Duty has the regular definition of a moral or legal obligation, a responsibility, or a task or action that someone is required to perform. However, in the context of the story of Ramayana, duty, or dharma, has a more specific interpretation. Dharma is a set of laws or principles carried out with the purpose of creating social and religious order in the society. In this story of Ramayana, many times this duty conflicts with other values or personal desires, forcing characters to compare the choices of following the dharma or fulfilling another human value. Within the context of the relationship between Rama and Sita in the story "The Ramayana of Valmiki", duty is worth the sacrificing of love, because his duty is fulfilled to maintain order within the society and above all, order is needed for a society to run well.
Rama, as a king, had the duty to create and maintain this order, and to do so, he was to rule wisely and be responsible to the people of his kingdom. The conflict of duty and love surfaced when people started criticizing Rama's decision on bringing Sita back to the kingdom after Ravana held her captive for a long time. They felt it was inappropriate for a girl to live in another man's house for such a long period, even though prior to her return she had proven her purity by going through the fire under the blessings of the gods. In the end, Rama banished the pregnant Sita to the hermitage of the great sage Valmiki.
In the story, the king is portrayed as a model to his people; "
since what a king does, his subjects follow!" (p. 522, chap. 43). Therefore, a king is expected to rule with righteousness and wisdom. Rama's father, the great king Dasaratha, was depicted "true to his vows and ever cultivating the three goals of life
" (p. 136, Sarga 6.5) and "
pleasing his subjects in accordance with righteousness
" (p. 139, Sarga 8.16). When a king violates the dharma, his people would start to do likewise, and it is the obligation of the king to...
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