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The demon king Ravana (Rawana), enemy of Rama, approx. 1950-1980

The demon king Ravana (Rawana), enemy of Rama, approx. 1950-1980

The demon king Ravana (Rawana), enemy of Rama, approx. 1950-1980. Indonesia; West Java. Wood, cloth, and mixed media. From The Mimi and John Herbert Collection, F2000.86.31.

The demon king Ravana (Rawana), enemy of Rama, approx. 1950-1980

The demon king Ravana (Rawana), enemy of Rama, approx. 1950-1980. Indonesia; West Java. Wood, cloth, and mixed media. From The Mimi and John Herbert Collection, F2000.86.31.

The demon king Ravana (Rawana), enemy of Rama, approx. 1950-1980
The demon king Ravana (Rawana), enemy of Rama, approx. 1950-1980

The ten-headed and twenty-armed demon Ravana (Rawana) is the villain of the Ramayana, a great Hindu epic. Ravana’s power is a result of a boon given to him by the god Brahma. Ravana obtains the boon by meditating in devotion for ten thousand years while standing in the middle of five fires. After this, he proceeds to cut off each of his heads as an offering to Brahma. Just as Ravana is about to dismember his tenth and last head, Brahma appears to the demon and grants him any wish he desires. Ravana chooses to be made invulnerable to the powers of the gods and of other demons.

In the Ramayana, Ravana is so taken with the beauty of Sita (Sinta) that he devises a plan to kidnap the princess. He transforms himself into the form of a hermit to gain Sita’s trust, after which he reveals his true horrific nature. He takes her captive in his kingdom on the island of Lanka (Alengka). Rama rescues Sita with the help of the monkey general Hanuman (Hanoman). In the course of the rescue, Rama kills Ravana with a magical arrow that flies through the demon’s heart, exits through his back, enters the ocean to clean itself, and then returns to Rama’s quiver.