Sita Sings the Blues by Honora Finkelstein (This article was originally published in the “Network of Light” column in the March 2010 issue of Pathways Magazine of Washington, D.C. ) The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic attributed to the Hindu poet sage Valmiki. As an ancient cultural product of India, its purpose was to depict the duties of relationships, with representations of the ideal king, wife, brother, servant, and so forth. Consisting of 24,000 verses in seven books and 500 cantos, The Ramayana tells the story of Sita (an incarnation of the goddess Laxmi),  separated from her beloved husband Rama (an incarnation of the blue-skinned Hindu preserver-god Vishnu) because she has been kidnapped by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Unfortunately for those who like a happy ending, Rama saves Sita but then shuns her because she might have been “sullied” by her abduction experience, and he keeps forcing her to “prove” her purity. Inspired by this Hindu epic, Sita Sings the Blues is an 81-minute animated version of the Sita-Rama relationship by animator/artist Nina Paley, who has used the 1920s blues vocals of Annette Hanshaw to represent Sita’s travails. In it, three very funny Indian shadow puppets narrate the ancient tragedy, which parallels the modern story of a cartoon character named Nina (who is not surprisingly also an animator like the creator of the film) whose husband Dave moves to India, then dumps her by email. Hence, Sita Sings the Blues bears the tagline, “the Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.” And for those who like a happy ending, Sita and Nina both find happiness as strong—and free—women, although Sita has to do this by returning to the womb of Mother Earth. But then, she’s a goddess, so she can go back to being Laxmi afterward. Sita Sings the Blues is as charming, entertaining, and delightful a piece of animation as anyone could wish, and is available at or at Paley’s store at And because Paley had to depend on the donations of her fans to create her film after she paid for the copyrights to Hanshaw’s vocals, the film is also a free download at Since her fans essentially produced it, she has made it available without copyright restrictions, except of course, for the music. Also free for viewing or downloading are Paley’s animated social-consciousness shorts, available at So enjoy the free animated gifts, both spiritual and consciousness raising, and always remember to support your local artists!