Rāvaṇa (Sanskrit: रावण, Tamil:ராவணன் IPA: [ˈrɑːʋəɳə]) is the primary antagonist character of the Hindu legend, the Ramayana; who is the great king of Lanka. In the classic text, he is mainly depicted negatively, kidnapping Rama's wife Sita, to claim vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister Surpanakha.
This depiction is, however, open to other interpretations. Ravana is described as a devout follower of Shiva, a great scholar, a capable ruler and a maestro of the Veena. He has his apologists and staunch devotees within the Hindu traditions, some of whom believe that his description as a ten-headed person (Daśagrīva) is a reference to him possessing a very thorough knowledge over the 4 Vedas and 6 Upanishads, which made him as powerful as 10 scholars. However, there is mention in Atharvaveda of demonic Brahmans called Dasagva (ten-headed) and Navagva (nine-headed). These early beings may be the actual forerunners of the later character in the Ramayana[original research?].
Ravana also authored Ravana Sanhita, a powerful book on the Hindu astrology. Ravana possessed a thorough knowledge of Ayurveda and political science. He is said to have possessed the nectar of immortality, which was stored under his navel, thanks to a celestial boon by Brahma. According to some theories, he was a historical emperor who reigned over Sri Lanka from 2554 BC to 2517 BC.
The name 'Ravana' obtains from the root 'ru' 'raavayati iti raavaNaH' 'one who makes god love by his compassion actions.' The name Ravana obtains from the root, 'Ra' signifies the sun and 'vana' signifies generation according to a nationalist Sinhala scholar, Arisen . Ravana had many other popular names such as Dasis Ravana, Ravan, Raavan, Ravula, Lankeshwar, Ravanaeshwaran all signifying the qualities of life.Ravana was a cross of Brahmin and Daitya thus attaining a status of BrahmaRakshasa.
Variations of the name include the following:
- Bengali: Rabon,রাবণ
- Burmese: ရာဝဏ, [jàwəna̰]
- Indonesian: Rahwana
- Javanese: Rahwana or Dasamuka (from Daśamukha or 'ten faced')
- Kannada:ರಾವಣ, Raavana
- Khmer: Rabana or Rab, Krong Reap
- Lao: Raphanasuan
- Malay: Rawana or Wana
- Malayalam: Raavanan
- Maranao: Lawana
- Marathi: रावण (RaawaN)
- Sinhalese: රාවණා (Raavana)
- Tamil: இராவணன் (Raavanan)
- Thai: ทศกัณฐ์, Thosakan (from Dashakanta or 'ten necked')
- Telugu:రావణాసురుడు(Rāvaṇasurdu)Srikanth, Rika, Prabhu
- Yuan: Rahbanasun
Ravana was born to a great sage Vishrava (or Vesamuni), and his wife, the daitya princess Kaikesi. He was born in the Devagana gotra, as his grandfather, the sage Pulastya, was one of the ten Prajapatis or mind-born sons of Brahma and one of the Saptarishi (Seven Great Sages Rishi) in the first Manvantara. Kaikesi's father, Sumali (or Sumalaya), king of the Daityas, wished her to marry the most powerful being in the mortal world, so as to produce an exceptional heir. He rejected the kings of the world, as they were less powerful than him. Kaikesi searched among the sages and finally chose Vishrava, the father of Kubera. Ravana was thus partly Brahmin and partly Daitya.
Even though he was partly Brahmin and partly Rakshas, Rama praised Ravan as Mahabrahmin. Rama had to do Ashwamedha yagna as penance for killing a Brahmin (Brahmahatyadosha).
His brothers were Vibhishana, Kumbhakarna and Ahiravana. Through his mother, he was related to the daityas Maricha and Subahu. Kaikesi also gave birth to a daughter, Meenakshi ("girl with fish like eyes"), although later she was dubbed the infamous Shoorpanakha "winnow-like nails".
Father Vishrava noted that while Ravana was aggressive and arrogant, he was also an exemplary scholar. Under Vishrava's tutelage, Ravana mastered the Vedas, the holy books, and also the arts and ways of Kshatriyas (warriors). Ravana was also an excellent veena player and the sign of his flag had a picture of veena on it. Sumali, his mother's father, worked hard in secret to ensure that Ravana retained the ethics of the Daityas.
The Ramayana tells that Ravana had close connections with region of the Yadus, which included Gujarat, parts of Maharashtra and Rajasthan up to Mathura south of Delhi. Ravana is believed to be related to Lavanasura, also regarded as a Rakshasa, of Madhupura (Mathura) in the region of the Surasenas, who was conquered & killed by Shatrughna, youngest brother of Rama.
After worshipping a Shiva Linga on the banks of the Narmada, in the more central Yadu region, Ravana was captured and held under the control of King Kartavirya Arjuna, one of the greatest Yadu kings. It is very clear from the references in the Ramayana that Ravana was no commoner among the Humans or Asuras, a great chanter of the Sama Veda.
Tapasya to Brahma
Following his initial training, Ravana performed an intense penance (or tapasya) to Brahma (the Creator God), lasting several years. During his penance, Ravana chopped off his head 10 times as a sacrifice to appease brahma. Each time he sliced his head off a new head arose, thus enabling him to continue his penance. At last, Brahama, pleased with his austerity, appeared after his 10th decapitation and offered him a boon. Ravana asked for immortality, which Brahma refused to give, but gave him the celestial nectar of immortality. The nectar of immortality, stored under his navel, dictated that he could not be vanquished for as long as it lasted.
Ravana also asked for absolute invulnerability from and supremacy over gods, heavenly spirits, other rakshas, serpents, and wild beasts. Contemptuous of mortal men, he did not ask for protection from these. Brahma granted him these boons in addition to his 10 severed heads and great strength by way of knowledge of divine weapons and magic. Thus ravana known as 'Dasamukha' (Dasa = ten, mukha =face). According to the serials made on the Ravana, in his childhood he was the first person who prohibited the cow slaughtering.
King of Lanka
Lanka was an idyllic city, created by the celestial architect Vishwakarma for Kubera, the treasurer of the gods. Kubera had generously shared all that he owned with Ravana and the latter's siblings, who were Kubera's half-brothers and half-sister through his stepmother Kaikesi. However, Ravana demanded Lanka wholly from him, threatening to take it by force. Vishrava, their father, advised Kubera to give it up to him, as Ravana was now undefeatable.
Although Ravana usurped Lanka, he was nevertheless regarded as a benevolent and effective ruler. Lanka flourished under his rule, to the extent that it is said the poorest of houses had vessels of gold to eat and drink off, and hunger was unknown in the kingdom.
Devotee of Lord Shiva
Following his conquest of Lanka, Ravana encountered Shiva at his abode in Kailash. Ravana at first went to meet Shiva. Nandi the vehicle of Shiva, refused to let Ravana in. He got annoyed and started teasing Nandi. Nandi in turn got annoyed and cursed Ravana that Lanka would be destroyed by a monkey. To show Nandi his love for Shiva, Ravana attempted to uproot and move the mountain on a whim. Shiva, annoyed by Ravana's arrogance, pressed his littlest Toe on Kailash, pinning him firmly and painfully under it. His ganas informed Ravana of whom he had crossed, upon which Ravana became penitent. He plucked his nerves and used them as strings to compose music and sang songs praising Shiva, and is said to have done so for years until Shiva released him from his bondage.
Pleased with his resilience and devotion, Shiva gave to him the divine sword Chandrahas (Chandra-Moon, Has-laugh, literally 'the laughter of the moon' but referring to the shape formed by a crescent moon which resembles a smile). It was during this incident that he acquired the name 'Ravana', meaning "(He) Of the terrifying roar", given to him by Shiva - the earth is said to have quaked at Ravana's cry of pain when the mountain was pinned on him. Ravana in turn became a lifelong devotee of Lord Shiva and is said to have composed the hymn known as Shiva Tandava Stotra.
Lord Shiva had given his sword Chandrahasa with a caveat that if it was used for unjust causes, it would return to the three eyed one and Ravana's days would be numbered. Ravana uses the sword to kill Jatayu when kidnapping Sita and it disappears when he uses it to kill Jatayu.
After Ravana had been given the Celestial juice of Immortality by Brahma, he went on to please Shiva. He cut his head & put it as sacrifice for pleasing Shiva, but Shiva replaced his head with a new one. This was repeated Nine times, on which Shiva was happy & pleased with Ravana's resilience & devotion. Thus he also got name Dasa-sheesha.
Emperor of the Three Worlds
His abilities now truly awe-inspiring, Ravana proceeded on a series of campaigns, conquering humans, celestials and other demons. Conquering the netherworld completely, he left his brother Ahiravana as king. He became supreme overlord of all asuras in the three worlds, making an alliance with the Nivatakavachas and Kalakeyas, two clans he was unable to subdue. Conquering several kingdoms of the human world, he performed the suitable sacrifices and was crowned Emperor.
Kubera at one point chastised Ravana for his cruelty and greed, greatly angering him. Proceeding to the heavens, Ravana fought and defeated the devas, singling out his brother for particular humiliation. By force he gained command over the devtas, celestials, and the serpent races. At the time of the Ramayana, set several hundred years later, Ravana is shown as dominating all human and divine races - so much so that he can command the Sun's rising and setting.
Mandodari was renowned for her wisdom and grace as well as beauty and chastity. Ravana did not have any special in women. The first was the encounter with the sage-woman Vedavati. Vedavati had been performing penance with the intention of winning Lord Vishnu as her husband. Ravana met her at her hermitage, her beauty enhanced by the austerities she had performed. He proposes to her and is rejected. Ravana mocks her austerities and her devotion to Vishnu; finding himself firmly rejected at every turn, he tries to molest Vedavati, pulling her hair. This greatly incensed her, and she forthwith cut off her hair, and said she would enter into the fire before his eyes, adding, "Since I have been insulted in the forest by thee who art wicked-hearted, I shall be born again for thy destruction." So she entered the blazing fire, and celestial flowers fell all around. It was she who was born again as Sita, and was the moving cause of Ravana's death, though Rama was the agent.
Depiction in other Scriptures, as Vishnu's cursed doorkeeper
In the Bhagavata Purana, Ravana and his brother, Kumbhakarna were said to be reincarnations of Jaya and Vijaya, gatekeepers at Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu and were cursed to be born in Earth for their insolence.
These gatekeepers refused entry to the Sanatha Kumara monks, who, because of their powers and austerity appeared as young children. For their insolence, the monks cursed them to be expelled from Vaikuntha and to be born on Earth.
God Vishnu agreed that they should be punished. They were given two choices, that they could be born about 7 times as normal mortals and devotees of Vishnu, or 3 times as powerful and strong people, but as enemies of Vishnu, for which they chose the latter one. Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna were born to fulfill the curse on the second birth as enemies of Vishnu in the Treta Yuga. The curse of first birth was fulfilled by Hiranyakashipu and his brother Hiranyaksha in Satya Yuga when they were both vanquished by earlier avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu and the curse of third birth was fulfilled by Kamsa and Shishupala in the Dwapar Yuga when they were both vanquished by Lord Krishna.
In Jain version of Ramayana, Ravana is one of the Trisastisalaka Purusa (63 illustrious persons) who appear in every time cycle. According to Jain cosmology, every time cycle has nine sets of Baladeva (balabhadra), vasudeva (narayana) and partivasudeva (anti vasudeva or anti hero). Rama, Lakshmana and Ravana are the eighth Baladeva, Vasudeva, and Partivasudeva. In the Jain epic of Ramayana, it is Lakshmana who ultimately kills Ravana and not Rama as told in the Hindu version. In the end, Rama who lead an upright life renounces his kingdom, becomes a Jain monk and attains moksha. On the other hand, Lakshmana and Ravana go to hell. However it is predicted that ultimately they both will be reborn as upright persons and attain liberation in their future births. According to Jain texts, Ravana will be the future Tirthankara (omniscient teacher) of Jainism. According to another Jain text, Padmapurana, which narrates the story of Rama, Ravana belongs to the non-aryan clan of Vidyadhara—a highly cultured and knowledgeable people who were followers of Jainism and practised Ahimsa (non-violence). They were opposed to the Vedic sacrifice of animals and often tried to stop such practices. Hence, they were demonized by the Vedic priests and called Rakshashas. In one chapter, Ravana himself appears with his soldiers and instructs one king Marutha on Ahimsa and threatens the Vedic priests with dire consequences. On his instructions all the animals for sacrifice are released and the yagnas are stopped. In Trisastisalakaspurusa Caritra, which also contains story of Ravana, he once went to Mt. Svarnatunga to pay homage to the sage Anantavirya who had attained Kevala Jnana (Omniscience). After he had paid homage and listening to his sermon, Ravana asked the sage, “How shall I die?” and Anantavirya replied, “Your death will be at the hands of a future Vasudeva because of a sin connected with another man’s wife.” He then took a vow before the same muni that he will not enjoy another man’s wife against her will.
This section deals with many members of Ravana's family. Since they are hardly mentioned outside the Ramayana, not much can be said about them. They are presented here as they are in the Ramayana, which is viewed by some as being only the point of view of Rama devotees, but is the most complete account of the story that is known.
Ravana had six brothers and two sisters:
- Kubera - the King of North direction and the Guardian of Heavenly Wealth. He was an older half-brother of Ravana: they were born to the same father by different mothers.
- Vibhishana - A great follower of Rama and one of the most important characters in the Ramayana. As a minister and brother of Ravana, he spoke the Truth without fear and advised Ravana to return Kidnapped Sita and uphold Dharma. Ravana not only rejected this sane advice, but also banished him from his kingdom. Vibhishana sought protection from Rama, which was granted without hesitation. He is known as a great devotee of Rama.
- Kumbhakarna - One of the most jovial demons in Hindu history. When offered a boon by Brahma, he was tricked into asking for unending sleep! A horrified Ravana, out of brotherly love, persuaded Brahma to amend the boon. Brahma mitigated the power of the boon by making Kumbhakarna sleep for six months and being awake for rest six months of a year (in some versions, he is awake for one day out of the year). During the war with Rama, Kumbhakarna was awakened from his sleep. He tried to persuade Ravana to follow Dharmic path and return Sita; seek mercy of Rama. But he too failed to mend the ways of Ravana. However, he fought on the side of Ravana and was killed in the battlefield. Before dying he met Vibhishana and blessed him for following path of righteousness.
- Khara - King of Janasthan. He protected the northern kingdom of Lanka in the mainland and his kingdom bordered with the Kosala Kingdom, the kingdom of Rama. He was well-known for his superior skills in warfare.
- Dushana - Viceroy of Janasthan.
- Ahiravan - King of the Underworld ruled by the rakshasas by Ravana and Demon King Maya.
- Kumbhini - sister of Ravana and the wife of the demon Madhu, King of Mathura, she was the mother of Lavanasura. She was renowned for her beauty and later retired to the sea for penance.
- Surpanakha - the evil sister of Ravana. She was the ultimate root of the kidnapping of Sita Devi. She was the one who instigated her brothers to wage a war against Rama.
There is a huge Shivalinga in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, supposedly installed by Ravana himself, with a statue of Ravana near by. Both Shivalinga and Ravana are worshiped by the fishermen community there.
Thousands of Kanyakubja Brahmins of the village Ravangram of Netaran, in the Vidisha District of Madhya Pradesh, perform daily puja (worship) in the Ravan temple and offer naivedyam / bhog (a ritual of sacrifice to the Gods. Centuries ago King Shiv Shankar built a Ravana temple at Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The Ravana temple is opened once in a year, on Dashehra Day, to perform puja for the welfare of Ravana.
A Jain temple in Alvar, Rajasthan is called the Ravan Parsvanath Temple. The legend says that Ravana used to worship Parsvanath daily. While Ravana was on tour to Alvar he realized that he forgot to bring the image of Parsvanath. Mandodari, Ravana's wife, is said to have made an image of Parsvanath immediately. And hence the Ravan Parsvanath temple at Alvar.
Ravana is said to have married Princess Mandodari at a place about 32 kilometers away from Jodhpur, which is now called Mandor. There is a mandap (altar or pavilion) where Ravana is said to have married Mandodari, and which the local people call Ravan Ki Chanwari.
At the altar can also be found the images of Saptamatri (Seven Mothers) flanked by Ganesha and Veerabhadra. The Saptamatri images are said to precede the time of the Pratihara Dynasty (founded in the 6th Century AD) and are in fact reminiscent of the images of seven female deities of Harappa - the oldest civilization in India. In the nearby stepwell, a stone bears a script that resembles the Harappan script.
The Dave Brahmins of Mudgal Gotra, Jodhpur/Mandor who were originally from Gujarat, claim to be the descendants of Ravana. The say that since time immemorial they are performing the shraddh (death anniversary) of Ravana on Dashehra Day every year. They offer pind daan and take a bath after that ritual. They recently erected a Ravan temple in Jodhpur, where daily puja is performed.
There is a theory proposed by Sinhalese nationalists that points to the southern part of Sri Lanka as the capital of Ravana, hence the name Ruhuna came to existence. "Ruhuna" is claimed to be derived from the word's Ravana Pura or Rohana Pura, despite the liguistic improbability of 'va' becoming 'ha' in Prakrit. This is probably an attempt to tie Ravana with the history of that other national hero: Duttagamini, who was a king from that region.
Murudeshwara temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, lies in the holy beach town in the Bhatkal Taluk of Uttara Kannada district in the state of Karnataka, India. It is situated between the Honnavar and Bhatkal town (about 12km) and it lies on the coast of the Arabian Sea. The significance of this holy town dates to the time of Ramayana. Ravana wanted to attain immortality by penance dedicated to the Atmalinga(the divine Lingam of Shiva procures invincibility and immortality to the Hindu Gods). Lord Shiva appeared before Ravana and asked him what he wanted. Lord Vishnu with the help of Narada changes Ravana's mind. As a result of this plot, Ravana asks for Goddess Parvathi, and Lord Shiva offers him. On his way back to Lanka Narada tricks Ravana that the real Parvathi was in Pathala(Underworld). So Ravana lets off Parvathi, went to Pathala and marries the king's daughter thinking that she was Parvathi. When he returns back to Lanka his mother then asks for Atmalinga. Ravana knowing that he was tricked, meditates to please Lord Shiva. Ravana asks for his forgiveness and this time, Ravana requests the Atmalinga as his boon. Lord Shiva agreed to give him the boon with a condition that it should never be placed on the ground. It is believed that the Atmalinga was ever placed on the ground, all the powers would return to Lord Shiva again. Having obtained his boon, Ravana started back on his journey to Lanka. Sage Narada, realised that with the Atmalinga, Ravana may obtain immortality and create havoc on earth, approached Lord Ganesh to help him. As Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Lord Vishnu blocked the sun to make it appear as dusk. Ravana had to perform his evening rituals but was worried because with the Atmalinga in his hands, he would not be able to do his rituals. Lord Ganesh, disguised as a Brahmin boy approached Ravana. He requested him to hold the Atmalinga until he performed his pooja, and told him not to place it on the ground. Ganesh struck a deal with him saying that he would call Ravana thrice, and if Ravana did not return within that time, he would place the Atmalinga on the ground. As predicted, before Ravana could return after completing his rituals, Ganesh had already placed the Atmalinga on the ground. Vishnu then removed his illusion and it was daylight again. Ravana got really angry that he was tricked again and tried to uproot the Atmalinga and destroy it but could not. In a fit of rage he threw the case covering it to a place called Sajjeshwara, 23 miles away. Then he threw the lid of the case to a placed called Guneshwara (now Gunavanthe) and Dhareshwara, 10-12 miles away. Finally, he threw the cloth covering the Atmalinga to a placed called Mrideshwara in Kanduka-Giri (Kanduka Hill). Mrideshwara has been renamed to Murudeshwara.
Ravana-Dahan (Burning effigy of Ravana)
Arguments in Favour of Ravana
While often thought of mainly as the infamous 10-headed demon, Ravana was also a notable scholar of the Vedas.
A not widely known metaphorical interpretation of Ravana's having ten heads is that the heads are a symbolic way to show the world about his knowledge. He was fully aware of the contents of the six Shastras. His knowledge of the six Shastras as well as his knowledge of the four Vedas, ten Holy Scriptures in all, is by this interpretation considered the inner meaning of the belief that Ravana had ten heads. He even knew that Ram was Narayana (Lord Vishnu) himself, who had come in human form.
However, since there was no other way for him to reach to Narayana, he had to cultivate wanton wickedness, violence and hatred, and invite Ram to kill him. Of course, this might be called a type of devotion that is stupid and infamous. But his inner aim was to cross the ocean of birth and death, through that act of self abnegation and surrender to Narayana.
Influence on Indian Culture and Art
A Ramleela actor wears the traditional attire of Ravana. One of the most important literary works of ancient India, the Ramayana has had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The story ushered in the tradition of the next thousand years of massive-scale works in the rich diction of regal courts and Brahminical temples. It has also inspired much secondary literature in various languages, notably the Kambaramayanam by the Tamil poet Kambar of the 13th century, the Telugu-language Molla Ramayana, 14th century Kannada poet Narahari's Torave Ramayan, and 15th century Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha's Krittivasi Ramayan, as well as the 16th century Awadhi version, Ramacharitamanas, written by Tulsidasa.
The Ramayana became popular in Southeast Asia during the 8th century and was represented in literature, temple architecture, dance and theatre. Today, dramatic enactments of the story of Ramayana, known as Ramleela, take place all across India and in many places across the globe within the Indian diaspora. The Ramayana has inspired works of film as well, most prominently the North American Sita Sings the Blues, which tells the story supporting Sita through song.
Some Quotes by Ravana
"The power of OM in this world is real and still exists. But you or us will ever be able to find it or not... If you did find it, what are you going to do..."
“Winning or losing... It depends on who's the fastest...”
"O Lord, wandering with thee, even hell itself would be to me a heaven of bliss."
- ^ Goldman 1990, 'Arānyakanda' (sargas 16-17)
- ^ Ramayana By Valmiki; Ramcharitmas by Tulsidasa (Lanka Kanda Vibhishana & Rama Samvaad)
- ^ Ravana is a hero for Sinhala nationalists. PK Balachandran, Hindustan Times
- ^ "Ramayana Balakanda". Desiraju Hanumanta Rao. July 2005. http://www.valmikiramayan.net/bala/sarga1/bala_1_frame.htm. Retrieved 24 August 2009.
- ^ Ravana is a hero for Sinhala nationalists. ViPK Balachandran, Hindustan Times
- ^ Māni Mādhava Chākyār (1996). Nātyakalpadrumam. Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi. p.6
- ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1998). The Jaina Path of Purification. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-1578-5. p.305
- ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (2000). Collected Papers on Jaina Studies. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. ISBN 81-208-1691-9. p. 359
- ^ "Now, meet Ravan the saint". The Times of India. 2010-07-03. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life/spirituality/meditation/Now-meet-Ravan-the-saint-/articleshow/6123749.cms. Retrieved 2010-07-06.
- ^ Nayanar, Prof. A. Chakravarti (2005). Samayasāra of Ācārya Kundakunda. New Delhi: Today & Tomorrows Printer and Publisher. ISBN 81-7019-364-8. p. 85
- ^ >Nayanar, Prof. A. Chakravarti (2005). Samayasāra of Ācārya Kundakunda. New Delhi: Today & Tomorrows Printer and Publisher. ISBN 81-7019-364-8. p. 86
- ^ Helen, Johnson (2009) . Muni Samvegayashvijay Maharaj. ed (in English. Trans. From Prakrit). Trisastiśalākāpurusacaritra of Hemacandra: The Jain Saga. Part II. Baroda: Oriental Institute. ISBN 978-81-908157-0-3.
- ^ http://www.maharashtra.gov.in/pdf/gazeetter_reprint/Nasik/histroy_hindus.html#1
- ^ Ravana has his temples, too. The Sunday Tribune – Spectrum. 21 October 2007.
- ^ Vachaspati.S, Ravana Brahma [in English], 2005, Rudrakavi Sahitya Peetham, Gandhi Nagar, Tenali, India.
- ^ Kamalesh Kumar Dave,Dashanan [in Hindi], 2008, Akshaya Jyotish Anusandan Kendra, Quila Road, Jodhpur, India.
- ^ Sri Alvar Tirth
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