chandrabati, the first woman poet in Bangla, lived in the sixteenth century in Mymensingh district in present day Bangladesh. She was also the first poet in the Bangla language to present a retelling of the Ram story from the point of view of Sita. Idolised as a model of marital obedience and chastity in Valmiki’s Ramayan, Chandrabati’s lyrical retelling of Sita’s story offers us a fresh perspective. Written in order to be sung before a non-courtly audience, mainly of womenfolk of rural Bengal, Chandrabati’s Ramayan adds new characters and situations to the story to provide new interpretations of already known events drawing richly on elements of existing genres. Its location in the tales of everyday life has ensured that Chandrabati’s Ramayan lives on in the hearts of village women of modern-day India.
NABANEETA DEV SEN was one of Bengal’s best-known writers. Equally adept at poetry (her most favoured genre) she also wrote novels, plays, travelogues, critical and academic pieces. She was for many years a teacher of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, Kolkata and remained involved at the level of activism and support in women’s causes. Chandrabati’s Ramayan was a work that was very close to her heart and this manuscript was completed on her 80th birthday, just under a year before she passed away. Its publication is our tribute to her.
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