The demon Kabanda who helped Rama- Prambanan sculpture

Thanks to a chance meeting with a fellow Ponniyin Selvan enthusiast yesterday ( Mr Sakthis) who had just returned from a business trip to Jakarta, he showed some photos of his friend of the famed Ramayana Panels of Parambanan in Jog Jakarta (Though the temple suffered serious damage due to earthquakes, restoration work is progressing well), reminded me to complete this long pending post. This is a long post, with some detailed references and would like our readers to take their time in reading through, to fully understand the beauty of the sculpture and the importance of this scene to the Ramayana. Its quite amazing how such could be so deftly sculpted.

A very important episode in Ramayana, filled with lots of twists and turns, splendidly depicted in far off Indonesia, is a feast for us today.

Story first: Following the introduction, its a very important stage in the Ramayana, Rama and Lakshmana are returning from Mareecha episode and find Sita missing. They panic and search everywhere. No one is able to help.

At this point they enter a forest which is very mysterious, for there is no living creature big or small in sight. There is a deathly calm and just as they were wondering what was the reason, out comes this hideous creature.

The creature was so huge, but was in essence only a trunk – no distinctive head ( ok the sculpture we see has a head !!, but no proper legs or arms, instead has tentacle like arms stretching to a Yojana ( ten miles!!), he had a massive gaping mouth in his belly – so huge that on seeing it Lakshmana compares it to the entrance arch of a huge city.

Now, lets view the sculpture. Thanks to the net, also found this lovely resource displaying sketches of the entire illustrated Ramayana panels from Parambanan. Very useful for someone to identify the sculptures with this as a guide

Now, as usual, the brothers get into action, which is what we see in the scene, chopping off each of the arms of the creature. Now, comes the interesting part, in this stage, the Demon addresses them as Rama and Lakshmana and implores on them to consign his massive body to flames. Rama asks him, how does he know them and hence he goes on to narrate his story thus.

[Source: Dowson’s Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology]

He was actually a Ghandharva Dhanu, who had done penance on Brahma ( who else) and got the power of immortal life. Drunk on his power of immortality he committed a disrespectful act against a holy sage ( Sthoolasira ?), who cursed him to loose his beauty and eternal life as a demon. Mortified Dhanu asks how he can get release from the curse and return to his Ghandarva form , the rishi said, ‘when Rama burns you, after cutting your
arms, you will get back your form’ – ref slOkam below [which this disfigured
and arms cut khabandha relates to Rama and lakshmaNa now] –

yadhaa Chiththvaa bhujou Rama: thvaam dhahEth vijanE vanE || 3-71-6
thadhaa thvam praapsyasE roopam svam Eva vipulam *s*ubham |

To add to this, in his demonic form, Khabanada ( or Kaavanda), fought against Indra, the lord of the gods, who used his weapon Vajra ( thunderbolt) against him.

*s*riyaa viraajitham puthram dhano: thvam vidhdhi lakshmaNa || 3-71-7
indhra kOpaath idham roopam praaptham Evam raNaajirE |

meaning: Oh, LakshmaNa, you may know me as the most handsome son of Dhanu,
and this misshaped form has chanced on me owing the ire of Indhra in

*Comment:* With that disfigured form and because of longevity of life, he
fought with celestial king dhEvEndhra. DhEvEndhra with his vajra aayudham –
thunderbolt – stuck Dhanu.

thasya baahu pramukthEna vajrENa shatha parvaNaa || 3-71-10
sakthinee cha *s*ira: caiva *s*areerE sampraveshitham |
anaahaara: katham shakthO bhagna sakthi *s*iro mukha: || 3-71-12
vajrENa abhihatha: kaalam su dheergham api jeevithum |

meaning: [khabhandhan says story to raama and lakshmaNa] – But the
thunderbolt that has a hundred cutting edges and that which is launched from
Indra’s hand has rammed my head and thighs into my body. [Slokam 10]

Then I asked indhra – ‘By the impact of thunderbolt disarranged are my
thighs and head, thereby my mouth, went into my stomach. And without thighs
how can I prowl, without arms how can I scrabble, and without a mouth how
can I guzzle, and how am I capable to live on, and when that living is also
destined for too long a time to come’ [slokam 12]

sa Evam uktha: mE *s*akrO baahoo yojanam aayathou || 3-71-13
thadhaa cha aasyam cha mE kukshou theekshNa damshTram akalpayath |

meaning: When I said this Indhra, Indhra devised for me a ‘yojana long’
arms, and also that way a rapier-fanged mouth in my paunch.

[so these long arms stretching to a yojana – {one yojana I read somewhere as
10 miles} and blade like teeth in the fang etc are indhra given and see in
next slokam what he is eating]

( Look at the sculpture – you can see the tentacles still left on one side – one even then eyeng the frog – but also see the head, hands and legs – maybe not a 100% true depiction)

so~aham bhujaabhyaam dheerghaabhyaam sankrushya asmin vanE charaan ||
simha dhvipi mruga vyaaghraan bhakshayaami samanthatha: |
sa thu maam abraveeth indhrO yadhaa raama: sa lakshmaNa: || 3-71-15
ChethsyathE samarE baahoo thadhaa svargam gamishyasi |

* *

meaning: Such as I am, I have been eating the lions, elephants, animals, and
tigers that are on the move in this forest, hauling them in with both my
overlong arms. [Slokam 14]. Indra has also said to me, ‘as and when Raama
hacks off your arms, along with LakshmaNa, in a conflict, then you can go to
heaven…’ and vanished.

In return, he promises to provide vital clues about Sita. At this point Rama is a bit worried, being a demon will he keep his word. He asks him to give him the information and then he would burn him. For which the demon refuses, saying what if they take the information and leave him. So there is a standoff

aham hi mathi saachivyam karishyaami nara rishabha || 3-71-19
mithram chaiva upadhEkshyaami yuvaabhyaam samskrithO agninaa |

meaning: ‘Oh, impetuous man Raama, if I were to be beatified by you two by
incinerating me in fire, I will advice you about the next course of your
action. I will further advise you about your prospective friend” So said
Khabandha to Raama.

*Point:* raama did not straightaway accept that – started explaining how he
knows the only portion of story ‘that raavaNa lifted seethaa and left, and
beyond that he does not know any thing’. This also leads all, to think a
sort of mutual distrust existed between raama and khabhandhan – for a
shortwhile – for – if I burn him then perhaps he will be released from his
curse and may not be able to remember what information he had or has
collected earlier with or in that body.

On the other hand khabandhan had the distrust, ‘if I tell the guiding
message now, after receiving it, if these two vanish, without burning me,
then my release is not there’. That kind of ‘mutual distrust situation’.
After a while, raama asks khabhandhan, ‘please show mercy’ and assures ‘we
will fulfill your request’. Perhaps you may have another opinion also, ‘why
should raama ask for mercy or beg before such fellows like khabandhan’ and
not show his super human power. Please recall that statement – ‘aham
maanusham manyE’ – ‘think that I am a man’ – even at the end of the great
war with raavaNan and that too after brahma says you are so and so and not
simply a man – so he acts like a man having doubts and distrust and all that

*s*Oka aarthaanaam anaathhaanaam Evam viparidhaavathaam || 3-71-23
kaaruNyam sadhru*s*am karthum upakaarE cha varthathaam |
kaashTaani aaneeya bhagnaani kaalE sushkaaNi kunjarai: || 3-71-24
dhakshyaama: thvaam vayam veera *s*vabhrE mahathi kalpithE |
* *

meaning: It will be apt of you to show befitting mercy on us, who are
anguished by agony, running all over helter-skelter like unsheltered ones,
and we will be compliant for your restitution. Oh, brave Khabandha, on
bringing dried firewood that was rent at times by elephants, and on digging
a large trench, we will incinerate you in it.

*Point:* see the words ‘sOka arthaanaam anaathhaanaam’ – one who has all the
wealth at his command says I have only sOkam – deep sorrow only as my
wealth, the whole world looks upon him as their lord and he says I am
anaathha – lordless. [Yes of course he has no one above him so he is

sa thvam seethaam samaachakshva yEna vaa yathra vaa hruthaa || 3-71-25
kuru kalyaaNam athyartham yadhi jaanaasi thaththvatha: |

meaning: Such as you are, if you actually know who stole Seethaa, or where
to she was stolen, either, you clearly inform about her, [when incinerated],
thus you will be rendering a most gracious deed to me, and to all
concerned”. Thus Rama made clear of his case.

Comment: when Rama thus agreed ‘to concede to khabandhan’s request’ for
incineration, see now khabandhan commands ‘please do it fast before sun

kim thu yaavath na yaathi astham savithaa *s*raantha vaahana: |
thaavath maam avaTe kshipthvaa dhaha raama yathaa vidhi || 3-71-31

meaning: “Oh, Raama, soon you have to toss me into trench to burn me
customarily, sooner, for the Sun is going to Mt. Dusk when his horses are

Dhagdha: thvayaa aham avaTE nyaayEna raghunandhana |
vakshyaami tham mahaaveera ya: tham vEthsyathi raakshasam || 3-71-32

meaning: “Oh, Raama, the legatee of Raghu, when I am burnt by you in a
trench as per rituals, oh, great valiant Raama, for sure, I will tell of
him, who can quiet fathom that demon [who carried your wife seethaa].

Evam ukthou thu thou veerou kabandhEna nara ee*s*varou |
giri pradharam aasaadhya paavakam visasarjathu: || 3-72-1
lakshmaNa: thu mahaa ulkaabhi: jvalithaabhi: samanthatha: |
chithaam aadheepyaamaasa saa prajajvaala sarvatha: || 3-72-2

meaning: When Khabandha said that way, both those brave men and lords of
people, on throwing the body of Khabandha into a mountain cleft and then
embedded it with firewood. On his part Lakshmana started to torch that pyre
with highly sparkling torches from all over, and even that pyre too suddenly
blazed with blazes from all over.

Its already a long post, so let me cut this short, out of the Pyre emerges a radiant Danu and as promised advises Rama about the abduction of Sita by Ravana.

He also goes on to offer him a very important piece of advise, in his fight against Ravana – he says he cant go in alone, but could get help from the monkey army. But inorder to do that, he guides him to help Sugreev win his kingdom from Vaali, making him indebted to Rama. Thus Danu comes out as a very shrewd negotiator ( he got his work done before giving advise) and also advises Rama aptly, maybe if Vaali by his superior strength could have fought Ravana single handedly ( we seen the humbling of Ravana by Vaali earlier in sculpture), but then Vaali was a good friend of Ravana, and there would be no reason for him to support Rama. Hmmm

6 thoughts on “The demon Kabanda who helped Rama- Prambanan sculpture

  1. ‘ஸ்தூலசிர’ என்றால் கன்ணுக்குத் தெரியாத தலை. (hidden head) எனவேதான் அவனுக்கு அப்படி தலையில்லா முண்ட உடல்; அது சாபத்தால் வந்தது, இந்திரனால் ஆனது அல்ல. இமய மலையில், ஸ்தூலரூபமாய் இன்னும் பலர் தவம் இயற்றி வருகின்றனன்ர் அன்று நான் கண்ட வயதான மாது ஒருவர் அவரது பயண அனுபவங்களைக் குறியது நினைவுக்கு வருகிறது! கண்ணுக்குத் தெரியாத ரூபம் அன்றி, உயிர் மட்டுமே ஒரு இடத்தில் தங்கி தவம் செய்வது என்றால்…? இந்தியாவில் மட்டுமே இப்படி நடக்கும் ஸ்வாமி!

  2. “ஊர் புகு வாயிலோ ‘இது – ஆஹா , அரக்கனின் வாய்க்கு என்ன ஒரு உவமையைக் கம்பன் தருகிறார்!”

    ஆம் விஜய். உவமைக்கு கம்பன் என்று பெயர் உண்டு. கவுந்தபூதக் கதையைக் காட்டிலும் அதன் சாதுரியமான அறிவு ஆச்சரியம்தான். இராமனுக்கு வாலி என்ற ஒரு பெயர் அறிமுகம் ஆவதற்கு முன்பேயே அந்த வாலியின் நட்பை விரும்பாமல் செய்ய வைக்கும் உத்தி. the first impression is best impression என்று சொல்வார்கள். வாலியின் நட்பைப் பெறுவதற்கு இராமன் முயற்சி செய்யாமைக்கு கவுந்தபூதம் ஒரு காரணம் என்றே சொல்லலாம்.

    அந்த சிற்பங்கள் வெகு அருமை. சிற்பிகள் வால்மீகி ராமாயணத்தை நன்றாகவே கரைத்துக் குடித்துவிட்டுப் பிறகுதான் இந்த சிற்பங்களை மேலும் உருவகப்படுத்தி செதுக்கி இருக்கவேண்டும்.

    நல்லதோர் பதிவு


  3. Pullamangai is truly a masterpiece. I feel lucky to have seen it.

    . . . so Pranbanam, Jog Jakarta, sculpturs enjoyed belly faces, too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *