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|“||What is something that never dies but lives a thousand lives at once?||”|
–Aru Shah and the Song of Death
Meenakshi (pronounced: "mee-NAHK-shee"), or Surpanakha ("SOOR-pah-nah-kuh"), is a rakshasa who appeared in Ramayana, one of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India.
Meenakshi's name was given to her by her parents, Vishrava and Kaikesi, when she was born as their youngest child. Her older brothers were Ravana, Kumbhakarna, Khara and Dushana; the former two were the reincarnations of Vishnu's gatekeepers, and the latter two were rulers of the Dandaka Forest in the Danda Kingdom. Meenakshi grew up, married a rakshasa named Vidyutjihva, and was content. She had flowers in her hairs and had her hands painted on her wedding day. She also sat on a golden throne where she dispensed orders and proclamations. But Vidyutjihva was greedy and wanted to kill her brother, Ravana, and so he slew him in self-defense. Princess Meenakshi was devastated and she searched the world to find a cure for her sorrow. She was soon referred to as "Surpanakha" instead of her birth name due to her nails; it meant she whose fingernails are like slicing blades.
Occasionally she lived with Khara and Dushana. But then one day in the forest, she found King Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Laxmana, and was attracted to the men. She thought she was too forthcoming in her affection; she was never shy about things she wanted and saw no reason to start. She wanted one of the men to marry her so they'd be safe, but Rama kindly didn't want another wife and Laxmana just outright refused. He ridiculed Surpanakha for even thinking that she would be one of their brides. Stricken, Surpanakha got filled with wounded pride and grief and, out of fury, she tried to attack Sita but Laxmana cut her nose off. At first, Surpanakha went to Khara and Dushana, who attacked Rama with other rakshasa but failed and were killed. She then ran to her brother because of this; in response, Ravana kidnapped Sita which made Rama start a war. Surpanakha regretted attacking Sita, but not her boldness despite the outcome. But eventually, a believing but not defending Rama sent pregnant Sita away as his people thought she was impure despite her faithfulness. She walked across open flames to prove her fidelity but it wasn't enough. Then, Sita met up with Surpanakha, where both of them had let go of their anger and they became friends.
Overtime, Meenakshi's story was less told than often and eventually changed to the point where people only remember her for starting the war in Ramayana One day after the Sleeper was released from the Diya of Bharata, he gave Meenakshi the idea of using the amrita to make their stories immortal. There are many others beside the two who feel that their story has been told where only their bad moments are remembered. However, the amrita was located in a golden dome with a labyrinth within the Ocean of Milk, and contained serpents whose fire can kill anything with a heartbeat. Having heard what happened to the bow and arrow of Kamadeva, she decided to steal it from the Naga Treasury to create an army of Heartless zombies. Takshaka helped her to get revenge on the reincarnated Pandavas by stealing the bow and arrow, while Meenakshi left her soul song in the treasury. She then placed the weapon on the sidewalk near the house of the reincarnation of Bhima to frame her for the theft.
Meenakshi first appeared as the form of Aru Shah in the Night Bazaar stadium to get back the bow and arrow from Brynne. She managed to take the weapon along with control over the current zombies in the bazaar. She easily threw Brynne despite the Pandava turning into a blue jaguar, after fighting her spiritual sisters, Meenakshi created a fire allowing her to escape. Although the fire was put out by Hanuman, the Pandavas were successfully blamed for the theft.
Kamadeva showed a vision of Surpanakha at Loves Park, Illinois. The god of love took responsibility for what happened with her, Rama, and Laxmana, thereby starting the war. Mini learned of Surpanakha as the name of the bow and arrow thief from three nagini, but it was the cost of being taken to the land of sleep. While the other Pandavas retrieved her soul song, Takshaka attacked them and revealed her gender to them when revealing that he helped her.
| Then there was the little one...
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Meenakshi was a beautiful young adult woman. She had gleaming golden-brown skin that practically shimmered, her shining black hair a mass of dark ringlets studded with small jewels. Her eyes were almond-shaped and tapered to a point, her irises were red like warmed-up cherries drizzled in chocolate. Her canine teeth were a tad longer and sharper than most people's. Meenakshi's red nails were long in a fashionable way and polished to a high gloss. She wore a pair of dark jeans and a long-sleeved golden silk blouse.
However, due to Surpanakha's story not resembling her truth, she began to look more demonic as people imagined her. Her gnarled hands had claws, her eyes had a sallow look with her pupils slitted like a cat, and her skin was paunchy. Surpanakha's lovely hair became wild and brittle, two horns were on her forehead, her skin had turned ashen gray, and her canines were even larger. She is also said to have dragging limbs.
- Shapeshifting: As a Rakshasa, Meenakshi can change her shape to take on any form including humans, demons, and gods.
- The name, Meenakshi, means the one with fish-shaped eyes. It is also another name for the goddess, Parvati. Her name can also be spelt as Mīnakshi, other names included Dīksha and Chandranakha.
- Roshani Chokshi felt pity for Surpanakha instead of anger. She thought she was terribly treated and "her side never got to explored."
- In some versions, Vidyutjihva, Surpanakha's husband, was a Danava, a son of Danu and mortal enemy of the rakshasas. Ravana was furious but his wife, Mandodari, convinced him to accept his sister's wishes.
- Meenakshi's problem with people remembering her story is an example of Flanderization, this is when a trait from a character gradually grows on them until it completely consumes them. It originated from Ned Flanders of the animated sitcom The Simpsons. Originally he was just a causally nicer neighbor than Homer Simpson, but in later episodes he was completely devoted to Christianity.
- Aru Shah and the Song of Death, Ch. 36 & 37
- Aru Shah and the Song of Death, Glossary