There is a park across my house where Ramlila happens every year and then on the day of Dussehra, the huge effigy of Ravan stuffed with firecrackers is burnt. On the auspicious day, a huge crowd gathers in the park and on the highest floor of the nearby buildings to be a part of the ritual. Ravan is one character in Ramayan which has always intrigued me. So on this day of Dussehra, I thought of doing some research on the Demon King and stumbled upon many rather unknown facts about him (they were unknown to me at least) which I would like to share with all of you.
- Ravan was the great-grandson of the creator of the universe, Brahma and son of the Brahamana sage Vishrava and younger brother of Kubera(the deity of wealth). His mother, Kaikesi was an asura. Kaikesi’s father Sumali wanted her to marry the most powerful man in the world so that he gets an exceptional heir. He kept on rejecting many kings but in the end Kaikesi chose Vishrava to marry. Ravan was hence half Brahmin and half Asura.
- Ravan’s original name was Dasamukha. Following his conquest of Lanka, Ravana went to appease Lord Shiva at his abode in Kailash. Unknowingly and whimsically Ravana attempted to uproot the mountain Kailash. Shiva was annoyed by Ravana`s adamant nature and pressed his little toe under the mountain and pinned him firmly. Ravana cried out in pain so loudly that whole world shook in earthquake. He started to appease Shiva until Shiva was satisfied and made him free from the bondage. Shiva was so impressed by Ravana`s bravery and devotion that he gifted him a powerful sword known as Chandrahas (moon blade). Ravana became a life long devotee of Lord Shiva. Ravana was famous for his dance worship, which is called `Shiva Tandava Stotra`. Shiva was pleased by his dance and named him as Ravana, which means `one who roars terrifyingly`. More on this – here.
- Ravana also performed an intense penance to Brahma (the creator god), lasting several years. Pleased with him, Brahma offered him a boon. Ravana asked for immortality, which Brahma refused saying everyone has to die someday. Ravana then asked for absolute invulnerability and supremacy before gods and heavenly spirits, other demons, serpents and wild beasts. Contemptuous of mortal men, he did not ask for protection from them(that is why Lord Vishnu incarnated himself as a human in the form of Lord Ram to kill Ravan). Brahma granted him these boons, and additionally great strength by way of knowledge of divine weapons and sorcery.
- Lanka(the city made of gold) was designed by Vishwakarma for Kuber who was Ravan’s brother. Ravan demanded Lanka from him and Vishrava also advised Kuber to hand over the city to Ravan as he was completely undefeatable by now. Lanka florished under Ravan’s rule as he was a very able king.
- Initially Ravan used to force himself upon any woman who rejected his advances. One such incidence was with the sage-woman called Vedavati. Vedavati was performing a yagya to appease Lord Vishnu to marry her when Ravana met her at her hermitage. She, however, rejected his advances. After mocking her dedication to Vishnu and her penance, he attacked her, viciously, by pulling her hair. Her chastity and reputation destroyed, Vedavati immolates herself by building a pyre, while Ravana watched. The second was his encounter with the apsara Rambha, upon whom he forced himself. Rambha was betrothed to Kubera‘s son, but Ravana did not cared. Angered at this, Kubera’s son cursed Ravana that his ten heads would fall off his head if he forced himself upon any woman from that point. This curse is said to have protected Sita’s chastity while she was Ravana’s captive for nearly a year.
- Ravan also acquired the capacity to change his form, and in the Ramayana he is described as having ten heads and twenty arms. He was endowed with the strength of moving the seas and splitting the tops of mountains. Ravana’s body bore all the marks of one who had fought the devas: the thunderbolt of Indra, the tusks of Indra’s elephant Airavata, and the discus of Vishnu had all scarred him.
- In the Bhagavata Purana, Ravana and his brother, Kumbakarna were said to be reincarnations of Jaya and Vijaya, gatekeepers at Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu and were cursed to be born in Earth for their insolence. These gatekeepers refused entry to the Sanatha Kumara monks, who, because of their powers and austerity appeared as young children. For their insolence, the monks cursed them to be expelled from Vaikunta and to be born in Earth. The all-merciful Vishnu agreed that they should be punished but agreed to mitigate their curse. He asked them whether they would want to be undergo seven births as devotees of Vishnu or three births as enemies of the Lord. Since they wanted to get back as soon as possible, they agreed to be born in three births as enemies of God. In the first birth, Jaya and Vijaya were born as Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha. Vishnu incarnated as Varaha and Narasimha and killed them both. In Treta Yuga they were born as Ravana and Kumbhakarna and were killed by Rama. Then in Dwapara yuga, and in their final birth, Jaya and Vijaya they were born as Shishupala and Dantavakra and killed by Sri Krishna. After the end of three births, they returned to Vaikunta.
So that’s all folks. Happy Dussehra to all of you!
[ p.s. I have picked many of the points from Wikipedia and some random searches from Google]