lion - "five-faced"

Robert Goldman sseas at SOCRATES.BERKELEY.EDU
Wed Jan 15 22:05:21 UTC 2003

At VAlmIki RAmAyaNa (crit. ed.) 5.36.22 , RAma is quoted as comparing
himself to a "paJcavaktra" serpent (paJcavaktreNa bhoginA). This is
repeated at 5.65.8.  We translate the adjective as "with jaws agape."
following the interpretation of the commentator GovindarAja, who,
taking the word paJca from the root pac in the sense of "spread" or
"extend," glosses vyAttamukhena, "with mouth wide open."  As an
alternative explanation, he understands the reference as being to a
serpent with five jaws, i.e., heads. It is this second interpretation
that has been uniformly adopted by the translations consulted.  See
5.65.8; cf. 5.49.21.

At  5.49.21 SItA is described as  paJcAsyAm iva pannagIm, which we
rendered, "like a five-headed cobra" (Literally, "like a five-mouthed
she-cobra.")  Several of the commentators note that the simile serves
to inform RAvaNa that SItA will destroy him and his city with the
fire of her grief, just as a cobra would with its fiery venom. The
commentator SatyatIrtha sees the five heads as a reference to the
five principal characters who will ultimately bring about RAvaNa's
downfall, viz., RAma, LakSmaNa, the king [SugrIva], HanumAn, and
SItA. However, as an alternative,  he reads paJca,  as an adjective,
meaning "spread or extended" and thus takes the compound to mean
"with mouth agape." See 5.36.22 and 5.65.8 and notes; cf. 5.47.2-14
(verse 8).

[adapted from the notes to our translation of the SundarakANDa.
Princeton University Press, 1996]

Dr. R. P.  Goldman
Professor of Sanskrit
Department of  South and Southeast Asian Studies
7303 Dwinelle Hall MC #2540
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-2540
email: sseas at
Phone: (510) 642-4089
Fax:     (510) 642.2409

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