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Ravana the demon king Lanka is referred to as Dashanan meaning ten-headed ("das" means ten and "anan" means head). When one describes Ravana they characterize him to be larger than life, with 20 hands, and 10 heads, in which he retained great oceans of knowledge, he was blessed with amazing supernatural powers that enabled him to vanish, throw rain and fire or launch thousands of arrows during the war. There are numerous legends and theories behind why Ravana had ten heads and what did they depict.
1. Knower of ten scriptures
According to the legends, Ravana is believed to be a prodigy with comprehensive knowledge of the ten sacred Hindu texts and scriptures. He was well-versed in the Six Shashtras/Darshanas- Sankhyashastra (Mathematics), Yog Shastra (Yoga and Meditation), Nyayashastra (Law and Administration), Vaisheshik Shastra (Physics, Astronomy, and Mechanics), Purvamimansa (Philosophy, Justification), and Uttar Mimansa Shastra. He also retained complete knowledge of the four Vedas- Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Thus, Ravana's ten heads symbolize these six Shastras and four Vedas which made him a great scholar and the most intelligent person of his time. He knew these Ten Scripts- Kanthastha (verbatim) and hence he was named 'Dashkanthi' (the one with ten throats which later became 'Dashanan'.
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2. Sacrifice to Lord Shiva
Ravana was a formidable devotee of Lord ShivaWikimedia Commons
It comes as common knowledge that Ravana was a formidable devotee of Lord Shiva. Although we know that Ravana had ten heads it is believed he was not born with it. He performed an intense penance (or Tapasya) to impress Lord Shiva that lasted for several years. During his Tapasya, Ravana chopped off his head 10 times as a sacrifice to appease Lord Shiva and each time he decapitated his head off a new head arose, thus enabling him to continue his penance. At last, Shiva was pleased with perseverance and austerity, appeared after his 10th decapitation and offered him a boon. Shiva granted him absolute invulnerability from and supremacy over gods, heavenly spirits, other rakshas, serpents, and wild beasts. Adding to these boons Lord Shiva granted him his 10 severed heads and knowledge of divine weapons and magic.
3. Sacrifice to Brahma
In some versions of legends it is believed that Ravana was a devotee of Lord Brahma and him and his two brothers, Kumbhkaran and Vibhishan did Yagya to impress Brahma. To gain God's attention Ravana performed intense penance and during his penance, he sacrificed his nine heads as offerings to the Lord and as he was about to sacrifice his Tenth head Lord Brahma appeared in front of him and granted him a boon and returned his severed heads.
4. Jainism Vimalasuri's Version
Vimalasuri claims that the Ramayana of Valmiki is filled with illogical and false stories. It claims that Ravan did not have ten heads, but it appeared so because his mother gave him a necklace of nine pearls when he was young. The pearls reflected Ravana's face ninefold as an optical illusion, leading to him being called Dasamukha (One with ten faces)
The ten heads as symbols of the ten qualities of a human beingWikimedia Commons
The Ten heads of Ravana represented a mammoth pool of his knowledge and experience as a ruler, king, scholar, and Brahman.
Some legend interprets the ten heads as symbols of the ten qualities of a human being; they are- kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (attachment), madha (arrogance), matsarya (jealousy), manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), chitta (consciousness) and ahamkara (ego). Meanwhile from another similar perspective describes, the ten heads as the symbolism of the ten negative forms of love- ahamkar (ego), moha (attachment), krodha (anger), ghrina (hatred), paschataap (regret), irshya (jealousy), lobha (greed), kama (lust), jaddata (insensitivity) and bhaya (fear).
The great King Mahabali advised Ravana to let go of these aspects to rise above the human boundaries. To which Ravana held differend ideology, he believed he was a complete human because of these human facets. he accepted these emotions as a part and parcel of being a human.Thus, his ten heads then become a symbol of his humanity, his intellect, and his knowledge, while his 20 hands were a symbol of his power.
Keywords: Ravana, Tapasya, Jainism, Scholar, Human qualities
Ravana (meaning"one of terrifying roar"), is often portrayed as the 'demon king of Lanka, a symbol of evil and who played the role of the primary antagonist in the Hindu mythology epic, Ramayana. Ravana's demise is celebrated all over India every year on Dussehra, a festival that symbolises the defeat of Ravana by Rama, a triumph of good over evil. But, the essence of Indian mythology is beyond the simple good vs evil trope. When we dig deeper into each character of these epics, we find that there's an interesting story at every step.
Something that's not well known among the most population is the many virtues that Ravana had. Ravana is believed to be one of the most powerful beings to have been born on earth. He was the grandson of the creator of the universe, Brahma. Born as the eldest son of sage Vishrava and Rakshasi Kaikeshi, He was half Brahmin and half Rakshasa. He was a learned scholar who embodied great knowledge; he was well-versed in the six shastras and the four Vedas. Ravana is considered to be the most revered devotee of Shiva. It is believed that under his rule in Lanka even the poor ate off of a golden plate.
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According to the legends, Ravana carried out intense Tapasya to appease Lord Shiva and that lasted hundreds of years. Pleased with Ravana's perseverance and austerity, Lord Shiva offered him a boon. He was granted the boon of invulnerability and supremacy over the gods, rakshas and animals. He possessed a huge amount of knowledge of divine weapons and magic. For which he is still hailed as a glorious king and worshipped in many parts of South India and Sri Lanka. Another notable fact is that even though Ravana abducted Sita to avenge his sister Surupnakha's mutilation, but he never touched Sita which implies that he respected her consent.
Ravana never touched Sita which implies that he respected her consent.Wikimedia Commons
In one of the many versions of the Ramayana, it is said that once Rama's army needed to create the bridge to Lanka, for which they needed to get Shiva's blessing for which they set up a Yagya. To perform this Yagya they needed the most learned Brahman but the biggest devotee of Shiva in the entire region was Ravana, and since he was half-brahman, he was the best-qualified person to perform the Yagya. Despite being aware of the fact that Rama is bringing an army to wage war against Ravana, he displayed honour and showed up to perform the Yagya and gave Ram his blessing.
So how did this wise king who is hailed as a God in Sri Lanka, become the manifestation of evil in Hindu mythology? Ravana did not fall into the clear spectrum of black and white, instead like most humans, he lies in the grey areas as a mix of both good and evil. He had both good qualities as well as bad qualities that neutralized his virtues and knowledge. Despite being a scholar and faithful devotee to his God, Ravana was arrogant, greedy for materialistic things, and a highly egoistic being. And this insatiable, all-consuming ego became his Achilles' heel.
It was his greed and ego that consumed him. Despite possessing a superior body and superior mind, despite possessing the knowledge of the Vedas and being a worshipper Shiva he condoned everything that Shiva rejects. Thus he fell victim to his ego and senses, he arrogantly showed his knowledge of detachment but was not wise enough to practice detachment. Thus he was killed by Lord Rama for his evil deeds. Even as he laid dying lord Rama understood the greatness of his knowledge and knew all the knowledge Ravana possessed would turn to dust with his death, so he asked Ravana to enlighten Lakshman with his knowledge. Thus, as he laid dying Ravana imparted valuable knowledge to Lakshman.
Dussehra's essence lies in us human's burning the Ravana within usWikimedia Commons
Dussehra is not a festival where we just celebrate Ravana's defeat, it is not just about burning the effigies of Ravana. Dussehra's essence lies in us human's burning the Ravana within us, we need to burn the ego, greed, anger, lust and jealousy that lies within us, that is when we truly understand the essence of Dussehra and celebrate it.
Keywords: Ravana, Dussehra, scholar, Shiva devotee, greed
The term, "Panch tatva" often appears in the scriptures of ancient history and civilizations. This term refers to the "five elements" it is believed that the universe and our bodies are made of these five elements. These are Bhumi (Prithivi, Earth), Neer (Jal, Water), Agni (Aag, Fire), Vayu (Air) and Aakash (Space).
According to Indian Mythology, it is spiritually believed that our body is composed of Panch-Tatva called Pinda. These five elements are linked to our five senses, which are our senses of smell, taste, hearing, touch and sight. In Indian texts "Vastu" teaches us to live in balance and harmony with these five elements. Any disproportion in our internal and external Vastu will transform into an unhappy situation for us in our life. And when the soul leaves the body, these elements return to Nature in their original state.
Panch tattvas are the Foundation of the Cosmos
The entire cosmos is formed by these dynamic five elements and the composition and mix of these elements in each form – animate or inanimate – varies in degrees depending upon the structure, nature and function of the created object. Each element is individually rich with its core embryonic energy.
According to the density the Sky/Aakash element is said to be least dense as when there was nothing in the universe the sky came to be. Next, originate the air from the sky and happens to be omnipresent so it is denser than space. The fire element came to be due to the presence of air and hence it is denser than air. The next element Water derives its establishment from fire and has a higher density than fire. The Earth is said to be derived from water and the highest density amongst all the five elements of the cosmos is found in the Prithvi/Earth element. Each atom of any element is derived from these Pancha tattvas. The amalgamation of these five elements provides a broad spectrum to every object and being present in the universe. It not only makes it diverse and gives it an exceptional dimension.
The concept of Panch tatva and Human
Human and human consciousness is closely related to the five elements of nature. We embody them in ourselves as the physical and spiritual elements of a human. We embody the earth element as our physical body, water element as our mind, fire as our intelligence, air as awareness and sky as our consciousness.
Human and human consciousness is closely related to the five elements of naturepixabay
Body as Earth:
The earth element solid as it is provides the matrix to the soil, landscape, flora and fauna. With its tremendous magnetic fields and gravitational force, it keeps every living and non-living thing grounded to the earth. We, humans, try to perceive everything in this world in material "form" or Body. We connect to the world outside through our body's sense organs which help to perceive five physical attributes of this Universe, namely Sound, Touch, Sight, Taste and Smell. We owe our existence to our physical body because our life is on Earth. The little finger of our hands symbolized the earth element of the universe.
Water as Mind:
Water is the source of life. Water constitutes 70% of Earth same goes for the human body. Water is the force that attracts different parts of an element and keeps it together. The mind brings reality to the physical world. Without the mind, there is no Body. Unlike the body this mind is fluid. The mind changes rapidly and flows or alternates between various perceptions. Hence, it is referred to as the water element, it is symbolized by the ring finger of our hand.
Fire as Intelligence:
Fire represents the energy that can be transformed into other types of energy. Without Intelligence, the Mind would just be a random flow of thoughts without any logic in it. Like the fire illuminated our path on the earth, our intelligence illuminates the path for the mind to flow logically. Intelligence becomes the path between the mind and our inner awareness
hence it is depicted by the middle finger on our hand.
Air as Awareness:
Air is a powerful life source that is necessary to sustain life. It is a bridge between earth to space and atmosphere. We can only feel our body, mind and intelligence when we are alive. Being alive is known as awareness. Like to ignite a fire air is needed, Awareness is needed for the fire of intelligence to propel the functioning of the Mind and the Body. The total of Awareness, intelligence, Mind and Body is called energy. It is represented by the index finger.
The sky as Consciousness:
Consciousness is an Unconditional Awareness like the sky is the vast open space that accommodates everything. It acts as a shelter to the earth and serves as a gateway to the starry galaxies that exist light years ahead of us. Without Consciousness, nothing can exist. Everything exists within Consciousness, the living, the dead, the moving, the immobile, the small, the big. Like everything exists in space, all existence comes into "Being due to Consciousness. Consciousness is symbolized as the thumb finger. It is the most powerful and dominant element, from which all other elements originate.
Keywords: universe, conscious, awareness, space, tattva, cosmos
South India is a land full of heritage and culture that is unique to the peninsula. It is impossible to have any craft that is entirely separate the culture of the people. Kanjeevaram sarees are such an example. They are a heritage and a historical document of Southern culture.
Kanjeevaram sarees are woven in a small town in Tamil Nadu, Kanchipuram. This town is known for an immense number of temples and cultural architecture. The sarees bear the mark or symbols of these motifs. Elaborate temple designs, floral brocade, and bold colors are woven into these sarees. They are made of pure mulberry silk but the gold zari in the border is from Gujarat.
Kanjeevaram silk, dyed and spun, ready for weaving Image source: wikimedia commonswikimedia commons
The sarees are woven in three shuttles. Three people simultaneously weave the cloth and its designs. The silk is first soaked in rice water to give it strength and thickness, then it is dyed, and mounted on the loom. One distinguishing feature of this saree is that the pallu and the body of the saree are woven separately and then attached by a zig-zag line called a pitni. This attachment is very strong and cannot be broken unless the pallu is manually cut with scissors.
The gold brocade in the sari is intricately woven into the borders, they are also woven separately and attached to the saree with the same precision and strength as the pallu. The gold that the saree holds at the end of the weave can cause it to weigh up to two kilograms. Kanjeevaram sarees are the most preferred sarees in South Indian festivals, weddings, and special occasions. Their brilliant sheen and rich look cannot be matched by any other weave.
Silk saree being woven at a Kanchipuram loom Image source: wikimedia commonswikimedia commons
It is believed that the origins of this weave are deeply rooted in mythology. According to a legend, the Kanchi weavers are direct descendants of Sage Markanda who weaves for the gods. King Krishna Devaraya of the Vijayanagar Empire is credited for propelling this weave to prominence.
Keywords: Kanchipuram, Kanjeevaram, Silk, Sarees, History