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.

 

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Lord Ganesha – Why he has an elephant head and why he’s the first to get a pooja?

Mr.Ganesha… Adhya-Poojita (first to be worshipped), my husband’s favourite whom he lovingly calls our Ganapanna, & whom a Kannadiga householder would have lovingly addressed (him) as Nam-Ganeshaa.. as if talking about a child who has gone out to play & may return any time soon!! An artists’ delight towards imagination… Often woven funny stories around, {even sometime ridiculed by other religious salesmen.. anything for gains/commission I guess}. Yet He somehow somewhere fits in to any mold. It’s a freedom enjoyed by the followers of Sanatana Dharma what is today known as Hinduism. A liberty to perceive the Devas & Devatas as they reckon with.

It is said that when Sage Vyasa wanted to write the Great Epic Mahabharata, the only one who was able to grasp & note the dictation was none other than Mr. Ganesha.  Ganesha is said to have agreed to write only if Vyasa never paused in his recitation & on the other hand, Sage Vyasa agrees on condition that Lord Ganesha takes the time to understand what was said before writing it down! A grandeur beyond human contemplation. In the Indian culture since yore, the scriptures are passed from Guru to Shishya. Indian civilization is the oldest surviving culture & the knowledge is passed from mouth to mouth, a tradition which seems to have started from Ganesha. His teachings seem eternal & fit in best today even more so. So Who is He in reality?

Everyone says he was born out of Mother Parvathi’s palm-dirt (or the turmeric from the body), to guard her bathroom & Lord Shiva cut off his head when not allowed to go inside his own house. Later to calm a furious Parvathi (who challenged to destroy the entire creation itself) & to appease her, He got his head fixed with a baby elephant’s head as the original head could not be located… perhaps rolled down the slopes of Kailash. When Lord Shiva’s Gana (army) went in search of the head they could not locate it. Then Lord Shiva told them to get the head of anybody sleeping with their head to north. The only being sleeping with its head to north was the baby elephant. So is it really factual? An era when they could travel between Lokas (world) & create at will was having a bathroom door or getting a head a problem or impossible task?

When young, everyone (at least 99.5%) loves their life & do not want to lose their head at any cost… So Mothers often recite this tale to discourage youngsters from sleeping with their head to North, which is considered bad as the magnetic field in the north could affect the blood flow to brain in the longer run.

According to scriptures, Mahadeva (highest among the Devas) was the first tribal head who lived in Mount Kailash & was known as Adinath (he has one too many names like Shiva, Vrishabadeva, etc., etc.,). Lord Ganesha (Ganapati, Vinayaka, etc., etc.,) was the eldest son of Adinatha & Parvathy & born as a handsome regular boy. As a son of divine beings, he was very gifted & spiritual. As he grew up his spiritual knowledge grew along with him making him one of the most powerful in terms of spirituality. He was the master of all the Vedas & Upanishads, an erudite of every Vidya in totality. So much so even the Mahadeva himself had accepted his teaching & considered him as his Guru. It’s not an easy task for a father to accept his son as his teacher as it’s a well-known fact that a father is considered as Guru & not son.  Lord Ganesha was an exceptional case & Lord Shiva out of love & respect had said to him, “you will be worshiped even before me always!”. True to that, even to this day Lord Ganesha is the first one who receives the offerings, & worshipped everywhere. And in every Shiva temple for that in every temple there is Lord Ganesha’s idol & everyone offers their obeisance first to him. He is considered as the remover of obstacle, bestower of knowledge & it is believed that if he is happy everything goes smoothly with his grace.

One of his most powerful teaching was that humans & animals should live in harmony otherwise there will be an imbalance in nature. In other words, symbiotic relationship is the Universal secret of Survival. Compassion towards the fellow creature will not only create harmony & peace but will also maintain the balance of nature. For example, if all the insects particularly bees disappear then it’s very unlikely that human race would survive. So even though we humans presume that most of the insects & animals around us are useless & purposeless, we are gravely mistaken. In the play of things, in the very fabric of creation everything is inter-linked & balanced together. Directly or indirectly everything has a role to play. It is something man took too long to understand because of his selfishness & ignorance but now slowly everyone is realizing its truth.

After understanding this reality, to pass on this secret of survival to the future generation, his early followers created the stone statue of Lord Ganesha in the form of man with the head of an animal. They captured the essence in stone idol expecting that in case of disaster like fire or any other calamity, the statue would still remain carrying his eternal message. Guess they under estimated human ability (remember Bamiyan Buddhas??) They also made Mushika (Rat) as his Vahana (vehicle), to represent parity that whether big or small they have a role to play, a dignity & importance of their own & all beings are equal. (We can even consider the same application to gender, wealth, etc., whichever differentiate, as all imparities are human creation). Unfortunately, we have managed to wipe out scores of animals & insects in our journey towards modernization & still continue to do so…

When I think of the animal killings in India, the very culture where this truth was revealed, it astounds me as to how the illusion of proving that they are better than others, draw men mad. In this RAT-race (of what I still don’t understand), we are becoming not just the undisputed predators in the creation but also we will end up ruining our own future.

 

His second most important teaching is that the detachment from Vyamoha*… he says attachment is unhealthy. Attachment even to the God itself will not take you to God because one gets obsessed with the attachment hindering the very purpose of God realisation. For example, we are so attached to our body, family, food, comforts, wealth, etc., etc., we would go to any length to hold on to that attachment even to the extent of committing the heinous crimes. This part of detachment is showcased by his early devotees which are followed even to this day without even knowing the very purpose of it. What it is.. Take a pick!!

Every year after Ganesha Chaturthi, after worshiping Lord Ganesha to one’s heart’s content his idol will be immersed in water body what is called Visarjane. Those days it was made out of simple clay & then immersed in water which had no environmental effect. But now it’s become a fancy… & all sorts of chemical colours, etc., are used. Sadly, even with God we have created our own competition… who spends more money or who creates the biggest or who does it with fanfare. It’s so funny… in the name of progress & competition we are even selling our own souls. If the almighty God & Devas-Devis are so powerful & plentiful, materialistically what would they want from us mortals? Do they really want shelter, food & protection from us? All that they need is for us to live like human beings.. the real crowning glory of creation.

Ganapati literally means leader of all the Ganas (classes of beings ranging from insects, animals & humans to the subtle & celestial beings) & is considered as the destroyer or remover of the darkness created by ignorance & guide us towards ultimate truth. Hope the humanity understands the secret of survival before it is too late.

No wonder he commands love & respect without demand.

{Vyamoha… there is no equivalent in English something like cocktail of lust, whim, desire, etc…)