Story of King Ravana from Ramayana – Part 2

Brahma’s promises:

Both Ravana & his brother Kumbhakarana, performed severe penance for thousands of years, seeking power & immortality from Lord Brahma. But Brahma (incidentally their great grandfather) declined to grant the immortality saying only BrahmaN is immortal & whoever is born, has to die & I cannot change that law of nature, for anyone! However, as requested by Ravana, in lieu he gave the alternate boon that no Devas/Devis-heavenly beings-ganas-yakshas-rakshas-snakes-all wild animals cannot kill him & his life would be concentrated at his naabhi (navel) aided by the nectar of Immortality. Also obtained some divine magical weapons too & Brahma exited in a hurry… before the list could go any further!! On the other hand, Kumbakarna made the spelling mistake while asking for boon  as the Devas fearing for their survival, with the help of Godess Sarasvathi (Godess of learning), managed to trick him into saying “Nidrasana instead of Indrasana” (throne of sleep instead of Indra’s throne) ending up sleeping all his life instead of ruling as king of heaven!!

Armed with loads of boons (now a day’s wealth/power plays the role of boon at least in India), Ravana started flexing his muscles in all directions & in all the 3-worlds as he was almost invincible & there was absolutely nothing or no one could stop him. Ravana failed to add humans as he never thought that any human would be capable of killing him. On the tenth day of the battle, Vibhishana advised Sri Rama to strike the arrow on his naval to kill him. Armed with the boon he managed to drive out Kubera & usurped the kingdom of Lanka along with it the prized Pushpaka-vimana too. The celestial architect,  Vishwakarma is supposed to have redesigned the beautiful, idyllic city & built the palace in gold.

The catch 22 weapons: Yama

Ravana is also known as the conqueror of Yama, the Lord of death.. Boons could back fire too… when standing in front of the bhaktas (Devotees), sometimes the Devas & Devis loses their balance & like how a parent does not know how to say no to their offspring, they too involuntarily yield to the whims of their devotees… {For some reason the following episode reminds me of the hit & run cases of Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, etc., etc., rich parents pampering their off springs with expensive cars & the thrill seeking youngster ending up killing someone with speed}. Fearing the fearless Ravana & his atrocities, Lord Indra, the king of heaven asked Sage Narada to find a solution to help him safeguard his crown (olden day UN!… may be better still).

As usual Narada wanted to do something & one day he went to Ravana & suggested that he pick-up a fight with Yama, & defeats him which would make him rather famous. Ravana was not very fond of Narada but the suggestion sounded very lucrative, if he could defect Yama, the Lord of Death then everyone would fear him more.

Yama aka Dharma Raja (King of righteousness) was protector of the Law, judge of the “ultimate court” who decides the path (naraka-swarga or hell-heaven) to each & every soul. The only certainty in a living being is the death. Hence everyone has to meet him one day or the other.

The reason Narada wanted Ravana & Yama to fight was that Lord Brahma had granted Yama an infallible weapon called Kala Danda (time stick). The weapon once fired would kill anybody before it… no matter what boons he had to protect himself. So if at all there is a chance of killing the invincible Ravana it would be through Kala Danda!! {Among all kinds of killers, time is the ultimate because it kills everything Bhagavad Gita 10.33 }.

After sowing the seed of greed in Ravana, Narada quickly went to Yama. As Narada was conveying the unexpected message to a shocked Yama, Ravana already reached there with his army. The army started the fight, creating loss in Yama’s army. Then Ravana & Yama fought for 7-days & night & finally Yama decided to use his Kala-danda. Meantime Brahma came running there… & requested Yama not to use his ultimate weapon. Then Narada understood the situation… what a fix… If Yama fired the weapon, only two things could happen – either Ravana could die or he could survive. If Ravana died, Lord Brahma’s boon to Ravana that he could not be destroyed by any Deva, would become false! (Like modern day politicians!) If Ravana survived, his boon to Yama’s Kala-danda as the ultimate weapon of destruction, would become false! Sage Narada shook his head wondering why his father made such rash promises & expected others to keep it up for him. Meantime, Brahma created an illusion & made everything look like a dream… while Yama disappeared, Ravana went home happily for winning the war!!

The trigger of the Ramayana:

Ravana abducted Sita disguised himself as a mendicant seeking alms while his uncle Maricha guised as golden deer lead Rama & Lakshma away from her. Abduction became the cause of his death & liberation from his second life on earth. The reason for the abduction is not clear as only he could answer – if it was his lust or was he in love with Sita or his humiliation that he could not win her hand at Swayamvara? Or was it the insult to his favourite sister by the Rama & his brother Lakshmana (blinded by brotherly love & family honour)? Or simply he wanted to get killed & go back to his gate-keep’s post as soon as possible. Or perhaps it’s the culmination of everything? Ironically even to this day humans react in most of the situation mentioned yeh?

Ravana is portrayed as a womanizer, & it is his obsession of women which brought him a curse resulting in his death. A beautiful Sage-woman Vedavati was performing penance with the intention of winning Lord Vishnu for a husband. When Ravana saw her at her hermitage in the jungle was enchanted by her pious beauty. When she rejected his advances, Ravana proceeded to forcibly take her. Vedavati who was in love with Lord Vishnu could not tolerate it, she created a pyre & let herself be consumed by the fire. However before dying she prophesied that she would return to the mortal world as the cause of his death {as his own daughter – many say that Sita is in fact was his daughter & thus his lusting after his own daughter is one of the reasons for his downfall}. Vedavati is said to be re-born as Sita, thus becoming Lord Vishnu’s (as Rama) wife, & became the cause of mighty Ravana’s conquest & death.

It was puzzling to me as why he never forced himself on Sita & waited for her to consent before he married or force himself on her, which does not fit into the bill of womanizing! But there is also a legend which says: After seeing the beautiful Apsara (celestial dancing girl) Rambha, Ravana tried to molest her who was pleading him to let her go. Incidentally Ramba was betrothed to Kubera’s son Nalakuvara. Ravana was enamoured of her, & her plea of his would be daughter-in-law did not deter him. Nalakuvara then cursed that Ravana’s heads to fall off, if ever he forced himself on any woman. This curse is said to have kept Sita chaste, while she was his captive for nearly a year.

Ravana’s Shiva devotion:

Like all the sons, Ravana was very fond of his mother Kaikesi. One day when he went to meet her, she was at the sea shore worshiping a Shiva Linga made out sand. As a undisputed, mighty & wealthy king, he was sad to see his mother with the Sand Linga & promised her that he would get a very special Linga for her worship from Lord Shiva himself. So, he set out immediately towards Kailasa & tried to go straight to see Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva’s Vahana (vehicle) cum Gate keeper Nandi, blocked his way & refused to let him enter (history repeats in another form!) Already reached the status of invincible, Ravana did not like it & an argument broke out. In the end, angry Ravana tried to dislodge Mount Kailash on which Lord Shiva was meditating. Knowing Ravana’s arrogance, Lord Shiva pressed the mountain with his toe crushing Ravana’s forearms, which made Ravana to let out blood-curling screams in agony, hence to be known as Ravana (one who screams). Again here the process of lesson on humility continues. Stuck under the mountain, Ravana decided to appease Shiva & calm down his anger, pulled out his own nerves with his bare hands, wound them around his toes & used them as strings to play music. He used his own body as a Veena & sung praises of the Lord. In the bargain Ravana became one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shiva, even offering one of his heads & composed the Shiva Tandava Stotram. (A statue of Ravna at Koneswaram temple, Sri Lanka depicts this). Lord Shiva eventually relented &, pleased with his devotion, gave him the Atma Linga (the one found at Gokarna, Karnataka) to be taken to his mother. However, he was deprived of his hard work, through the plots of Devas, once again fearing for their status & the power Ravana would eventually obtain (this time with the help of Lord Ganesha, son of Lord Shiva). Ravna also acquired knowledge of magic & expertise in usage of divine weapons, Chandrahas, a divine sword (with a note of warning that if it were to be used unjustly, it would return as the three-eyed one & destroy him). Ravana has many other names, including Dashaanana, Dashamukha, Ravula, Lankeshwar, Ravaneshwaran, Dasis Ravana, Dasis Sakvithi Maha Ravana, etc., etc.

If Ravana is considered a villain in India, in Sri Lanka he is considered a hero, the Greatest Emperor in Asia. Evidence of His lost Palace & many other sites are found along with artifacts including his mace & even the Ashoka Vana/Vatika where Sita was kept is also exists… some say that the Fortress at Sigiriya Rock (I had the privilege of climbing to the top in 2015) in Matale district near Dambulla belongs to Ravana. Even though it’s in ruins, it’s clearly visible that such a fete is humanly impossible!! Evidences were also found in India, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. whether people believe or not the legend lives on.. bring different perceptions. In the end, all happened for Jaya/Vijaya to come out clean & to teach us a lesson. So the cause & effects are always one behind the other.

Note: The third birth: The third & final was towards the end of the Dwapara Yuga as Shishupala & Dantavakra (an ally of Sri Krishna’s enemy Jarasandha) to be slayed by Lord Krishna along with Balarama (Mahabharata). After which they went back to Vaikuntha. If you are wondering who was guarding the Vaikuntha during their absence?  Well it was me of course!!}

To read more about Ravana, and my unique analogies to modern history, check out my 3rd and final article.

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