Sunday, October 17, 2010


Consider this résumé:
  • Was an all-powerful king (ruled over Lanka, possibly the most prosperous kingdom of his era; so prosperous that it often called Swarnalanka - The Golden Lanka),
  • Was practically invincible (won victories on heaven, Earth and hell, and even the underworld - patal,as opposed to narak for hell - his son Mahiraavan ruled over patal quite some time),
  • Had an even more invincible son (as the story goes, he was defeated by Indra, but his son won back the lost glory for him; hence the name),
  • Had the most colourful set of siblings that has ever existed (I mean, just give it a serious thought, and you'd know what I mean: a perpetually dormant ferocious giant, a traitor who called himself pious and an apparently gorgeous sister minus auditory and olfactory appendages),
  • Robbed a flying chariot and used it to glory (including a kidnap without anything positive to come out of it),
  • Planned a staircase to heaven (just think what would go through the mind of the mason who'd finish the final step),
  • Had a Govinda film named after him (okay, it also had a Miss World, a star son and a champion director, but all these are hardly important, given that the film had Govinda in it; the only known exception is Hum, where the more important aspect was that it had Rajnikanth in it),
  • Above everything, consider this: just before the war, Raam feels like worshipping Shiva. Fine, but who shall oversee it? Himself? His brother? Fat chance. Who then? The monkeys? The bears? Vibhishan? Nah. Raam (of Rishyashringa's kheer/payesh fame) decides to call upon his opponent (no, don't just read this, just consider, he asks his opponent to oversee the rituals that would ensure that he would go on to defeat and kill the great man) for the occasion. And, well, believe it or not, he obliged. 
Despite this incredible CV, this man is considered a villain in most parts of the country. Effigies of him shall be burnt today, and on this day every year, throughout the country. And his only fault was that he avenged his sister's humiliation, an action Dharmendra and Sunil Shetty have made careers and earned fan-following (from the same people) out of.


Anyway, this is not to discuss the image of Raavan, or for that matter, change it (ah, how I pity you non-Bengalis for not having read মেঘনাদবধ কাব্য - possibly the finest work of literature on Raavan - after which any attempt to glorify Raavan's character seems redundant). This is to address a question on the person that has haunted me for ages: THE HEADS.

Disclaimer: When I say THE HEADS of Raavan, I do not mean the nocturnal adventures of Mandodari and her soutens. This is, as one would bluntly put it, a curious man's queries on his ten heads.


Someone I knew had tried to convince me that the ten heads didn't co-exist. When one head was severed (which didn't happen too often for the comfort of the living world), another sprung up in its place. This sounded very much like a HIT ME doll they used to sell in the Deshapriya Park toy stores. There was a difference, though: the dolls were SRSWRs, whereas Raavan's heads were a simple SRSWOR stuff of population size 10 and sample size 1.


I didn't think much of this theory, though. The heads definitely existed simultaneously. I mean, it's Raavan we're discussing, not some arbitrary mythological nincompoop. Can you visualise a headless Raavan, even for a second, trying to enforce command over his subjects? Nah. Ten simultaneous heads are a lot cooler, and I'm sure that's the way they were.

There are a few issues, though:

How were the heads aligned?
You see, the basic assumption is that Raavan's heads were aligned horizontally, all ten in a single row (the way he looks in the Dusshera effigies and Bengali calendars). Something like this:
The Horizontal Layout
This looks quite cool, and would give Raavan the look of a giant T. The biggest problem of the Horizontal Layout (subsequently referred to as HL), though, lies in symmetry, though: since he had only one thorax, which head was The Main Head that was connected to it? The fifth, or the sixth? The solution might have lied in the connection being somewhere in the middle of the two heads, but half a neck per head would've looked royally uncouth. But on the other hand, I cannot come home to the fact that he was asymmetrically aligned.

What, then? Ten is, of course, a triangular number. So why not the Triangular Layout (this shall be referred to as TL)? Which might led me to think that his heads might be aligned in that manner. Consider this:
The Triangular Layout
You might ask, why 4-3-2-1 and not 1-2-3-4? Well, 1-2-3-4 won't solve the asymmetry issue of HL. TL is more compact than HL, with the only possible problem is that he would have suffered from severe neck pain every now and then (which holds for HL as well, or for that matter, any neck which would have had to support ten heads and ten heavy gold crowns).

The other aspect is, well, what if he dropped something? Say, there's a furious war on, and he drops his bow. He stoops. And then, because of this 4-3-2-1 alignment, it's not really easy to get back to position. His body might rise, but his collection of heads shall droop a while because of the unfavourable top-heavy alignment.

This leads us to the Brahma Layout (BL). Why do heads need to face the same way? Brahma created The Universe, sat comfortably on a lotus (or a swan, or whatever it was) for a lifetime, has four imposing beards and had a major beer brand named after him, so it couldn't have been that bad:
The Brahma Layout
This, however, has three major issues:
1. The neck: Where would the neck be? If connected to a single head the entire mass of heads would possibly droop exactly the opposite way from time to time. If it was, say, a superneck connected to the whole bunch he would undoubtedly have ten vocal cords, solving the problem. He would possibly look like an oversized mushroom, but I suppose you can allow that much.
2. The head sizes: Brahma had the advantage of having four heads, thereby providing every head with a 90° coverage, or 25% of the entire circumference. Raavan would have had 36°, or 10% of the total, with heads as narrow as a goat's. Not acceptable. I refuse to see my hero as a ten-headed goat.
3. The ears: Brahma's eight ears are quite feasible, along with four heads. Not only shall each of Raavan's heads be 40% of that of Brahma's, he also has 250% higher ear count. The entire thing shall look terribly cluttered.
I could have called named it the Circular Layout (CL), but I do want to please The Creator of This World.

Which leads us to possibly the most elegant solution ever: The Double-Deckered Layout (DDL). He might have looked like a hammer with a long handle, but this one would give the entire structure a solidity that possibly could not have been attained by any other formation:
The Double-Deckered Layout
This looks cool. Too cool. It solves the asymmetry issue of HL, the balance issue of TL and the narrowness aspect of BL. I cannot think of a layout that beats this one. There is, of course, the Vertical Layout (VL), but that would have prevented him from entering through most doors. No diagram for that as well. Just imagine an orthogonal version of HL.

There are, of course, several other head-related issues as well. Alignment is just one of them, for example...

Did he have ten brains as well?
This might have led to tremendous confusion. I mean, suppose one of them kept on thinking hey, I'm the king of LankaI need to invage Chedi or Panchal or Magadh right now; another kept on interrupting ooh, the fragrance on this chaamar-operating girl standing behind me is too seductive for comfort; another went on planning road and sewer layouts for the future Ranatungas, Jayasuriyas and Arthur C Clarkes; and yet another might be doing what he was considered best at - worship Shiva.

How does a confused man rule over a country, then? No, he could not have ten brains of that sort. But he could not have one brain either. What would have happened if that head had been cut off? A man with nine heads and no brain in a battlefield. Scary.

This leads to only one solution: there were ten heads with ten brains, all synchronised as if in a LAN, with one of them may or may not acting as a server.

How many ears did he have? How were the heads joined to each other?
This is another intriguing aspect of the great man. Assuming HL, how many ears did he have? Did he have twenty ears, eighteen of theem joined to form a network tunnel of some sort, devoid of cochleas and playing no role in hearing? If that was the case, it would form the answer to the other question as well. This would mean, though, that he had two types of ears - auditory and adhesive.

But what if, on the other hand, he had two ears at the extreme ends, and the other heads were joined at their skulls, his heads would have looked a lot compact, without gap in between, and would have taken a lot less pillow space.

The epic, however vivid, isn't informative enough to throw sufficient light on this. Sigh.

What about throats?
How that's something else as well. I'm assuming there was one central (server) head that was connected to the main body with a general throat. Where did the other heads end? Just like that, without tonsils, vocal cords or throats, being connected to the main body only through the server head (or through a chain of heads, ending somehow in the server head)? Poor soul - a sore throat would have been amplified by ten times: one throat, ten brains.

Did he sleep normally?
Unfortunately there were only two feasible postures: face up and face down. Raavan could never sleep facing sideways (unless, of course, he had BL, which would have meant he would've slept face up, down, sideways, diagonal, everything). Unless, well, his head joints (ears or otherwise) were flexible enough to accommodate a fold in his cranial channel. Remember the He-Man toys and Barbies? Remember how their limbs are movable? Something on those lines - a joint between every pair of heads, thereby enhancing foldability among any two adjacent heads.

As a side aspect, this would have enhanced or hampered his conjugal life depending on his ability to use those joints and manoeuvre his heads. I'm sure Mandodari's life was rather boring once he got married to Vibhishan after Raavan.

The other aspect, of course, was his pillows. I can visualise a massive one, with the pillows of the queen(s) tucked below (not under) them. Something like this (the number of pillows might increase or decrease depending on his tenacity):
Assuming DDL and a count of six per night; HL accommodates more queens
What about apparel?
Ages back, when the ancestors of Lacoste, Wranglers, Lee and Levi's tried to launch polo-neck T-shirts in Lanka, they failed. This was chiefly due to the fact that Raavan couldn't think of a way he could use them, and hence didn't want to be the only one not wearing hep stuff. There were galls in Galle, they stopped eating candies in Kandy and released dumb bulls at Dambulla as forms of protest, but Raavan remained adamant. It took several millennia for the Sangakkaras to adorn them.
Some might suggest that a halter-neck top might have served the purpose. It would. But I cannot really associate Raavan with cross-dressing. A broad-necked one might have worked with BL, but he would've been cold, especially on underworld trips (given that he was born before Dev Anand, he didn't own stylish mufflers/scarfs either).

And then, how broad were the gateways?
Of course the king had to enter straight. The Lankans thus had to ensure that every gateway or door in the kingdom was either sufficiently broad or T-shaped. Of course, an alternative would have been to enter sideways, or use the foldability property mentioned in the previous section. But, just think about it, would that not have been bizarre? Raakshason ke adhipati, badshahon ka badshah, Lanka-e-Azam Raavan padhaar rahe haiiiiiiiiiin, followed by the king turning sideways, and entering the courtroom sideways, almost in a moonwalk.
Another aspect that might be solved with BL. It has its merits after all, I suppose.


No one seems to bother, though. They've been trained to accept HL, ignore the asymmetry and burn the effigy. They don't care about the asymmetry, let along lesser aspects like the injustice of celebrating the burning of the ghyamest character of the epic.

Just a request: if you pass a burning effigy tonight (which shall invariably be HL), try to notice which head is the server one: the fifth or the sixth.


  1. What a planned insight in to a mythology cal 10-fold problem... And all solutions can be deemed to be approximate solution! cheers!

  2. Mwwwahahahahah Mwwaahahahahah!!! *just providing the sound effect* Hillarious :)

  3. sore throat is not a lot of fun its just uncomfortable and difficult to swallow.

    usually, i would take the Nim Jiom Cough Syrup ( ) which has a thick consistency formulation. it coats the throat and includes herbs that are particularly good for that application.

    i hope it works on you as well.

  4. Amar ek mamar naam Raban Sengupta. I kid you not. Really. Bhalo naam Raban. Khub cool na?

    Raban amar second favourite character in Ramayana. Right after Indrajit. Lokkhoner moto ekta incestuous pansy typer loker kachhe here galo, ei ja dukkho.

  5. Shotyii Rabon? I'm impressed. Cool mane? Too cool. Amar dharona chhilo Indrajit ar Karna chhara ar kono rakkhosh/Kourobder name nam rakha hoyna.

    Indrajit khub cool, kintu Rabon wins on head count.

    Lokkhon is the earliest documented case of a foot fetish, BTW. Etotai je boudir onyo kono goyna chinte pareni.

  6. Some trivia about Ravana I feel like sharing --
    o) Ravana is the reason for the existence of Shivaganga (a pond (read in English, Banglaa slang not intended)) in Deoghar, in which one is supposed to take a holy bath before offering puja at the main temple. Now legend has it that this Shivaganga was formed when Ravana had to make an urgent pee while carrying one of the twelve jyotirlingas to his kingdom. A Holy Pond from his pee---an achievement worth mentioning. (Also take-home lesson: You never mess with someone’s genuine full bladder, or you get deluged when he relieves himself.)
    oo) Corollary to the previous one: Lord Shiva allowed Ravana to carry one of His jyotirlingas ( use of the prefix jyoti is intended to avoid the obvious vilification charges ). A ‘divine’ act endowed upon the antagonist of an epic….. No mean feat.HUH!!!!!!!
    ooo) Took the honour(Don’t tell me you do not get what I mean by taking the honour) of Rambha, his half-daughter-in-law. I know this because I once read a book on the adultery in The Mahabharata and in The Ramayana (And the author happened to be my teacher).
    oooo) Ravana is a one of the finest avatars of self-mortification. A google-search on why he became ‘dasanan’ will make you believe my statement.
    ooooo) Both his daddy and grand-daddy were great sages but he is termed a “DAITYA” by our great pundits because of his maternal inheritance.
    And Ovshake-da, it’s not fair to make fun of his heads only. I mean, I would rather request you to think about the ramifications of 10 hands of Maa Durga. And believe you me, I can at any given instant make far more jokes about this “10 hands” than “10 heads”. And so can you. I know some might call it sacrilege. But keeping that aside, don’t you think a woman with 10 hands has much more potential of being made fun of than a man with 10 heads?
    It’s up-to the reader whether he/she keeps himself/herself busy about thinking of the jobs with the heads or with the hands (aaahhh!!!! Not that you dirty mind).
    Ovshake-da, your blog is very good and thought-provoking. It made my lazy hours busy, thinking. Cheers!!!!!!!

  7. But I can not still get over your "My Life in Numbers"... That was really something. Extra-ordinary.

  8. Also in Meghnadbodhkabyo, Michael Madhusudan Dutt made Ravana utter--" Bama jati swavaboto alpo-budhhi dhore ".. Read this when I was in eighth standard, and happen to remember till date and I use it whenever I feel like bullying that portion of people about whom Shakespeare said,"Frailty thy name"... :P

  9. WOW!! :) A true research work...
    Achcha, why not spiral structure? A long neck, and heads all around it going up in spiral... it will perfectly load balance with a single neck. In fact, he can even wear a T-shirt with this arrangement.

  10. I'm spell bound, again!! the concept, the thoughts are really appreciable. It's not only fun, it's more than that. I'm truly amazed by the domain of your forte.
    And from today I'm gonna address you as 'Sir' Abhishek Mukherjee (only here, though) for your outstanding achievements and endeavors for doing something new, creative all the time.
    Kudos to u Sir...!!

  11. My head reels

    On a serious note the 10 heads might be an allegory to different views that a human takes or the 1st recorded Dissociative identity disorder. It is also sad that instead of getting medical help he was termed a villan & murdered.

    On the settings on the heads i think when the 1st burning ritual started the carpenter thought it would be easy to erect the idol in HL. The image has been carried for too long that today the great Ravan is depicted in only 1 way

  12. matha niye atoi matha byatha je matha ghamiye erokom ek pc matha ghorano post likhle? tukhor!

  13. 10 is a significant number by many ways, Avishake I suggest you to venture on this topic sometime. For example Ravan's 10 head, Durga's 10 hands, Pele/Maradona's jersey #10 and most of all 10dulkar! Is it because everyone ran out of symbols after counting up to 9 and thought of adding 0 to 1 and took the concept to infinity. Hence 10 gives you the first test of infinity by showing the possibility of reaching infinity if you try and that's what all these people associated with number 10 has tried to....

  14. Proshno 1. Raboner shampoo korte kotokhkhon lagto? same goes for dari kamano?

    Proshno 2. Aajkalkar moto mathae headset pore call nite gele heavy case kheye jeto lokta. Ki korto sekhkhetre?

    Dibbi lekha. Ektu lomba!!


    ekhane adhe edhar adhe udhar.....
    samner dike hnat to ki bhabe / kon matha responsible chhilo?
    duto kan o dekha jachhe golay 2 to goyna pora kan o dekha jachhe...... :D

    1. Eta baje system. Joghonyo system. Golata kon mathar niche boshbe? Duto matha jure to ar gola hote parena.

  16. Unfortunately his image has been tarnished by the "unbelievable" movie with SRK and Kareena... and I haven't seen the one with AB Jr. But ya, this guy was something, no?

  17. abhishek da. did you consider the 3-4-3 configuration. That looks to be a stable one.

    1. The neck issue. Heads are not bricks - how would you place four heads on three?

  18. The title is massively misleading.It makes one think about multiple orgasms.Or for once,you were thinking straight.

    1. Do not make me think the way I do not want to. X( :D

  19. Abhishek, you didn't include the possibility of QR (Quantum-Ravana) in which the # of heads at a specific time (or at any time at a specified space) is probabilistic varying between 0 to infinity with mean 10 and sigma whatever suits the distribution. That would solve the problem of symmetry, and many other problems, I guess! Cheers! :-)

  20. Hi Abhishek, I just stumbled across this post a couple of days back and it made me smile, no laugh :) I hadn't thought about the logistics of having ten heads before this.

    Anyway, after reading your post I'm convinced that the way we draw Ravana is quite wrong; such a construction would be impossible for the reasons you pointed out. My guess now is that he looked like a ten-headed hydra. That would solve all of the above problems: Which head was the neck joined to, how many ears, how did he sleep, etc. As for the brains, I think you are quite right, he must have had ten brains thinking in concert (but not all functions in concert; in case one head wanted to look one way and another the other way, my guess is they'd receive separate instructions from their separate brains).

    1. Yes, yes, yes. I think Raavan was a ten-headed hydra. There is no other alternative, absolutely none.