Ravan: The Anti-Hero

450px-Ravana_British_MuseumBACKGROUND: In Indian mythology, there are three main gods, Lord Bramha (The Creator), Lord Vishnu (The Preserver) and Lord Shiva (The Destroyer).  So, whenever there is something evil popping around somewhere on this earth, Lord Vishnu and/or Lord Shiva incarnate as a human and destroy it.

Well this is the story of the first manvantatra ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manvantara but in short it is a huge time and there are probably 4 manvantaras for the entire human race to live through and this one is the last), King Sumalya, king of asuras or devils, wanted to have a someone to carry on the race but he should be exceptionally brilliant at practically everything and easily accepted by the people which the devils were ofcourse not. Now, what to do? He rejected all the kings of the world as they were less powerful than him and his daughter Kaikesi chose Vishrava from the sages who was one of the mind born sons of Lord Bramha (Indians have all sorts of technologies). Thus was born Ravana, a devil in the family of sages, exceptionally brilliant, a master at warfare and most importantly cold and calculating.

In India, he is considered dreadful villain who unleashed mayhem for everyone living on this earth, and to show their displeasure they burn his effigy every year on a day anointed by the lunar calendar. They have all the reasons to do so:jcfftr

  1. He did create a lot of mayhem.
  2. He abducted the wife of the then incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
  3. He was egoistic and arrogant.
  4. He had usurped Lanka (Sri Lanka) from his half brother Kuber, the treasurer of gods.

But nobody ever bothered to go under the skin and ponder upon the strangely distant and hidden part of Ravan, after all he was born in the family of sages. After killing him even Sri Ram had to do a penance as he had killed a sage. And this is what I decided to think about today and here are some unknown facts about the Great Sage

  1. Following his initial training, Ravana performed an intense penance (or tapasya) to Brahma (the Creator God), lasting several years. During his penance, Ravana chopped off his head 10 times as a sacrifice to appease brahma. Each time he sliced his head off a new head arose, thus enabling him to continue his penance. At last, Brahama, pleased with his austerity, appeared after his 10th decapitation and offered him a boon. Ravana asked for immortality, which Brahma refused to give, but gave him the celestial nectar of immortality. The nectar of immortality, stored under his navel, dictated that he could not be vanquished for as long as it lasted.
  2. Pleased with his devotion, Shiva gave to him the divine sword Chandrahas (Chandra-Moon, Has-laugh, literally ‘the laughter of the moon’ but referring to the shape formed by a crescent moon which resembles a smile). It was during this incident that he acquired the name ‘Ravana’, meaning “(He) Of the terrifying roar”. Ravana in turn became a lifelong devotee of Lord Shiva and is said to have composed the hymn known as Shiva Tandava Stotra.jfyufyuru
  3. Ravana had also captured the gods that ruled all the plants and other heavenly bodies like the sun (I have said it earlier, we have gods for everything).
  4. He also defeated the god of time, (something like Kronos of the Greeks).
  5. Conquering the netherworld completely, he left his brother Ahiravana as king. He became supreme overlord of all asuras in the three worlds, making an alliance with the Nivatakavachas and Kalakeyas, two clans he was unable to subdue. Conquering several kingdoms of the human world, he performed the suitable sacrifices and was crowned Emperor.


Another fact that we don’t know is that In the Bhagavata Purana, Ravana and his brother, Kumbhakarna 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 Vaikuntha and to be born on Earth.

God Vishnu agreed that they should be punished. They were given two choices, that they could be born about 7(Seven) times as normal mortals and devotees of Vishnu, or 3 times as powerful and strong people, but as enemies of Vishnu. Eager to be back with the Lord, they choose the latter one. Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna were born to fulfill the curse on the second birth as enemies of Vishnu in the Treta Yuga. The curse of first birth was fulfilled by Hiranyakashipu and his brother Hiranyaksha in Satya Yuga when they were both vanquished by earlier avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu and the curse of third birth was fulfilled by Dantavakra and Shishupala in the Dwapar Yuga when they were slain by Krishna.

Also, he is shown having ten heads as you can even see in the picture, this is just to show the amount of knowledge he had. He had the complete knowledge of the six Shastras as well as his knowledge of the four Vedas, ten Holy Scriptures in all, is by this interpretation considered the inner meaning of the belief that Ravana had ten heads. He even knew that Ram was Narayana (Lord Vishnu) himself, who had come in human form.

There is another fable though just a fable that when Lord Rama wanted to do a Yajna (a small penance) he wanted Ravana to bless the ceremony as he was elder to him and he actually did so.

Moreover, the poor guy lost the battle to Rama because his brother, annoyed with Ravana’s ignorance and arrogance went over to the Lord’s side, told Lord Ram that the key to kill him is in his navel button.

All this ponders me to thing was he really the villain?


3 thoughts on “Ravan: The Anti-Hero

  1. Pingback: The Incarnations | Reason & Existenz

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