The Ramayana

The Ramayana 2. The Wedding Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mithila is a bustling and wealthy city—lost jewelry is left in the streets, as there's no reason for the residents to pick it up. As Viswamithra, Lakshmana, and Rama cross the moat, Rama notices Sita on a balcony and is stunned by her beauty. She meets his eyes. The narrator explains that the two had been together as Vishnu and his wife Lakshmi not long ago, but as humans, they don't know this. The moment Rama is out of sight, Sita becomes agitated and feels ill.
The narrator's aside that Sita is an incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi suggests that as Sita, she's another version of the perfect woman. This also shows that Sita and Rama are destined to be together in this life. Yet however divine in origin Rama and Sita might be, they're still stuck in their comparatively small and human understanding.
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Sita's attendants help Sita into bed, but she's inconsolable. She prattles on about the mysterious man's beauty. The narrator says that "the poet" mentions the sun setting behind the sea, and Sita is annoyed by a bird calling for its mate. Sita's attendants move her to a bed of moonstone, but she remains agitated and uncomfortable. She wonders if the man tormenting her was a sorcerer or an illusion.
Notice how Sita deals with falling so madly in love—she's so overcome that she can barely function and certainly can't make logical sense. This is a completely emotional reaction, which falls in line with the story's gender logic: women are simply more prone to this sort of thing. The extremity of her reaction also emphasizes both Rama’s divine beauty and the fact that the two are destined to fall in love.
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When Rama reaches his guesthouse, he wonders about the girl on the balcony and, though he remains outwardly composed, he feels disturbed. Rama reasons that she must be unmarried, because if she were married he would've involuntarily recoiled from her. He daydreams about embracing her and doesn't sleep much.
Though Rama is definitely disturbed by the experience of suddenly falling in love, he still manages to maintain his composure (unlike Sita). Male love is presented as more rational and controllable than female love.
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At dawn, Rama prepares to meet King Janaka. At the assembly hall, Viswamithra introduces Rama and Lakshmana, and Janaka laments that Rama can't marry Sita. The narrator explains that Janaka owns a huge bow that once belonged to Shiva. When Sita was a child and began to grow exceptionally beautiful, suitors started to ask for her. Janaka set the condition that any man must be able to lift and string the bow before being considered worthy to be Sita's husband. Over time, it became obvious to Janaka that no earthly man would be able to complete this task, though now Janaka can't withdraw his condition.
Once again, the logic of fate isn't always apparent to those on earth—the reader can likely infer by this point that it's fate that Janaka set this ridiculous condition for Sita's hand, as it insures that Rama marries Sita. However, it causes Janaka a great deal of pain as he worries that he did the wrong thing. He's still bound by this promise, though, and must keep the promise or risk upsetting fate.
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Viswamithra comforts Janaka and asks to see the bow. Janaka agrees and asks his army to fetch the bow. It takes a carriage with 16 wheels and many men to get the bow to the assembly hall, and the people there can barely see the entire bow given its size. They laugh at Janaka setting this requirement for Sita's husband.
The bow is ridiculously large, which makes it obvious that anyone capable of lifting it must be divine and not purely human. Here Janaka's subjects doubt his wisdom, though Janaka himself remains true to his promise. This shows that Janaka is a good and honorable man.
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Rama looks to Viswamithra for permission and then approaches the bow. The assembly speculates that this is cruel to Rama, and they completely miss seeing Rama quickly lift the bow, string it, and break it. Gods shower flowers and blessings on the assembly, and the people of Mithila prepare for a wedding.
Rama finally proves his divinity. However, notice that he asks for permission first; he remains conscious of the fact that he must honor individuals like Viswamithra, even if he is divine.
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Sita is unaware that Rama broke the bow; she continues to move from bed to bed in an attempt to find someplace comfortable. Suddenly, one of her maids leaps into the room singing love songs. Sita snaps at her, but the maid only offers mysterious half-sentences about a man from Ayodhya. When Sita finally understands, she states that if the man who broke the bow isn't Rama, she'll commit suicide.
Even though Sita is being dramatic here, this declaration shows how loyal she is to Rama before she even formally meets him in this life. This begins to develop the relationship between Sita and Rama as one characterized by intense devotion and loyalty to each other.
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Viswamithra counsels King Janaka to invite Dasaratha to Mithila for the wedding. Dasaratha is thrilled to receive the news and orders everyone able to travel to begin the journey to Mithila. Soon, the road is filled with men, women, and elephants. Musicians play and sing, and it's a merry procession. Dasaratha's wives and other sons follow their subjects, and the king follows his wives. When Janaka sights Dasaratha's party, he rides out to meet Dasaratha. Dasaratha is filled with pride when he reaches the city and sees Rama.
Dasaratha's son is now fulfilling his duty to Dasaratha by marrying. The description of the procession allows the narrator to showcase more of Kamban's narrative style and how it merges with his own. This shows again that the Ramayana is a group effort to tell or to record; many different voices offer to help create the tale.
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The narrator describes how carefully Kamban describes the wedding festivities, taking nearly 1,000 lines to do so. After Rama and Sita are married, Rama's brothers marry women from Mithila as well. The people from Ayodhya begin the return journey home, and Viswamithra bids Dasaratha goodbye. He leaves for the Himalayas to spend his life in contemplation.
The mention that Kamban's poem takes so much time and space indicates how important weddings and ceremonies in general are to the story. This falls in line with the emphasis the story gives to sacrifices as well; these festivities are a way for humans to connect with the deities and move closer to the side of goodness.
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