Maya In Ramayana

Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 08 Jan 2012 04:43 and updated at 08 Jan 2012 08:20

This article is a part of a series of articles on individuals described in the Vedas, Epics and Puranas, with the name 'Maya' and related concepts like 'Maaya'. Their connection with the Meso American Mayans too is explored in detail. Read the main article:- Danava Maya and Mayans of America

Maya in Ramayana

Maya / Maaya is mentioned around 23 times in Ramayana. Here one Maya belonging to the Maya tribe is described as a great architect and father of Mandodari who became the queen of Rakshasa king Ravana. Maya is variously described as an Asura, a Danava and as a Daitya. He is mentioned as son of Diti, the mother of all Daityas. The Daityas and Danavas were both Asuras. It seems there is some ambiguity in ascertaining if Maya belonged to the Daitya group or to the Danava group, but there is no doubt that he was an Asura. The question whether Maya was a Daitya or a Danava has some importance if we consider the theory that a section of Iranians (the Ahura worshipers, who migrated from India to Iran) descended from Daityas and a section of the Greeks (the Danaans, who migrated from India through Iran and Turkey to Greece) descended from the Danavas.

There is a possibility that the Maayan tribe or the Maya tribe of ancient India contains members belonging to the Daitya clan as well as the Danava clan and the name Maya is used by them when they were experts in creating technological wonders (magic or illusions) using their metallurgy, metal smelting and metal working technologies.

Another person Mayavi with some connection with Maya is mentioned in Ramayana six times.

Vishnu Maaya

Ramayana contains the term Vishnu-Maaya (vrm.1.29), which is the illusory power of Vishu. This indicate the generic usage of the word Maaya to mean illusion. The word Maaya is used in the same sense at (7.117) and (7.123) as well. Thus such references are found only in the first and last book of Ramayana well known as containing later additions.

Asura Maaya of Maya

The following verse (13) in Aranya Kanda (Book 3), Chapter 54 refers to Maya and his 'Asura Maaya':-

tatra taam asita apaa.ngaam shoka moha paraayaNaam || 3-54-13
nidadhe raavaNaH siitaam mayo maayaam iva aasuriim |

Its meaning is as follows:- Ravana {raavaNaH} placed {nidadhe} Seetha {siitaam} having black eyelashes {asita apaa.ngaam} but with full of sorrow and bewilderment {shoka moha paraayaNaam}, as if by some Asura Maaya {maayaam iva aasuriim} of Maya {mayo}.

This verse clearly indicate that Maya or people belonging to the Maayan tribe of ancient India is the source of Asura Maaya (technological wonders of the Asuras) which was used by other Asuras and Rakshasas like Ravana. Ravana was a king of the Rakshasas ruling at Lanka (Srilanka). (In Mahabharata we see these technologies are used by the Pandavas as well, to construct an assembly hall).


Kishkindha Kaanda (Book 4), Chapter 9, Verse 4:-
maayaavii naama tejasvii puurvajo dundubheH [mayaH] sutaH |
tena tasya mahad vairam vaalinaH strii kR^itam puraa || 4-9-4

Meaning:- There was a fierce {tejasvii} one named Maayaavi, the elder brother {puurvajo} of Dundubhi and the son {sutaH} of Maya. There occurred a great enmity {vairam} between this Maayaavi and Vali owing to some female {strii-kRtam}.

Thus Maayaavi is mentioned as a son of one Maya. Subseqently he fought with Vanara king Vali ruling at a southern Indian kingdom (Hampi, east central Karnataka) and was killed. This information goes well with the presence of the Maya / Maayan tribe in southern India, which will eventually led them to a sea-faring voyage to Meso America.

Danava Maya's Mansion

Kishkindha Kaanda (Book 4), Chapter 43, Verse 30:-
mayasya bhavanam tatra daanavasya svayam kR^itam |
mainaakaH tu vicetavyaH sa saanu prastha ka.ndaraH || 4-43-30

Meaning:- The mansion of the Maya {mayasya bhavanam} which that Danava himself built {svyam kRtam} and that mountain Mainaaka is to be searched out, inclusive of its crests, grades and caves. This is an instruction given to the Vanaras who are to search for Sita, who was abducted by Ravana. It is not clear where this mansion is situated, but the mention of Mainaka mountain that lied in the sea separating Lanka and India and the southern Indian region close to Kanyakumari could be probable locations.

The Riksha Cavities of Maya

Another mansion of Maya (which could be same as the one discussed above, but as per epic Ramayana and Mahabharata, he constructed for his lover Apsara Hema) is describes as situated inside an elaborate cave network that ran several hundred kilometers underground. To see the references in Mahabharata about this topic see:- The underground Mansion of Maya, described in Mahabharata.

Kishkindha Kaanda (Book 4), Chapter 50, Verse 7:-
giri jaala aavR^itaan deshaan maargitvaa dakSiNaam disham |
vicinvantaH tataH tatra dadR^ishuH vivR^itam bilam || 4-50-7
durgam R^iksha bilam naama daanavena abhirakshitam |

Meaning:- That province {deshaan} in southern direction {dakSiNaam disham} is encompassed with interlocked mountains {giri jaala}. During their search there they have observed {dadRishuH} a wide-opened {vivRitam} and impassable {durgam} cavity {bilam} known as Riksha cavity {Riksha bilam} which is well guarded {abhirakshitam} by a Danava {daanavena}. Chapters 50, 51 and 52 elaborate on this Riksha cavity and describe the creator of this cavity with full of illusions (technological wonders) as none other than Danava Maya. Chapters 53, 54 and 57 too mentions about it further. For want of space I am providing here only a summary of this wonderful narration spanning 3 chapters in Ramayana.

Those entered into this mesmerizing cave network said thus:- 'We entered into this cave, overpowered with hunger, seeking some food. Initially we saw only darkness. Now we see diverse and marvellous mansions {vidhaan bhaavaan} and other such wonders {adbhuta upamaan} like golden trees {kaa.ncanaa vRikSaaH} splendid like young suns {taruNa aaditya sannibhaaH}, golden colored air-crafts {kaa.ncanaani vimaanaani} in silver colored houses {raajataani gRihaaNi}"

History behind the Riksha Cavities as per Ramayana

A lady named Swayamprabha (meaning:- the self glowing one) who protected the cavities replied:-

mayo naama mahaatejaa maayaavii daanavarSabhaH || 4-51-10
tena idam nirmitam sarvam maayayaa kaa.ncanam vanam |

There was a brilliant {mahaatejaa} illusionist (technologist) {maayaavii} by name Maya {mayo naama}, who was a bull among the Daanavas {daanavarSabhaH}. He constructed {nirmitam} all of these {sarvam} illusory golden forest {maayayaa kaa.ncanam vanam}.

puraa daanava mukhyaanaam vishvakarmaa babhuuva ha || 4-51-11
yena idam kaa.ncanam divyam nirmitam bhavana uttamam |

Foremerly {puraa} he was the chief among the Danavas {daanava mukhyaanaam} and their Universal Craftsman {vishvakarmaa}. He constructed {nirmitam} this superb {uttamam} mansion {bhavana}, golden {kaan.ncanam} and divine {divyam}.

tam apsarasi hemaayaam saktam daanava pu.ngavam || 4-51-14
vikramya eva ashanim gR^ihya jaghaana iishaH pura.ndaraH |

That best of the Danavas {daanava pu.ngavam} was infatuated {saktam} with an Apsara {apsarasi} named Hema (meaning:- the golden one). Then the ruler of the world {iishaH} Indra, the destroyer of enemy citadels {pura.ndaraH} struck {jaghaana} him with his Thunderbolt {ashanim}.

mama priya sakhii hemaa nR^itta giita vishaaradaa || 4-51-17
tayaa datta varaa ca asmi rakSaami bhavanam mahaan |

My dear friend {mama priya sakhii} Hema is well-versed {vishaarada} in dance {nRitta} and music {giita}. By the authority she has given me {tayaa datta varaa} I am protecting {rakSaami} this superb mansion {bhavanam mahaan}.

Further mention of the Cavities

Below are some more references to these strange Cavities (Cave Networks):-

(4.53) That highly impassable cavity is contrived by Maya and it is abundant with trees, water, eatables and potables, and there is no fear even from Indra in that cavity, nor from Raghava, nor from Sugreeva, the king of Vanaras.

(4.54) "Indeed, once Indra thudded his Thunderbolt on this very underground illusory place, but that act was indeed a trivial deed for that Thunderbolt made a single Rakshasa sized aperture to eliminate a single Danava, Maya, which we now call Riksha bila, Black Hole, nevertheless Lakshmana will splinter whole of this Black Hole with his acute arrows, as if it is leafy bowl. (This statement help us know that the Vanara's entered into Maya's marvelous underground construction works through the crude aperture created due to the striking of Indra's thunderbolt and not through its proper entrance, which explains the initial darkness encountered by the Vanaras while entering. The real entrance could be else where or is hidden and could have been more refined).

(4.53) Which month is set as timeframe for the Vanaras by king Sugreeva that month passed off while the Vanaras are searching mountains, impassable areas and within the cavity concocted by the wizardry of Maya. (4.57) During our search in that Black Hole, which was crafted by the wizardry of Maya, the month fixed by our king for our return has been elapsed. (This indicate that the underground structures were quite elaborate and spread in a vast area, like in the case of Meso American Maayan constructions).

Geographical Location of the Cave Networks

From the narration and geography described, Maya's abode inside the cave network was somewhere close to Kanyakumari (the southern tip of India), with sea-shore (Indian ocean) and mountains (Malaya, Sahya) nearby in Tamilnadu-Kerala boarder. The narration also make it clear that the cave network itself was quite extensive spreading several hundred kilometers and it ran parallel to some interlocked mountain networks. Such mountain network exist in Tamilnadu as part of the southern portions of Eastern Ghats starting from Vellore in the north and passing through Selam, Madurai and finally reaching up to Kanyakumari. These interlocked mountains (Giri Jaala) joins with Malaya Mauntains (southern portion of Sahya Mountains to the south of Palakkad), at Rajapalayam in Tamilnadu.

After searching for the presence of underground cave network in these region, I found a surprising a fact that many temples in this region starting from Vellore to Madurai have sacred underground cave structures and subterranean passages.

  1. Vrinchipuram Temple near Vellore:- This temple is located 15 km away from the Vellore city with an underground route from the Virinchipuram temple to the Vellore Jalagendeswarar temple.
  2. Sri Vilvanatheswarar Temple, Thiruvalam near Vellore - In the left side outer Praharam, beneath the Bali Peetam, there is a underground passage and no one knows where it leads to!
  3. Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam, Madurai:- The temple tank is fed by water of the Vagai river, brought through an ingenious system of underground channels.

From all these field data, one could conclude that Hanuma and the Vanaras entered the Maya's network of caves somewhere around Vellore and emerged out of it close to Kanyakumari, passing through Selam and Madurai. It is not clear if all of it were a continuous subterranean passage or there were intermittent emergence to outer surface (covered with forests or mountain folds) and re-entry back into another underground cave structure.

Such underground cave structures of Mayans are quite common in Mexico and generally in Meso America.

It is also clear that these cave network interconnects the territories controlled by the three major kingdoms in southern India, viz. Chola, Pandya and Kerala (Cheral, Chera). Vellore and Selam falls in Chola territory. Maturai falls in Pandya territory and Malaya mountains falls in the Kerala-Pandya boarder.

Chola king and the love story of Maya and Hema

See Also:- Indra-Chola, Varuna-Chera Connection

Chola kings are connected to their northern cousins viz. the Sivi tribe (Sibi, western Pakistan), who, as per references in Mahabharata, had assumed the title 'Indra'. A Sivi king is mentioned as one among the many Indras. The same title 'Indra' is sometimes assumed by Chola kings like Rajendra Chola. The story of a Sivi king protecting a dove from a hawk by sacrificing flesh from his thigh is also attributed to a Chola king (a story which is also attributed to king Solomon known in the west).

Thus it is possible that the Indra mentioned in Maya-Hema love story of Ramayana was an ancient Chola king who disapproved architect Maya's infatuation with the Apsara, Hema, described as a dancer girl. This make Hema similar in profession to Matavi, a dancer girl mentioned in Tamil epic Silappatikaram, who too was mentioned as an Apsara.

Maya and the construction of Lanka city

The following statement compares the architecture of the mansion of Ravana, the ruler of Lanka with the excellent architectural constructions of Maya:- (5.7) Hanuma saw those houses of the ruler of Lanka, constructed by great effort as though constructed by Maya himself oni earth with all best qualities.

From elsewhere in Ramayana we know that Lanka city was constructed not by architects known by the tribal name Maya but by architects known by the tribal name "Vishvakarma" (universal craftsman) which is a generic term applied to engineers working on all types of construction, art, craft and architecture fields. The construction of the city of Lanka took place during the reign of Yaksha king Vaisravana Kubera (Kuvera) who ruled Lanka before Ravana. Often in Puranic literature, we see descriptions like the Mayas were the architects among the Asuras and the Vishvakarmas were the architect among the Devas, as if each of them were distinct tribes with opposing political affinities. But in close examination, we find that the boundaries separating the Vishvakarmas from the Maayans are blurred, especially since the title 'Vishvakarma' is applied to Maya as well. The tribe Vishvakarma now survives as a caste name in India who are skilled architects and engineers.

Maya's relationship with Ravana

The following statement establish that a certain individual belonging to the Maya / Maayan tribe of ancient India was the father-in-law of Rakshasa Ravana. This verse also indicate that Maya gave his daughter to Ravana due to fear (unwillingly) and hence desiring Ravana's friendship (thinking it would be beneficial to advance his position since Ravana was powerful and controlled southern India and the southern ocean) :-

mayena daanava indreNa tvad bhayaat sakhyam icchataa |
duhitaa tava bhaaryaa arthe dattaa raakSasa pumgava || 6-7-7

(6.7) Maya {mayena}, the best among the Danavas {daanava indreNa}, gave {dattaa} his daughter {duhitaa} (Mandodari) to you as wife {bhaaryaa arthe}, due to fear {bhayaat} from you and hence desiring {icchataa} your friendship {sakhyam}, Oh, the best of Rakshasas {raakSasa pumgava}!

Rakshasas and Danavas were distinct tribes, who were not always in good terms with each other. Daityas-Danavas and Adityas formed one genetic group. Daityas and Danavas were known as Asuras while Adityas were known as Devas. Puranic texts of ancient India look upon Asuras as demons and Devas as gods. Rakshasas, Yakshas and Gandharvas formed another genetic group. Puranic texts of ancient India look upon the Rakshasas as demons, the Yakshas sometimes as demons and sometimes as demi gods where as they look upon Gandharvas mostly as demi gods. These are but later developments.

Maya's skill in creating realistic sculptures

The statement below gives and indirect evidence of Maya architects' skill in creating realistic sculptures or images. Here Sita is compared to an image created by Maya! :- (6.12) Looking like an idol of gold and being placid She appears like an illusory image created by Maya.

Maya's skill in creation of weapons

The following passages clearly shows Maya created and supplied weapons to Ravana.

mayena vihitan raudramanyadastraM mahaadyutiH |
utsraShTun raavaNo ghoraM raaghavaaya prachakrame || 6-100-2

(6.100) Ravana {raavaNo} started to release {utsraShTun} in a terrifying manner {ghoraM}, another fearsome {raudram} missile {astraM} endowed with extraordinary splendor {mahaadyutiH}, created {vihitan} by Maya, upon Rama {raaghavaaya }.

ityevamuktvaa taan shaktimaShTaghaNTaaM mahaasvanaam |
mayena maayaavihitaamamoghaan shatrughaatiniim || 6-100-30
lakShmaNaaya samuddishya jvalantiimiva tejasaa |
raavaNaH paramakruddhashchikShepa cha nanaada cha || 6-100-31

(6.100) Thus saying, the greatly enraged Ravana roared and hurled towards Lakshmana, that unfailing spear {shakti}, which was adorned with eight loudly clamouring bells {aShta ghaNTaam}, which had been designed by Maya by his Maaya (technology) {mayena maayaa-vihitaam} , capable of destroying adversaries and blazing with splendor {jvalantiim-iva tejasaa}.

Maya mentioned as Diti's son

The only mention of Maya as Diti's son and hence a Daitya is found in Book 7 (Uttarakanda) which contain many later additions.

(7.12) The Raksha was wandeing about for the purpose of hunting, when he happened to see Diti s son, named Maya. In the same chapter which describe the encounter of Ravana with Maya and his beautiful daughter Mandodari, Maya is described as a Danava (that Danava and foremost of Asuras, Maya) and again as a Daitya:- Maya lord of Daityas laughing, said unto that lord of the Rakshasas, This daughter of mine, O king, borne by the Apsara, Hema, this my daughter named Mandodari do thou accept as thy wife.


  1. Maya in Ramayana - All references
  2. Indra-Chola, Varuna-Chera Connection

Underground Structures in Tamilnadu (Maya's Cavities)

  1. Virinchipuram Temple - possess an underground route to the Vellore Jalagendeswarar temple.
  2. Vilvanatheswarar temple, Thiruvalam - There is an under-ground path, beneath the Bali Peetam.
  3. Vilvanatheswarar temple, Thiruvalam - In the left side outer praharam, there is a underground passage and no one knows where it leads to!

Underground Mayan Structures in Mexico

  1. Mayan Portal to the Underworld, Mexico - A labyrinth filled with stone temples and pyramids in 14 caves—some underwater—have been uncovered on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, archaeologists announced in Aug 2008.

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