Mandodari

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Mandodari (Sanskrit: मंदोदरी Mandodarī, lit. "soft-bellied";) is the queen consort of Ravana, the king of Lanka, according to the Hindu epic Ramayana. The Ramayana describes Mandodari as beautiful, pious, and righteous. She is extolled as one of the Panchakanya ("five virgins"), the recital of whose names is believed to dispel sin. Mandodari is the daughter of Mayasura, the King of the Asuras (demons), and the apsara Hema. Mandodari bears three sons: Meghanada (Indrajit), Atikaya, and Akshayakumara.

Quotes[edit]

...Ahalya, Draupadi, Sita, Tara and Mandodari
One should forever remember the panchakanya who are the destroyers of great sins. - Vaman Shivaram Apte.
  • The well-known Sanskrit hymn that defines the Panchakanyas (five iconic heroines of Hindu epics) runs:
  • Sanskrit transliteration IAST: ahalyā draupadī sītā tārā mandodarī tathā ।
    pañcakanyāḥ smarennityaṃ mahāpātakanāśinī॥
  • English translation: Ahalya, Draupadi, Sita, Tara and Mandodari
    One should forever remember the Panchakanya who are the destroyers of great sins.
    • Vaman Shivaram Apte in: The Student's Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1970, p. 73.
    • Orthodox Hindus, especially Hindu wives, remember the Panchakanya in this daily morning prayer. Their names are extolled and the prayer is pratah smaraniya, prescribed to be recited in the early hours of the morning.
  • Vedavati was performing austerities when Ravana, lord of the rakshasas, came into her hermitage and tried to rape her. To save herself. Vedavati jumped into the fire altar and burnt herself to death. Nine months later Mandodari gave birth to a girl child. Oracles discovered that she was Vedavati reborn. “Kill the child who will kill you”, they said. Ravana threw the child into the sea. The sea-god saved it and gave it to the earth-goddess, who gave her to[[w:Janaka|Janaka, king of Mithila. The child was named Sita, "she was furrowed out of the earth”, she went on to be the cause of Ravana’s death

This story is wrong. As per Valmiki Ramayana - which is the most prominent among other stories, Vedavati walked into fire. Ravana collected the ash and stored in a box. Mandodari noticed the box of ashes and wanted that to be buried. The demon slaves of Ravana buried that unknowingly in Janaka's kingdom. While Janaka was ploughing the field, he found the box and when he opened it, he found a small baby in it. Thats why Sita is also called as Ayonija child (one born not from the womb).

  • Mahari dance tradition in which the Oriya verse goes:
    Pancha bhuta khiti op tejo maruta Byomo
    Pancha sati nirjyasa gyani bodho Gomyo
    Ahalya Draupadi Kunti Tara Mandodari totha Pancha kanya...
  • Five elements, earth, water, fire, [[wind, ether are in essence the five satis. This the wise know as Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari Five virgins...Ahalya personifies water, Draupadi represents fire, Kunti symbolises mother earth, Tara personifies wind and Mandodari ether. Draupadi’s personality personifies fire, while Sita (whom she incongruously includes in the group instead of Kunti) is the daughter of the earth.
  • Ahalya “for her forbearance is likened to the freshness and active nature of the [[wind; Tara (all the three women of that name, that is, Harishchandra’s queen, Vali’s wife and Brihaspati’s wife who is Chandra’s beloved) is associated “with space and has the quality of intelligence, compassion and large-heartedness; Mandodari with the element of water, turbulent on the surface yet deep and silent in her spiritual quest.
    • Vimla Patil indicates that the [[w:Panchakanya|Pancha Kanya are living role models for Indian women in: "Living by Their Own Norms Unique Powers of the Panchkanyas"
  • The last of the five maidens is Mandodari, the chief queen of Ravana, the king of Lanka. Her role in the Ramayana is short; she is presented as a noble and majestic lady whom Hanumat could easily mistake for Sita. Mandodari graciously accepted Sita’s fidelity to Rama and compared her with Sachi, Rohini, and others. Mandodari was proud of her husband’s prowess but was aware of his weakness for the fair sex, which led to the abduction of Sita and brought about his destruction.
Queen Mandodari and the women of Lanka mourning the death of Ravana. She bring flower garland upon her husband body lied upon cremation wood. Bas-relief of 9th century Prambanan temple, Java, Indonesia
  • Mandodari appears in the death scene of Ravana and laments over his death. In spite of all his faults, she loved him nonetheless and wanted him to make a truce with Rama so that he could avoid catastrophe. Compared to other four maidens, Mandodari's life is less colourful and eventful. Although she possessed all the necessary virtues of an obedient and faithful wife, Mandodari seldom got prominence as such. Her image lacks substance and fades away quickly.
    • Prabhati Mukherjee in: "Hindu Women: Normative Models", p. 39
  • Mandodari is Ravana’s queen, favourite wife, daughter of Maya and the apsara Hema, and mother of Indrajit.
    • Peter Scharf in: "Ramopakhyana - The Story of Rama in the Mahabharata: A Sanskrit Independent-Study Reader", p. 888
  • Maya, the architect of the Daityas, son of Diti, whose abode the monkeys searching the south for Sita. He gives his daughter Mandodari as bride to Ravana.
    • Peter Scharf in: "Ramopakhyana - The Story of Rama in the Mahabharata: A Sanskrit Independent-Study Reader", p. 888
  • So thoroughly has she [Sita] been taken under Mandodari's wing that she is safer in this city than anywhere else in the world. They even hear a story about how her new protector dramatically stepped in to save her from rape by a besotted kidnapper.
  • Then Angada went to the inner apartment, and seizing Mandodari by the hair, he dragged her into the presence of Ravana, and ill-treated her before his face; and Mandodari began to cry aloud for help, saying:Behold the difference between you and enemy Rama. See what he is doing for the sake of his wife, and see what you are doing, while your own wife is being hurt and insulted.
    • James Talboys Wheeler in:"The History of India from the Earliest Ages: The Rámáyana and the Brahmanic...", p. 373.

Five Holy Virgins, Five Sacred Myths A Quest for Meaning[edit]

...there is hardly anything special written about except that her assessment of the enemy is shrewd and correct. She warns her husband to return Sita to avoid destruction and has enough influence to prevent him from raping her.

Pradip Bhattacharya in: Five Holy Virgins, Five Sacred Myths A Quest for Meaning, manushi-india.org

  • It is with Mandodari, the Frog Princess, Ravana’s wife and the last kanya portrayed by Valmiki, there is hardly anything special written about except that her assessment of the enemy is shrewd and correct. She warns her husband to return Sita to avoid destruction and has enough influence to prevent him from raping her.
  • Of her birth, the danava Maya states in Uttara Kanda [of Ramayana] that she is born to him from the apsara Hema who left him after giving birth (as apsaras do).
  • A snake poisons the milk of a hermit as a frog watches. Realising the consequences, the frog jumps into the bowl of milk and dies instantaneously. The hermit, on his return, sees the frog in the milk and curses it for its gluttony. The curse reverses a former curse and the frog turns into the beautiful maiden and sharp, with voice like that of a vina (somber and majestic), with the gait of a white swan, flashing and restless eyes, and desired of all men.
  • Two hermits, Mandar and Udar, refuse to share with the earth any part of their cow’s milk. Angered, she [Earth] despatches her son Maninaga to poison the milk. A female frog resident in their ashram notices this and jumps into the vessel of milk to save the sages. By their curse, she turns into a kanya [girl] whom they name Vengavati and affiance to Vali. He, however, has sexual intercourse with her before marriage and she becomes pregnant. Ravana asks the hermits for her hand. When they refuse, he assumes Vali’s form (like Indra with Ahalya) and spirits her away. Pulled in opposite directions by Ravana and Vali, she splits into two, giving birth to Angad Yama and Vayu revive her. Thus, she is a double of Tara. Being obtained through ill means, she was named Mandodari; or perhaps she was named after the two sages who turned her from a frog into a woman.
    • Another version of myth from Oriya Dharma Purana
  • When Shurpanakha was claiming herself a befitting female for Rama, and belittling Seetha she uses words like krishodari, shaatodari meaning “a female with feeble womb. So also manda udari “slow womb lady with slow conception...Mandodari gives birth to one Indrajit, son of Ravana, an extraordinary fighter and all conquering warrior. Had Mandodari given birth to one or two more Indrajits, a dozen Ramas had to take incarnation.
  • In Rajasthan, the Sri Alvar Tirth of the Jains celebrates the power of Mandodari’s chastity: Ravana, the king of Lanka observed the vow of taking meals only after worshipping God. Once he was going in a plane [sic] to a foreign country. When it was time for lunch, he landed near Alvar to take rest. He remembered the vow of worshipping God but he had forgotten to bring the idol with him. In order to keep the vow, Mandodari made an idol of sand and invested it with life by reciting the mantra of Namaskar. Having worshipped God with devotion, Ravan and Mandodari kept their vow. By virtue of the vow and Mandodari’s chastity, the presiding deity made the idol adamantine. Thus, the idol of Parshvanathji worshipped by Mandodari and Ravan began to be known as ‘Shri Ravan Parshvanath’.
  • Mandodari’s importance for Ravana is highlighted in certain recensions which describe Ravana performing a sacrifice after his son Indrajit’s death. Vibhishana advises Rama to prevent him from completing the ritual. When Hanuman fails to disturb Ravana’s meditation, Angada drags Mandodari by her hair to Ravana, tearing off her bodice and girdle so that her skirt slips. Upbraiding her husband for shamelessly countenancing all this, she exclaims that such a husband were better dead and calls on her dead son to protect her honour. That arouses Ravana who attacks Angada to free his wife, leaving the ritual incomplete and sealing his fate.
  • The Khmer Ramakerti account has Hanuman snatch away Mandodari’s clothes to break Ravana’s meditation. The Thai Ramakien provides a fascinating parallel with the Ahalya story and the myth of Vishnu assuming Shankhachuda or Jalandhara’s form to seduce his wife Tulsi. According to this telling, Mandodari had learnt the secret of preparing amrita from Uma. Assuming Ravana’s form, Hanuman embraces her. By thus sullying her purity, her sanjivani yajna, performed to make her husband immortal, is rendered fruitless.
  • Mandodari accepts Vibhishana, her husband’s enemy and brother, as spouse, either at Rama’s behest or because it was the custom among non-Aryans for a new ruler to wed an enthroned queen.
  • In the Mahanataka, when Mandodari asks Rama what her fate will be after the war and the death of her husband, he prohibits her from committing sati and advises her to rule by Vibhishana’s side. The Bengali Krittibas Ramayan, the Oriya Balaramdas Ramayan, the Thai Ramkien and the Mahari dance composition all refer to Mandodari marrying Vibhishana.
  • Vernacular versions of the epic have Mandodari curse Sita that she will be abandoned by her husband, complementing Tara’s curse on Rama.
  • The Adbhut Ramayana provides more insight. Ravana had stored blood drawn from ascetics in a pot and kept it with Mandodari, telling her that it contained deadly poison. Furious with his violating women during his conquests, she broke his injunction not to drink from the pot. By doing what she felt moved to do, Mandodari shows she is not her husband’s shadow. The consequence is that she becomes pregnant, and, like Satyavati and Kunti later, discards the newborn infant in the field Janaka ploughs to discover the orphan Sita.
  • Hanuman in the Sundara Kanda of the Ramayana mistakes Mandodari (“resplendent in bejewelled ornaments, fair, golden complexioned, beautiful, mistress of the royal inner apartments, embellishing the palace with her loveliness”) for Sita in Ravana’s palace.
  • Tara and Mandodari are parallels. Both offer sound advice to their husbands who recklessly reject it and suffer the ultimate responsibility for the deaths of their husbands. Thereby, they are able to keep their kingdoms strong and prosperous as allies of Ayodhya, and they are able to continue to have a say in governance. Tara and Mandodari can never be described as shadows of such strong personalities as Vali and Ravana.

Hanuman's Tale : The Messages of a Divine Monkey[edit]

Philip Lutgendorf in: Hanuman's Tale : The Messages of a Divine Monkey, Oxford University Press, 13 Decemebr 2006

  • He [Hanuman] briefly mistakes Ravana's chief queen, Mandodari, for Sita, but quickly realizes his error.
    • In: p. 140.
  • Ahiravana (snake Ravana) is born to Ravana's wife Mandodari, but his serpentine appearance is so terrible that it frightens even his father, who casts him into the ocean.
    • In: p. 149.
....The Brahmin then expresses a new concern: “That traitor Vibhishana is sure to reveal the arrow’s hiding place, because he knows where everything is in Lanka. You had better move it”. Mandodari panics and begins to remove the arrow from its hiding place – inside a crystal column – which she thus inadvertently reveals. Hanuman reverts to his true form, grabs the arrow, and leaps back to Rama’s camp, leaving Mandodari in tears. Ravana is doomed.
  • Rama is informed by Vibhishana that Ravana received yet another boon: he can only be slain with one special Brahma-arrow that the Grandfather himself gave to him. It is hidden in Queen Mandodari's private apartments, and unless it is obtained, the battle will go on forever. In a trice, Hanuman leaps to Lanka and assumes a form of an aged Brahmin, hobbling on a cane. He presents himself to Mandodari, who is worshipping Parvati together with ten thousand co-wives, praying for Ravana’s well being. She is delighted to see the frail and venerable Brahmin and offers him lavish hospitality, which he willingly accepts. To win her confidence, Hanuman tells her that she is fortunate to possess a treasure that will prevent Rama and his monkeys from harming her husband and warns her never to reveal it to anyone. Mandodari is impressed by his knowledge and eagerly seeks his blessing. The Brahmin then expresses a new concern: “That traitor Vibhishana is sure to reveal the arrow’s hiding place, because he knows where everything is in Lanka. You had better move it”. Mandodari panics and begins to remove the arrow from its hiding place – inside a crystal column – which she thus inadvertently reveals. Hanuman reverts to his true form, grabs the arrow, and leaps back to Rama’s camp, leaving Mandodari in tears. Ravana is doomed.
    • In: p. 154.
  • To create jealousy between the demon brothers, he [Hanuman] steals Ravana's clothes and puts them on Vibhishana's bed (so the latter will believe that his elder brother has taken liberties with his wife), ties the sleeping Mandodari's hair to a bedpost and steals her jewelry, or ties Ravana’s and Mandodari’s braids together so they will knock heads when they awaken.
    • Govindachandra (1976), in: p. 198.
  • Some Cambodian and Malay versions [of Ramayana] add an interesting variant absent from the Indian retellings: to prepare the medicine, the physician Sushena demands a special rolling pin from Mandodari's kitchen or a small table kept beneath Ravana’s bed. Hanuman enters the place to steal the required object, and while there ties the sleeping Ravana’s and Mandodari’s braids together. He magically charges the knot with a mantra and then writes on the wall that no one can untie until Mandodari strikes Ravana on the forehead with her left hand.
    • In: p. 209
  • He [Hanuman] uses his wizardry to actually assume the form of a monkey in order to converse with Sita in her place of captivity, and during subsequent battle, Rama’s allies again take on simian forms to wreak havoc in Lanka, setting it afire with their flaming tails and dragging Queen Mandodari by the hair in order to disturb Ravana's worship.
    • V. M. Kulkarni (1990) in the Story of Rama in Jain literature quoting from the Jain versions of Gunabhadra and Pushpdanta in Mahapurana, in: p. 323

Handbook of Hindu Mythology[edit]

George M. Williams in: Handbook of Hindu Mythology, Oxford University Press, 27 March 2008

  • Mandodari, wife of Ravana, king of asuras (demons), in her previous birth, had been a celestial damsel (apsara) named Madhura. Madhura went to Kailasa to worship Shiva, having observed a special vow, the Somavara vrata [Monday Ritual]. When Madura reached Kailasa, Parvati, Shiva’s wife was not there. Madura worshipped and praised Shiva. But they were attracted to each other and made love. When Parvati returned to Kailasa, she saw Madhura’s breast smeared with the ash from Shiva’s body. Parvati went into a great fury and cursed Madhura to live as a frog for twelve years. Shiva was grief struck. He consoled Madhura that after twelve yaers she would become a very beautiful woman and would be married to a great king. Madhura became a frog in a well. Maya, an asura, born to Kasyapa and Danu, was married to Hema, but also wanted a daughter. For twelve years they prayed to Shiva for one. One day as Maya and Hema were worshipping Shiva, they heard a cry from a nearby well. They found a beautiful young woman in the well. They adopted her and named her Mandodari.
    • In: p. 208-209.
    • This is another of the myths about Mandodari's birth
Mandodari was married to Ravana – certainly a great enough king. Mandodari was very pious and noble. She tried to dissuade Ravan from tormenting Sita, the wife of Rama, and warned him that his actions could prove to be fatal. Mandodari is also described as one of the ideal woman in Hindu mythology.
  • Mandodari was married to Ravana – certainly a great enough king. Mandodari was very pious and noble. She tried to dissuade Ravan from tormenting Sita, the wife of Rama, and warned him that his actions could prove to be fatal. Mandodari is also described as one of the ideal woman in Hindu mythology.
    • In: p. 209
  • Maya the celestial architect (descendent of Diti, gaints) built palaces for both devas (gods) and asuras (demons). But in some accounts he was the architect for the asuras, while Visvakarman was the builder for the gods (devas). His daughter, Mandodari, married Ravana.
    • In: p. 213
  • The five ideal women are role models for all Hindus. They are not perfect but they fulfill their dharma as mothers, sisters, wives, and occasionally leaders in their own right. They are most often listed as Ahalya, Draupadi, Mandodari, Sita and Tara.
    • In: p. 213
    • Note Sita is substituted for Kunti in another version quoted earlier.

A Mystery[edit]

Anon in: A Mystery, (Reprinted from “The Dublin University Magazine”, 1853 & 1854}, The Theosophical Publishing Society

  • Sabha Parva
    Hark to the rushing and clangour, the snorting, and galloping rattle —
    'Tis Ravan the ten-headed Titan to Lanka come home from the battle
    With Rama the Prince of Ayodhya, and Laxman matchless archer,
    And Hanumanta the chief of the monkeys, that most astonishing marcher.
    Down from his chariot of polished steel the Titan monarch descended,
    And straight to his lofty sleeping chamber overlooking Lanka ascended;
    There having doffed his coat of mail, and hung up his tenfold crown,
    And quaffed a dozen mashaks of wine, the Ten-headed laid him down.
    And he called his magnanimous wife, the Titaness Mandodari,
    And he told her beside him to take her seat upon a bearskin godari
    And shampoo his limbs while he went to sleep, for he felt fatigued and weary...
    And at last he started up and woke, with a wild tremendous scream!
  • Mandodari asked in alarm, What aileth thee so, my lord ?
    What fearful dream or vision thy refreshing sleep hath marred ?
  • Hearken, ye bearded sages, ye Rishis emaciated,
    Ye Yogis with matted hair, and arms stretched upwards and elongated,
    Ye venerable warriors, and Akali heroes elated,
    Ye sleek-headed men of worldly wisdom, with proportions round and fair,
    Whom out of your beds I have dragged reluctant, into the cold night air;
    This night when weary from battle I came, and laid me down to sleep,
    I dreamt a dream that troubles my mind, for I heard Mandodari weep,
    And other voices of lamentation, that of evilomen seem;
    Interpret me, I command you, sages, the significance of my dream.
  • Chorus of Rishis
    Ten-headed Ravan! beware, beware,
    How even in a dream thou ventures! there;
    'Tis the land mysterious of those that mourn:
    On the wings of the wind thou thither may'st go,
    But woe for Mandodari! O woe !
    Canst thou, wilt thou safe return ?
    Ah no!
  • Ravan
    In that land of the silent and desolate I wandered not all alone,
    For beside me there moved a beautiful one, whom I loved and called my own;
    And yet altho' she appeared as one I had known from eternity,
    It was not this my magnanimous queen the dusky Mandodari:
    She seemed as tho' she were one with whom, in some long anterior birth,
    Hundreds of thousands of years before, I had been the companion on earth.

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