Seeking Ravana in Mandore
It’s September and the Sun seems to be in a vindictive mood as I traverse through the heated dusty roads of Jodhpur towards Osian. The road far away looks like it’s drenched in water but the dancing hot air above the surface of the road reminds me that’s what mirages are made of. On my way back to Jodhpur from Osian, I make a stop at Mandore like any other tourist would normally do. But I am not here to see the famous and intricate Mandore Gardens. I am here to seek Ravana and his connection with Mandore, the ancient capital of the Marwar Kingdom.
For those of you who don’t know who Ravana is let me tell you he is the worst villain ever portrayed in the Hindu Mythology according to the epic Ramayana. Till date, Ravana’s effigies are burnt to commemorate the triumph of good over evil during the Dushera festival all over India. The demon king with ten heads and extreme prowess was mainly a villain because he kidnapped Sita the wife of Lord Rama to seek vengeance from him and his brother Lakshmana. Apparently, Lord Rama and his brother had chopped off Ravana’s sister Shurpanakha’s nose and ears for having professed her love for Rama and his brother.
Ravana was a very learned scholar, master of Astrology, a devout devotee of Lord Shiva, an efficient ruler and excelled at playing the musical instrument Veena. Raavan may have kidnapped Sita but never hurt her modesty. I believe labelling Ravana as a villain varies with one’s perspective of Ramayana as such. A brother miffed at two strangers for having disfigured his sister’s face retaliates by kidnapping the wife to teach him a lesson. The kidnapping turned into the precursor to a great battle and finally, Lord Rama triumphed over the demon king and rescued his estranged wife. Lord Rama later abandoned the same beloved wife Sita at the words of a washerman who suggested that he shouldn’t trust her chastity after having spent a significant time at Ravana’s Kingdom as a hostage. I wonder what still makes Lord Rama an ideal man or Purshottam as per Hindu mythology. Ravana, on the other hand, has always intrigued me.
So here I am in Mandore trying to figure out what is Ravana’s connection with this laidback little town in the outskirts of Jodhpur. Mandore is beautiful like any other Rajasthani town, houses made of sandstone, intricate artwork that decorate the entrances to these houses and men and women dressed in absolutely vibrant colours hold the same rustic yet charming demeanour as the rest of Rajasthan.
It’s late in the afternoon and I am on the streets asking people about Ravana out of nowhere. Some odd glances and non-affirmative nods and then luckily I find a person who is eager to help. He says in his local dialect, which I am struggling to understand, that Ravana is the son-in-law of Mandore. Then he gives me the direction to reach Ravan ki Chanwari. Chanwari is essentially a raised pavilion or Mandap. Ravan ki Chanwari is apparently where Ravana entered into holy matrimony with his wife Mandodari.
After getting lost a bit in the sleepy alleys of Mandore, finally, the Chanwari is right before my eyes. I look around for someone or something to help me quench my curiosity about the developments of his marriage in this town but unfortunately, it’s the hottest hours of the day and I find no one.
As I climb up the stairs to reach the Chanwari, I come across this small hut with people in it. This is Bhagirath Ji’s abode and unfortunately, he is not home. Bhagirath Ji is apparently the man who was interviewed by some Indian news channels about the legends of Ravana and his marriage to Mandodari. I suppose he must be a treasure trove of knowledge but hard luck.
I ask his family members about the place and its association with Ravana. To which they nod and point towards the Chanwari and say, “ Waha pe Ravan aur Mandodari ka Jaimala hua tha aur waha saat phere.” (That is where Ravana exchanged garlands with Mandodari and that is where he took the seven holy vows around fire).
The Chanwari stands in ruins today and has been neglected largely. There is also no signage that may provide adequate information about its significance in terms of Hindu Mythology. There are two such pavilions located near each other. The Chanwari where they took the seven holy vows of marriage has carvings of Lord Ganesha and Seven Mother Goddesses or the Sapta Matrika. The Chanwari where they performed Jaimala seems to have a rock carving of Tokeshwara Maharaj. Sadly, I don’t find any other information about this place.
Mandodari was Mandore’s princess and the daughter of Mayasura and his consort Hema. She was a wise and beautiful woman who was destined to marry Ravana. It is believed that the name of Mandore is also based on the name of Mandodari. The residents of Mandore specifically the Mudgil and Dave Brahmins consider themselves as the descendants of Ravana. They are believed to have either migrated to the town post Ravana’s death or during his marriage with Mandodari.
Ravana is therefore not detested or portrayed as the villain in this part of the country. To Mandore he will always remain their beloved son-in-law. His descendants, the Mudgil and Dave Brahmins also perform a Shraddh ceremony, a Hindu ritual essentially performed after the death of a person post-Dusherra every year to pay their tribute to Ravana.
How to reach
Mandore is located at a distance of 9km from the city of Jodhpur on the way to Osian or Bikaner. Locate the Mandore railway station first then seek some help from the locals to lead you to the Ravan ki Chanwari. Some also call it Ravan ki Chhatri. The nearest railway station is Jodhpur, however, Mandore also has its own railway station. The nearest airport is Jodhpur and by road, Mandore is just at a distance of 9km from Jodhpur.
Ravana has always intrigued my imagination despite being rendered with the various shades of negativity associated with his character. I leave halfheartedly from Mandore only to come back some day later to unearth a little more about this legendary wedding. I am glad I could make it to this place and see the Ravan ki Chanwari. I only hope more importance was given to this monument and preserved a little better. Despite being a Protected Monument today it stands in despair and largely ignored.