Remembering Ravan

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]

48 comments on “Remembering Ravan

  1. Happy Dussehra ! 🙂
    n have u heard of this story that Sita is actually the daughter of Ravana !!!???Once my Sanskrit teacher told something like that…Well i dont remember it clearly …Do you know anything about that relation ? :mrgreen:

  2. Awsum research man.. I was also always fascinated by Ravana and how his ego lead to his demise, even though he had so much knowledge and was a shiva worshipper.. great info!

  3. @Allirekha : Same to you. 🙂 Yes, I have heard of this story. It is said that Ravan knew that his first born would be the reason of his death. So when Sita was born, he put her away and later she was found by Janak. I am not sure if this is true or not.
    There is another story which says that Ravan did not actually abducted Sita but Vedavati who was her look alike. Rama was aware that Sita was in trouble and hence he replaces her with Vedavati.
    None of this appears in Ramayan though.

    @Rahul : Same to you. 🙂 And you are welcome!

    @Sakhi : Same to you. 🙂 I have heard of that story. Read my reply to Rekha.

    @Perx : He was a very scholarly and a kind king. Its an apt example of how inspite of having it all, a person can lose everything by one mistake.
    And Happy Dussehra to you too! 🙂

  4. Happy Dussehra man. I know all of these as I used to read this kind of books too. U learnt a lot and will surely helpful to tell ur children 🙂

  5. Sita as Ravan’s daughter??? That would be incest!!

    Anyway bahut badhiya research!! It was nice knowing all these facts about Ravan. Right now fireworks are going on in the field near to my home. Happy Dusshera!!

  6. Ha well…all that is fine and good too…but do we learn from them? I always wonder why Krishna came after Rama…Rama had a single wife,Krishna had hE knows how many! 😛

  7. @Vijaya Bharat : Same to you. Why do you always end up with children and marriage? 😛

    @Reema : No. That is not incest because Ravan didn’t touch Sita. He was also not aware. Its also said that when he came to know the truth, he was completely tormented. God knows how much of this is the truth!
    Thankyou! Same pinch! There is a park near to my house too where all fireworks happen.:) And Happy Dussehra to you too!

    @Vishesh : We learn that its bad to be bad. Don’t you know that? And how does the number of wives related to the sequence of Avataars? 😐

    @Priyank : Yes. Its great reading them at times. 🙂 Other version? What’s that?

  8. Happy Dussehra, Amit. Nice research on Ravana. There used to be a TV serial on Ravana a few months back. I watched a few episodes, your research seems to be in tune with that. Enjoyed reading the post.

  9. A very able and intelligent king. A kind of Scholar of those time.. Well read, knowledgeable and outright smart and witty…

    Out of context, whats with this competition of ‘Best-est Ramlila’ that happens in the capital.. ???

  10. Happy Dussehra ! Very interesting research. Well, Kubera’s son who cursed Ravana is called “Nalakubara”. Ravana also tried to take the “Atma Linga” (Lord Shiva himself) along with him to Lanka. But Lord Vinayaka with the help of Sage Narada foiled Ravana’s plans. The Linga at Gokarna temple (Karnataka) is said to be the Atma Linga. 🙂

  11. @ Amit

    oh okay! but since it is not found in ramayana, i don’t think it would be an authentic version! But one never knows! 🙂

    @ Reems

    Our mythology is full of bigamy, polygamy, premarital sexual relations, extramarital relations and God knows what else! (i didnt mention incest here since i could not remember any incidence, but ek-do toh honge hi!!) 🙂

  12. I often give those desultory folks (those of quickly-jumping-to-stereotype-the-good-and-evil-in-everything types) the example of how Ram exhorted Laxman to kowtow and salute Ravana at his death – for the noble ‘greatness’ in him, however bad he was in perception…

    Reading your post, I feel again isn’t it that the symbolism in Ravana was meant to taught this lesson of the worth of overlooked goodness in things ‘as-it-is’, before veiling it as good/bad…which nevertheless is hard to be realized in the mundane brashness or our times…?

    First time here, hope comments from strangers are allowed here, for a first-time i mean 🙂

  13. that was a good piece of information!..i remember i too used to go to watch ramlila when i was a kid…it was so much fun….though we got to watch it from the last seat 🙂
    but the entire festivity mood was so enrichinf! gawd i really miss those days! 😀

  14. Excellent collection Amit. I have some more things to add.

    Yes allirekha is right. Sita was Ravana’s daughter. When Ravana became very powerful, there was one akashvani in which he was told that his own daughter would result in his death. Mandodari (his wife) got so scared that she put Sita in a pot and burried it in earth. Ravan was told that the daughter died. While in the fields, King Janaka ploughed Sita out….

  15. wow, that is some useful post 🙂

    You reminded me of our failed attempts to resurrect a Ravana…when now am in Mumbai I miss the burning of Ravana’s effigy & Raam Leela as well….

    Happy Dussehra indeed

  16. Wow, this was a very informative article. I knew nothing that you had written about Ravana. Whenever I think of Ravana the only thing that reminds me is : 10 heads is not symmetry at all, I am surprised how he balances his ‘head weight’ and boy it must tough for him to deal with cold, sinus and headaches!

  17. @Pr3rna : Happy Dussehra to you too! Yes, I have seen promos of that serial.

    @Manasa : Thanks. And same to you.

    @Oxy : Yes. Hard to believe but all true! Amazing, isn’t it? And Best-est Ramlila? Never heard of that!!!

    @Manoj : Same to you! Yes, I wanted to add the story of Atma Linga too, but the post was getting very long. And there were a few more interesting stories.

    @Sakhi : Yup, its not in Ramayana. Its more like a folklore.

    @Nita : I love reading such stories. I had a book earlier which had all such stories. God knows where I have misplaced it.
    Same to you!!

    @A : Welcome! And comments are welcome from everyone. Everyone is a stranger for the first time. I think its a matter of perspective. Now in Kalyug, when we look back, we find that Ravana had not done something very bad. We have heard of worst stories of what humans do now a days. But back then it was a big thing I guess.

    @Arpit : Thanks. Yes, I too missed it when I was away from home but now I am getting the feeling when I am back.

    @Su : Thanks. And same to you!

    @Nova : Thanks. Yes, that story is there but it is more like a folklore.

    @Scorpria : Thanks a lot!!! and you are welcome!

    @Smita : Thanks. You did that? How? And same to you!!!

    @Dinesh : Oh! So I am happy that I increased your GK.
    But look at the brighter side. He always have company. 😀

  18. Because I want to see my friends settle happily in thier life ( I am not exceptional too ) and my fellings grown bigger after seeing the westren culture and observing thier lifes 🙂

  19. Your park reminds me of Dusshera at home. Damn, i miss watching Ravan burn. Very interesting facts. Didn’t know that he was Brahma’s great grandson! I must revisit Hindu mythology!

    Happy Dusshera by the way 🙂

  20. @Vijaya Bharat : Oh! Thankyou so much. You are very kind! 😛

    @Arvind : Thanks. Yes, it sounds crazy, but many people say that. 🙂

    @Pandu das : Welcome and Thanks for the link. 🙂

    @Kiran : Thanks. Happy Dussehra to you too. 🙂

    @Manoj : I have done the first one already. Will do the second one soon. 🙂

    @Shivya : Yeah! When you are outside India, you start missing all these things(if you remember the date of the festival). I had to remind my friends in U.K. about Dussehra. They had completely forgotten. 🙂

    @Sindhu : Thanks. 🙂

  21. The way Ravan is portrayed in India is a tad bit distasteful

    Even with all his bad properties, Ravana had some very good properties too and history has been harsh on him
    he has to be looked at with all the flaws and his goodness.

    so i prefer the Balinese Ramayana depiction that stresses on the never ending battle between inner good and evil

  22. @Prax : He is looked upon as the biggest villain of all time but yes, everyone knows that he had some great properties too.
    Balinese Ramayana? Never heard of it. 😦 Will look up in Google. 🙂

  23. I am doing some reseach for a novel i am writing, and i cannot find any info anywhere about the moon blade, that Shiva gave Ravana. I was wondering if any of you guys can help me out?
    It would be greatly appreciated

  24. Hey jo ek baar marta hai usse baar baar maara nahi jata…aap logo ko bhi malum hai ki raavan zinda hai is liye aap unse dar kar unhe har saal marte hai na????

  25. //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. // Through all these stories we teach modern Indian men and women, that the rape victim and not the rapists must bear the punishment for rapes.

    • I agree IHM and there are thousands of such wrong examples propagated through generations. Thank God we are coming out of it and know that it is not required to follow them blindly, that they do not belong to this age.

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