Story of King Ravana from Ramayana – Part 3

Mother Nature has provided an amazing geographical example visible to naked eyes on how the same parent could produce 2-different off-springs. Dead Sea (North) & Sea of Galilee (South), aka the Kineret are the two largest Lakes of Israel which is mentioned in the Bible too. What is noteworthy is that located just 63 miles apart from each other both are Fed by River Jordon. Yet ironically while the highly saline Dead Sea water is not potable & literally dead to macroscopic aquatic organisms such as fish & aquatic plants, etc.(Such examples are one too many & for Kannadigas, the millennium old akka-thangi kola (Sisters pool) at Melukote is the prime example). The charming deep blue Sea of Galilee is not only the major supplier of drinking water to Israel (also used in Jordon & Syria), but also home to great ecosystem, is teaming with different species of fish, birds and lush green vegetation. So what makes them different? The Northern Sea of Galilee is fed from the North & it feeds back the Jordon River to the South. However, Southern (Dead) Sea receive but never flows out & even the tributaries in the east also only flows in!! The Dead is far below the mean sea level & it has no outlet because water flows or moves down wards not upwards.

Indian mythology is full of colorful, flavorful stories linking generations in train of connection about Devas (gods), Asuras (Demons aka Danava, Daithya, Rakshasa), boons, curses, avataras, etc. Often the links are so elaborate, I wonder how could it be but then it supposed to have happened so the links maybe plausible. Showcasing the interplay of the benevolent, not so benevolent & the malevolent forces in nature. The universe is not all milk & honey, but a circle of continual frictions, ongoing challenges; strive for ascendency; as also the mutual tolerance & existence between sets of forces opposing each other in varying degrees.

When we try to understand it, it’s easy to know that there is always a lesson to learn.. even the curses can be a boon or boons could be a curse sometimes like Kumbakarna. And the curses are there for a purpose in the meticulously woven cosmic circle.

I see the combination both of their character (& the rest family of Ravana) in every creature especially the human beings. Why we are born/created in the first place no one knows but nothing happens in the universe without a reason… & in the sophisticated fabric of creation we are all connected in a unique way no matter when, where or in which era we are born. It is said that “You are this universe experiencing itself, very briefly, as a human.” In my life (most of it spent outside India), I have met & worked with scores of good people (coming from different back ground, different religions & different nationalities) enriching my life experience & making me a better human being. That leaves a big question mark.. where are the bad people living?!? Even though I have had few bad experience sometimes… luckily I had the ratio of good people on the upper scale. Come to think of it, Good-Bad or Pious-Evil are the 2-faces of the same coin… one doesn’t exist without the other. It’s just what we nurture becomes prominent. Only thing is absence of good makes one evil & absence of evil magnifies the goodness (law of physics!?) No one stays good or bad or without them all the time except the God, who is called as BrahmaN… that’s the reason even the Devas/Devis & Sages curse when they are angry!!

Finally, just an observation… There is a disturbingly recurrent pattern in terrorist activities recorded in the world that many terrorists turn out to be brothers (it is said that upto 30% share family ties – that’s a reasonable percentage to ponder about!!)? Just a strange thought…. does the Ravana trend of sibling pairing in crime repeating to this day? Did Jaya-Vijaya leave their DNA traces of bad merits to earthling before purifying themselves… I know its crazy… Crime brothers… a perfect tandem pair… an all in the family brain storming secret vault tied with a sacred thread of DNA – with easy communication, security, trust &, sense of purpose & ideological calling.. Wow…  Some interesting pairing of the grim roster includs 19th-century French anarchists, militants in Southeast Asia & the Jewish extremists who assassinated PM Yitzhak Rabin of Israel in 1995, out of 19 hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the US, there were 3-sets of siblings, Chechen (2004) suicide bombers in Russia  were sisters, Boston marathon (2013) bombing, French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris (January 2015) & then the most recent one is the Brussels attacks…

I really enjoyed writing this & hope you all enjoyed reading it. Let me know how did you like it. Thank you.

NOTE:

BrahmaN or AtmaN (what we call as the God), is the Supreme Self & the Ultimate Reality is beyond time, space, causation. {BrahmaN, not to be mistaken with one of the Trimurthis, the Brahma the creator}. BrahmaN is always the knowing subject & is not an object of perception. The eyes cannot perceive Him, the mind cannot reach Him, the gross worldly intellect cannot grasp Him, the speech cannot describe Him. The speech returns back along with the mind, as it is not able to describe Him in adequate terms. The Atman connotes the highest Universal Principle, the Super Soul, all pervading consciousness in whom the entire creation dwells (the animate and inanimate entities and material). BrahmaN manifests everything & cannot be manifested by anything else. BrahmaN has neither name nor form & the attributes are hard to comprehend: is infinite, unlimited, Omni-present, Omni-potent, limitless, self-effulgent, self-luminous, imperishable, unborn, undecaying and undying. BrahmaN is that unheard hearer, that unseen seer, that unthought thinker, that unknown knower, that from which this world has come out, that in which this world exists, that in which it gets dissolved is BrahmaN. The list goes on…..

 

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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.

Story of King Ravana from Ramayana – Part 1

Ravana’s KARMA & reflection in Modern man!?!

In India, Sri Rama (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is seen as a personification of goodness & Ravana as the prime antagonist of the epic Ramayana. Ravana is shown with ten heads & all the ten heads plotting to do bad all the time

So who is Ravana? Ravana was the mighty, controversial King of Lanka & the villain of Ramayana. But there is a lot to learn from his character for us.

It is said that “Humility is a Virtue not a Weakness” & Ravana’s paid a very high price to learn the lesson on humility & his life seems to be conjectural…. His life outlines the reach of KARMA & I am sure when the time comes, we have to settle our scores too. It’s remarkable to learn that even though Devas & Ausars shared the same ancestry how they are different in their thoughts  processes & deeds, like how our own minds & functionality vary from time to time depending upon our culture, mood & circumstance. In a strange reality we are not really very different from both of them & in the process of evolution we have only managed to become more ignorant & egoistic. The main culprit in the mean behaviour in general is the selfish, self-centered, egoistic, greedy, etc, etc., nature of humanity.

Ravana’s story begins much before his birth as Ravana. He & his brother Kumbhakarna were the famous duo Jaya-Vijaya, the devoted Dwara Palakas (gatekeepers) of Vaikunta, heavenly abode of Lord Vishnu. They were very loyal to Lord Vishnu & loved him dearly but they were also proud of their status… it’s no joke to be guarding Maha Vishnu. No one could even see him without their permission!

One day the Kumar brothers {Sanak, Sanandan, Sanatan & Sanat Kumars} went to meet Lord Vishnu. At the beginning of the process of creation, Lord Brahma had created them from his manas (mind) by just a desire & as such they are referred to as his Manasaputras. They were said to be free from negative qualities like Kama, Krodha, Lobh, Moha, Ahankara, etc., (material desires, anger, attachment, lust, pride, etc.,) as well as trigunas (Sato, Rajo, Tamo) of Maya (illusion). Lord Brahma had created them to help him in the process of creation but they chose Brahmacarya (celibacy) & devotion to God over procreation. They also obtained the boon to remain perpetual 5-years old from their father to remain pure & blissful forever. Boon coupled with the strength of their tapa, kept them looking like kids even in their advanced age. They had no attachment to any material possessions & using their spiritual powers, they moved freely around the universe. They were closest to Godly like. Jaya-Vijaya mistook them to be a bunch of pranky kids & not only stopped them but also made fun of them.

Kumar brothers tried to convince them saying they were great devotees of Lord Vishnu & Vishnu is never too busy to see his devotees.  But the gatekeepers were not ready to budge. Knowing what was happening out side, Lord Vishnu took the opportunity to teach them a lesson on humility & created Maya (illusion) & made the Kumaras curse both of them to be born & live as mortals 7-times on Earth. Meantime Lord Vishnu appeared on the scene & the Kumars forgetting everything ran to him with childlike enthusiasm. After a while they departed & then Jaya-Vijaya pleaded with Vishnu to liberate them from the curse.

Lord Vishnu said that words of Kumaras cannot be reverted. However, He could give them 2-options. The first option is to take 7-births on Earth as devotee of Lord Vishnu, while the second is to take 3-births as His enemies & meet death in his hands. After serving either of these sentences, they can re-attain their status at Vaikuntha & be with Him permanently. Jaya-Vijaya were heartbroken & could not bear the thought of staying away from their beloved Lord for 7-lives & chose the 2nd-option to become enemies (those days’ longevity was lengthy too). Moreover, even getting killed by Lord’s hands are also a boon. Thus began their peregrination on earth.

In the first birth as enemies of Lord, they were born in Satya Yuga as brothers Hiraneyaksha & Hiraneyakashyipu, the sons of Diti & Kashyapa rishi. Hiranyaksha was slained by Lord Vishnu after he took the Earth to the bottom of what has been described as the “Cosmic Ocean”. Lord Vishnu in Varaha (boar) Avatara dove into the ocean to lift the Earth, in the bargain slaying Hiranyaksha who was obstructing Him after a battle of over thousand years. His elder brother Hiranyakashipu who was incredibly powerful after a boon & invincible unless several conditions were met, was later slain by the next Avatara as Lord Narasimha (half man-half lion).

The second birth is the story of Ravana & Kumbhakarna, to be killed by Lord Vishnu in the Avatara of Sri Rama & Lakshmana (Ramayana) in Treta Yuga.

Pulastya was the Manasa putra (mind-born son) of Brahma the creator & one of the Sapta-Rishis (7-great Sages). So he had inherited the virtue & learning of Brahma & became a great Sage. Once pleased with the devotion of Rishi Trinbindu’s daughter, Pulastya promised her a son worthy of both their clans & Vishrava (Visravasam) was born. It is not clear if the child was a blessing or they were married. Vishrava was also a renowned Vedic scholar like his father Pulastya. Vishrava was married to Rishi Bhardwaj’s daughter Ilavida (Idavida).

They had a son called Vaishravana (Kubera); who was knowledgeable of the Vedas & equal to Lord Indra in valour. Vishrava told his son that the deserted city of Lanka (on Mount Trikut, off the Southern coast) would be ideal for his residence & established him there. Kubera was of modest demeanor, a well-wisher of the people & many Asura tribes accepted his rule without much opposition. Later he became the Lord of Wealth through a blessing from Brahma after tapasya. Kubera possessed the magnificent Pushpaka-Vimana (the shape-shifting flying craft made of golden flowers, which could travel at the speed of mind). It’s noteworthy that very sophisticated aircrafts were mentioned in Ramayana & man of this epoch is yet to even dream of it!!

Smitten by the glory of Kubera, the Asura leader Sumali (Sumalaya) wanted his daughter Kaikesi (Kaikasi) to marry Sage Vishrava. So that their offspring would be as illustrious as Kubera, & would bring glory & dignity to the entire Asura clan. So Kaikesi became the 2nd wife of Sage Vishrava.

According to Uttara Kand of Ramayana, Sage Vishrava knew that the off-springs by such a match would be bad & unworthy & mentioned it to her. On hearing his words, a sad Kaikesi said: Mahatma, I came not to get such children from a great soul like you. I want a virtuous child & Sage Vishrava told her that the 4th child (Vibhishana) would be born as she desired.

Eventually they had 6-sons {handsome Dashagriva or Dashanana (the ten-faced or the ten-necked) – later came to known as Ravana}, Kumbhakarna, Vibhishana (a scholar, pious – great Rama devout & a minister of Ravana), Khara (King of Janasthan), Dushana (Viceroy of Janasthan), Ahiravan (King of the Underworld), Kumbhini (well known for her beauty was the wife of Madhu, demon King of Mathura) & infamous Surpanakha (she was the root cause of Sita’s kidnapping & instigated her brothers to wage a war against Rama because both him & his brother refused to marry her). Thus by lineage, Ravana was only partly Daitya (through his mother, he was related to Maricha & Subahu).

Ravana seems to be a confused being as he had too many people influencing his upbringing {too many cooks spoil the broth} & his DNA mixture was erotic. Mother Kaikesi was a great devotee of Lord Shiva so was he. He had lots of merits obtained by penance but had quite a few curses(*1) shaping his life too. His father Vishrava noted that while Ravana was aggressive & arrogant, he was also an erudite scholar. Under his tutelage, Ravana mastered the Vedas, scriptures, arts & ways, was well-known Veena player. On the other hand, his maternal grandfather Sumali, kept him close to the ethics of the Daityas. Then there was the pushing to limits of spoken/unspoken words of disparity between the half-brother Kubera… & his wealth, pomp-romp, glory… Golden Pushpaka-Vimana was an eye sore too… Sadly, this conflicting influence by different set of parenting made him a character of Jekyll & Hyde. Often I wonder what kind of parenting does the terrorists & other negative characters must have had?

Except his citizen who loved him dearly for he was a just ruler everyone else was scared of him….. Ravana is said to be an excellent ruler & under him his citizens were happy & prosperous, close to utopia. He had 3-wives & 7-children, & his Pattada-Rani (chief queen) was Mandodari, the daughter of Danava king Mayasura & celestial dancer Hema. Mandodari said to be gorgeous, very pious & virtuous woman.

To read more about the source of Ravana’s powers, his rule, and Ramayana, check out my 2nd article on the series.