Compare the values presented in The Ramayana with the values you consider most important in a marriage.   

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If marriage is seen as one of the most basic elements of any society or spiritual mode of thought, The Ramayana speaks clearly to what values should be present in marriages.  It gives voice to the issue of how husbands and wives should behave towards one another and how marriage is formed.

One of the values of marriage that is presented lies in the idea of total obedience to spouses.  Both genders are shown to adhere to this ideal in the epic.  Dasaratha yields to the wishes of Kalkeyi, no matter how evil he knows them to be.  He does so because of a promise he made to her, representing how the bond between spouses must be honored.  Devi Sita does not hesitate in going with Lord Rama, acknowledging fuly the bond or connection that exists between husbands and wives.  Even Ravana's marriage represents how The Ramayana sees the construction of the relationship between husbands and wives.  Mandodari is honorable as a wife.  Her husband has left honor in the rear view mirror, but she clings to it, treating Devi Sita in the most noble of manners and counseling her husband against what he is doing.  Mandodari's model represents how marriage is to exist, with partners representing the end of nobility and guiding their spouses to the same end.

Marriage is also shown as a complex entity in The Ramayana.  The honoring of bonds and of word to one another does not remove the difficult and complex nature of where marriage lies in the realm of emotions.  The Ramayana does not repudiate this complexity, but I think that it makes clear that one has to be willing to embrace such nuanced understanding in order to fully understand marriage.  Dasaratha weeps until the end of his days for, essentially, living up to his promises as a husband.  Even the marriage between Lord Rama and Devi Sita has to embrace complexity with the eventual testing through fire of the wife's purity.  The varying versions of how their lives continue after this event testifies to the complex nature of marriage.  Marriage is shown to be one in which honoring bonds and roles in a relationship are vital to the life force that people who are married to one another must share.  Yet, The Ramayana also displays that through this honor, a sense of complexity emerges in which there are no easy answers other than to emotionally invest oneself in the association in which people are devoted to one another.