Ravana had many wives amongst whom, Queen Mandodari, was the chief Queen, a virtuous, beautiful lady. She was the daughter of Mayasura, a great mathematician, a great architect and an engineer par excellence. As his name Mayasura suggests he was from the Asura clan.
It was Mayasura who built Lanka, one of the greatest cities.
Ravana and Mandodari – Great Devotees of Shiva
Ravana and Mandodari were great devotees of Lord Shiva.
In response to the prayer of Mandodari, Lord Shiva visited the island of Lankapuri at Thiruketheeswaram, in the form of a child and blessed Queen Mandodari and Ravana.
It is in commemoration of this visit of Lord Shiva to Lanka, that Queen Mandodari’s father, Mayasura, the architect par excellence, built the Thiruketheeswaram temple, as per the rules of the Agama sastra for temple construction.
Way back in 1864 itself, the famous Galle Face Hotel of Colombo chose for its logo, the Dandu Monara Vimana. This goes to show that, Ravana flying in Dandu Monara Vimana was a popular and widely accepted theme, even 150 years ago during colonial rule.
In the logo of the hotel, it shows Ravana and Mandodari flying in the Dandu Monara Vimana.
Ravana and Mandodari in the Vimana
Galle Face Hotel Logo,
Dandu Monara Vimana, 1864
Mandodari Counsels Ravana
When Ravana kidnapped Sita, Mandodari counselled him many times on the inappropriateness of this action.
Sita in Ashok Vatika
But Ravana, for all his gifted qualities of being well educated, a good administrator, possessing varied skills, met his downfall when he coveted somebody else’s chaste wife against her own wishes.
He refused to see reason, despite the good counsel of Mandodari his wife and Vibhishana his brother and refused to release Sita back to Rama.
Ravana eventually met his end at the hands of Rama.
Rama slaying Ravana
Did Mandodari marry Vibhishana?
Now, there are some who question the character of Rama and Vibhishana, stating a few sources which seem to suggest that Vibhishana, Ravana’s brother, coveted Mandodari, on the advice of Rama, after Ravana’s death. And that, Sita was a mute onlooker to this.
Kelaniya – Vibhishana’s Palace
To the north of Colombo is the Kelaniya Buddhist temple.
This temple has been identified as the site of the ancient palace of Vibhishana. Carvings to this effect are found on the outer wall of this temple.
Is it Mandodari in this Sculpture?
On the back side wall of this temple, is a rock cut, sculptured panel depicting the coronation or Pattabhishekam of Vibhishana.
Vibhishana coronation panel in Kelaniya temple
Lakshmana is depicted to be conducting the coronation of Vibhishana in this panel.
This sculpture is in line with the description of this event in the Ramayana epic because Rama was still undergoing His 14 years of Vanavasa, exile in the forest and hence did not enter the city to conduct the coronation but instead, had deputed Lakshmana to do so on His behalf.
In the coronation sculpture, the queen of Lanka sitting beside Vibhishana is identified by some observers now, as Mandodari.
No reference in Valmiki Ramayana
For an accurate picture, we need to look at Valmiki Ramayana, the original source of Rama’s story; an itihasa, which means, “It thus happened”.
Valmiki Ramayana is a biography of Rama, chronicled by Valmiki!
Valmiki, the author of Ramayana
It should be noted here that, as per Valmiki Ramayana, Mandodari did not occupy the throne of Lanka with Vibhishana. After Ravana’s death, Mandodari went into mourning.
Vibhishana was a married man, whose wife was Ammani and he also had a daughter called Trijata. She was known as Trijata because she had three Jata of long hair, Jata meaning plait. Since she had dressed her hair in three plates, she was called Trijata. Trijata had earlier been deputed to attend to Sita’s needs, when Sita was held captive by Ravana at Ashoka Vatika.
So it should have been Vibhishana’s wife, Trijata’s mother, who occupied the throne along with Vibhishana at the time of the coronation and not Mandodari as is held by some.
More on this in our book, Ramayana in Lanka.
The source that some quote to suggest that Mandodari married Vibhishana, comes from an indirect reference in the Ramacharitamana, by Tulsidas. In this poetic work, Tulsidas, while speaking of the compassion of Rama on His devotees, states, in the first chapter, Doha– 28.
In this sloka, there is no reference to Vibhishana forcefully coveting Mandodari. When the misdemeanor is not fully expressed, one cannot assume without reason that it relates to Mandodari.
Case of Tara and Sugreeva
There is another incident in the Ramayana, where, Tara, the wife of Bali, offers to marry Sugreeva on the death of Bali, on the promise that after the time of Sugreeva, her son Angad will be the king. She did this to ensure the safety of her son.
Tara supporting Bali, after he was wounded by Rama
An Understanding needed
We need to understand that only the act of forcing a woman to marrying someone, is immoral and illegal. But, if a married woman wanted to marry someone else, it was not considered illegal or immoral. Women enjoyed that unique right in this land.
Mandodari – A Woman par Excellence
Mandodari did not marry Vibhishana. After the death of Ravana, she went into mourning and oblivion.
Mandodari was no ordinary lady. She was the daughter of the renowned Mayasura, the great architect, mathematician, astronomer and skilled engineer.
Mandodari was such an illustrious woman that she figures as one of the 5, in India’s Panchakanya list of “all time great” women. Pancha is 5 and kanya is a lady.
In the Indian tradition 5 women have been given the title of Panchakanya for their ideal lives. They are Ahalya, Sita, Mandodari, Draupadi and Tara.
The Samskrt hymn on Panchakanya is as follows:
Need to present factual opposition
Thus we need not cast aspersions on the character of Mandodari and Vibhshana, or for that matter Rama, and need to give a factual opposition to any malicious theories put forth by vested interests.
More on Rama and other characters of the Ramayana in our Rama Trilogy,
- Historical Ram
- Ayodhya – War and Peace
- Ramayana in Lanka
and film Historical Rama in