Skip to content Skip to footer


Among the panchakanyas, Mandodari is probably the most inscrutable. Mandodari was a person of divine blood—her father was the asura king Maya, but her mother was Hema, an apsara. In some stories, she is herself an apsara. In the Ramayana, Mandodari plays the most important role. When Ravana abducts Sita and at first attempts to bring her into the palace, it is Mandodari who stops him. Despite Ravana being the most powerful being in the world Mandodari didn’t bow down to him. She advised him on what was right, even if it meant it would attract his anger. Shrewdly, perhaps to preserve her position as queen, or to preserve Sita’s dignity, she plays on Ravana’s masculine ego. A man like him, she declares, surely can do better than coerce a woman against her will; Ravana must make Sita come to him of her own volition, not take her by force. And so it is that Sita is placed in the Asoka Grove. After her husband’s death at the hands of Rama, Mandodari mourns. Her love for Ravana was real. in this painting, we see the splendid golden city of Lanka burning soon after Hanuman has set the city aflame. Alternatively, this could represent the fall of Lanka in the final battle with Rama. Mandodari will lose not only her husband but also her son, Indrajit, in this war, and her darkening face augurs a terrible eventuality. While the men around her fell victim to a tragic—and unnecessary—game of power, war, and honor, she remained unsupplanted. And in that perhaps lies her victory. 

Leave a comment

JAY VARMA © 2024. All Rights Reserved.