Ravana too had such a multifarious personality. He was not only possessed of invincible might, many celestial weapons, divine power of entering into any form at will and traverse any space on earth, in sky or into ocean, had time and death under his yoke and Lanka, his capital, all consisting of gold but was also highly learned, well adept in Vedas and scriptures and was a great ritualist and exceptional devotee of Lord Shiva. He is said to have performed a ten thousand year long rigorous penance at the end of which he was blessed by Lord Brahma with immortality. He has to his credit over a dozen of texts of which Arkaprakasha, Kumaratantra, Indrajala, Prakrata Kamadenu, Prakrata Lankeshvara, Rigveda Bhashya, Ravanabheta etc. are some of the best known. His Shiva-Shtrota is yet the most popular hymn ever sung in praise of Lord Shiva. His ten heads thus stood for this multiplicity of his genius.
However, a kind of unsteadiness governed his frame of mind and led by evil he acted against his sagely descent, as he was in the line of the great sage Pulatsya, great past pregnant with innormous penance and against his own being and interests. His wife Mandodari, a wiser woman, attempted at bringing him to the right path but he heared her not. In his conflict with Rama he lost his entire clan, all his subjects, his own life and his Lanka of gold. The folk tradition, hence, often appends over his ten heads the eleventh head of a donkey to symbolise that despite his great valour, might and genius it was a donkey's mind, the most foolish ever conceived, that led all of Ravana's acts.
This statue, cast with fine features in the tradition of South Indian Chola bronzes, follows, however, the Valmiki Ramayana's account of Ravana. Valmiki described him primarily as single headed and with normal two arms but possessed of the divine power of having ten heads and twenty arms at will. Here the artist has attributed to the figure ten heads but just two normal arms. Divine icons in Indian iconography usually have sleek feminine body build. Exactly similar to it the artist has imparted to bangles covered arms of Ravana the same feminine touch. The long and well trimmed arms of Ravana holds in them, however, a large sword and a commanding posture characteristic to his personality. His spiral conical crowns over all his heads add further length to his typical South Indian long faces. The 'tripunda' mark on his forehead denotes his Shaivite links and his robust moustaches his manliness. As per Valmiki's depiction of him, the artist has covered Ravana's entire person in ornaments and garments of gold. The smaller statue on his left belongs to his eldest son and his great supporter Indrajeet.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.