Ravana, the supreme anti-hero of Ramayana – is the king of Rakshasas is depicted with ten heads and twenty limbs. He is also known as Dashaanan (10-headed) or Dashamukha (10-faced). He was the son of Sage Vishravan and Asura mother Kaikashi. The symbolisation has two theories in Hindu mythology. One puts Ravana on a pedestal as a man with great knowledge and high intelligence.
The symbolism of Ravana’s 10 heads
As Ravana was a learned king, it is believed that the 10 heads of Ravana represent the six shastras and four Vedas, which he had mastered. Symbolically, the 10 heads could represent Ravana’s mental power which was considered to be 10 times that of an average human being. Despite being an expert warrior, a good king, an astrologer and a doctor of Ayurveda, Ravana succumbed to a medley of life’s vices. As the evil qualities took over his personality and finally led to his destruction, students of mythology came to believe that the 10 heads of Ravana represented the flaws of the king. The negative interpretation of Ravana’s 10 heads are the 10 emotions or senses in a human.
Here’s a look at what the 10 heads of Ravana represent.
1. Kaam (Lust)
When Ravan abducted Mata Sita, it was his lust that made him want to marry her knowing the fact that Mata Sita was the wife of Lord Rama.
2. Krodha (Anger)
It was Ravana’s anger which brought his destruction even sooner because his anger made him impatient and commit sinful acts.
3. Moha (Attachment)
Ravana was strongly attached to his possessions and after he started considering Mata Sita as his own, he went on to cross all boundaries to keep her in his control.
4. Lobha (Greed)
Ravan was overpowered with greed and the desire to gain more which was one of the reasons he abducted Mata Sita.
5. Mada (Pride)
It is nice to be proud but it’s different when your pride consumes you and turns overbearing to others. Ravana too was too proud of his intellect and military strength.
6. Maatsarya (Envy)
With Moha came Maatsarya, the desire to possess all the things there are even those that belong to others by all means necessary.
7. Ghrina (Hate)
Ravana’s hatred for other people was beyond bounds, he had some narcissistic qualities which led to his eventual destruction.
8. Bhaya (Fear)
Ravan’s fear of losing his possessions and most importantly losing Mata Sita made him do sinful deeds which caused his death.
9. Buddhi (Intellect)
Ravan being a worldly scholar was one with great intellect but he put this power to evil which brought him his demise because he became insensitive and did not care for anyone but himself.
10. Ahamkara (Ego)
Ravana’s inflated ego encouraged him to do all acts of sin from abducting Mata Sita to attacking Lord Rama, just to protect himself behind which he did not see any reason.
Ravana is described as having 10 heads and 20 arms. His ten heads, as per mythology, represent his 10 qualities which are Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Moha (delusion), Lobha (greed), Mada (pride), Maatsyasya (envy), Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chitta (will) and Ahamkara ( the ego).
What Does Ravana’s Ten Heads Represent? – Positive side
Ravana’s 10 heads symbolize the 6 Shastras and 4 Vedas, making him a great scholar and the most intelligent person of his time. He was a master of 64 types of knowledge and all arts of weaponry. A highly learned Brahmin, Ravana has to his credit over a dozen of texts of which Arkaprakasha, Kumaratantra, Indrajala, Prakrata Kamadhenu, Prakrata Lankeshvara, Ravana Samhita, Rigveda Bhashya, Ravanabheta, Krishna Yajur Veda etc. are some of the best known. He is known to have compiled Sama Veda with the relevant musical svaras (notes) and his Shiva Tandava Stotra is yet the most popular hymn ever sung in praise of Lord Shiva. His ten heads thus stood for this multiplicity of his genius.
Ravana’s ten heads is a metamorphication of his knowledge of the six shastras and the four Vedas.
- Sankhyashastra (Mathematics)
- Yog Shastra (Yoga as a way of life, meditation)
- Nyayashastra (Law and administration)
- Vaisheshik Shastra (Physics, astronomy, mechanics)
- Purvamimansa (Philosophy, Justification)
- Uttar Mimansa Shastra