World Civilization 101
May 13, 2011
The Ramayana deals with many cultural values reflective of the author and his community. ________________________________________
In a five to seven page paper discuss the underlying values you see. What might be said about the intersection of religion and political rule? What can be said about gender relations and role models for husbands and wives? Is the end of the story reality based? Ater reading the Ramayana I noticed the theme was loyalty. It would seem loyalty to Dharma (duty) at any measure. The problem is that loyalty here is expressed as black and white. No grey areas that would encourage a change in position. No attribute from an imperfect person can be considered truly one way. Loyalties can change. Rama had unmatched loyalty to his parents and his homeland of Ayodhya. At one point Rama even treated his loyalty to Sita as black and white. There was no other woman for him. This was his choice. In ancient India, a loyal and devoted son was the height of attraction to women – even if the loyalty was not geared toward the woman. Rama showed unwavering loyalty to his homeland never giving a second thought to a grey area or even question if the thing he was loyal to was correct. In the final chapters a dhobi (launderer) began to slander Sita’s name, it was Sita who was banished. Why? Dhobi law condoned wife beating if she took shelter in another man’s home, regardless if she was unfaithful or not. Rama showed loyalty to dhobi rights and immediately took action – against Sita and not the slanderer, thus proving Rama’s disloyalty to Sita. The story gives indication that Rama knew that Sita was never unfaithful to him but his desire to be the epitome of dutiful, forced him to choose between loyalty to Ayodhya or to Sita when in fact no choice needed to be made. Regarding the intersection of religion and political rule, the Ramayana has expressed that one cannot do without the other. The fact that Rama was the incarnate of Vishnu expresses that politics on earth is being governed by higher powers – deities. According to the Ramayana, the whole point of Rama’s existence was to remove the evil Ravana from his place of rule. Something the deities decided must take place. The loyalty the King would show is to the law of the land that had been approved by the dieties. The Dharma of the king was to uphold the political law based on religious moral standards and to represent these standards in his own life. This is evident after Rama rescues Sita. Although he had no reason to believe she was no longer worthy of his hand, he rejected her because of how it looked to others. Here is an example of intersection of religion and political rule. Rama’s acts were in line with preserving the king’s right to rule in a public forum and Sita’s response was completely religious. Saddened by his rejection, Sita offered to commit suicide to prove her virtue by walking through fire. This was accepted and all onlookers witnessed that Sita was preserved alive as proof that she remained a dutiful loyal wife. After this proof Rama and Sita resumed their life as husband and wife and began their reign as King and Queen. Time passes and Sita becomes pregnant with twins. The intersection occurrs again when a dhobi questioned Sita’s virtue as was mentioned earlier. Sita was again being slandered for the same crime. Political law demanded that dhobi rights be upheld by responding to the inquiry of Sita and Rama chose to banish her during the cover of night leaving her for dead instead of talking to her and hearing her side. Gender relations have been a heated topic for discussion since the beginning of history. There has always been a looming question of who is owed honor, who deserves it. It is interesting that Rama is considered to be the one that is long suffering and must carry on as a martyr with a heartbreaking destiny when it is clear that Sita’s suffering far...
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