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Statue of Ravana from 18th century CE
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Ravana is depicted and described as having ten heads and as a follower of Shiva, a great scholar, a capable ruler and a maestro of the veena, but someone who wished to overpower the devas. His ten heads represent his knowledge of the six shastras and the four Vedas. In the Ramayana, Ravana kidnaps Rama's wife Sita to exact vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister Shurpanakha.
Ravana is also worshiped by Hindus in some part of the India, Sri Lanka and Bali (Indonesia.) He is considered to be the most revered devotee of Shiva. Images of Ravana are seen associated with Shiva at some places. He also appears in Buddhist Mahayana text Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, as well as Buddhist Ramayanas and Jatakas, as well as in Jain Ramayanas.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Iconography
- 3 Depiction in the Ramayana
- 4 Depiction in other Scriptures
- 5 Historicity
- 6 Temples related with Ravana
- 7 Ravana-Dahan (burning effigy of Ravana)
- 8 Ravanahatha
- 9 Influence on Indian culture and art
- 10 Alternate Ramayanas
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
The word Rāvaṇa (Sanskrit: रावण) means roaring opposite of Vaiśravaṇa meaning "hear distinctly" (passive). Both Ravana and Vaiśravaṇa, who is popularly known as Kubera, are considered to be patronymics derived as sons of Vishrava.
"Rāvana" was a title taken on later by Dashananda, and it means in Sanskrit, "screamer." (Ravana would sing hymns. Further, "roravana" is Sanskrit for "loud roaring." In Abhinava Gupta's Krama Shaiva scripture, "yāsām rāvanam" is used as an expression to mean people who are truly aware in terms of the materialism of their environment.
Ravana has many other popular names such as Dasis Ravana, Dasis Sakvithi Maha Ravana, Dashaanan, Ravula, Lankeshwar, Lankeshwaran, Ravanaeshwaran, Eela Vendhar.
Ravana is depicted and described as having ten heads, although sometimes he is shown with only nine heads because he has sacrificed a head to convince Shiva. He is described as a devout follower of Shiva, a great scholar, a capable ruler and a maestro of the Veena. Ravana is also depicted as the author of the Ravana Samhita, a book on Hindu astrology and book Arka Prakasham; book on Siddha medicine and treatment . Ravana possessed a thorough knowledge of Siddha and political science. He is said to have possessed the nectar of immortality, which was stored inside his belly, thanks to a celestial boon by Brahma.[page needed]
Depiction in the Ramayana
Ravana was born to a great sage Vishrava (or Vesamuni), and his wife, the daitya princess Kaikeshi. People of Bisrakh village in Uttar Pradesh claim that Bisrakh was named after Vishrava, and Ravana was born there.
Ravana's grandfather on his father's side, the sage Pulastya, was one of the ten Prajapatis or mind-born sons of Brahma and one of the Saptarishi (Seven Great Sages Rishi) in the first Manvantara. His grandfather on his mother's side, Sumali (or Sumalaya), king of the Raksasas, was the son of Sukesha. Sukesa's parents were King Vidyutkesa, who had married Salakantankata (daughter of Sandhya), who had abandoned Sukesha, but by the grace of Shiva he survived. Sumali had wished her to marry the most powerful being in the mortal world, so as to produce an exceptional heir. He rejected the kings of the world, as they were less powerful than him. Kaikesi searched among the sages and finally chose Vishrava, the father of Kubera. Ravana later usurped Lanka from his half-brother Kubera and became the King of Lanka. Rama had once addressed Ravana as a "Maha Brahman" ("Great Brahman" in the context of his education).
After worshiping Shiva on the banks of the Narmada, in the more central Yadu region, Ravana was captured and held under the control of king Kartavirya Arjuna, one of the greatest Yadu kings. It is clear from the references in the Ramayana that Ravana was no commoner among the Humans or Asuras, a great chanter of the Sama Veda.
Ravana's family are hardly mentioned outside the Ramayana, which is viewed by some as being only the point of view of Rama devotees. According to that:
- Ravana's grandfather was Malyavan, who was against the war with Rama.
- Ravana's parents were Vishrava (son of Pulastya) and Kaikesi (daughter of Sumali and Thataka). Kaikesi had two brothers Maricha and Subahu which would effectively make them Ravana's uncles.
- Ravana had six brothers and two sisters:
- Kubera – the King of North direction and the Guardian of Heavenly Wealth. He was an older half-brother of Ravana: they were born to the same father by different mothers.
- Vibhishana – A great follower of Rama and one of the most important characters in the Ramayana. As a minister and brother of Ravana, he spoke the truth without fear and advised Ravana to return the kidnapped Sita and uphold Dharma. Ravana not only rejected this sane advice, but also banished him from his kingdom. Vibhishana sought protection from Rama, which was granted without hesitation.
- Kumbhakarna – One of the most jovial demons in Hindu history. When offered a boon by Brahma, he was tricked into asking for eternal sleep. A horrified Ravana, out of brotherly love, persuaded Brahma to amend the boon. Brahma mitigated the power of the boon by making Kumbhakarna sleep for six months and being awake for rest six months of a year (in some versions, he is awake for one day out of the year). During the war with Rama, Kumbhakarna was untimely awakened from his sleep. He tried to persuade Ravana to open negotiations with Rama and return Sita to him. But he too failed to mend the ways of Ravana. However, bound by a brother's duty, he fought on the side of Ravana and was killed in the battlefield. Before dying he met Vibhishana and blessed him for following path of righteousness.
- Khara – King of Janasthan. He protected the northern kingdom of Lanka in the mainland and his kingdom bordered with the Kosala Kingdom, the kingdom of Rama. He was well known for his superior skills in warfare.he was killed by Rama.
- Dushana – Viceroy of Janasthan.
- Ahiravan – King of the Underworld ruled by the rakshasas by Ravana and the demon king Maya.
- Kumbhini – Older sister of Ravana and the wife of the demon Madhu, King of Mathura, she was the mother of Lavanasura. She was renowned for her beauty and later retired to the sea for penance.
- Surpanakha – The sister of Ravana. She was the ultimate root of the kidnapping of Sita. She was the one who instigated her brothers to wage a war against Rama.
- Ravana was married to Mandodari, the daughter of the celestial architect Maya, Dhanyamalini, and a third wife. He had seven sons from his three wives:
- Meghnaad (also known as Indrajit because he defeated Indra), the most powerful son
- In the Bengali ballad, Meghnad Bodh Kavya by Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Beerbahu is said to be Ravana's son.
Ravana was noted as a scholar and had knowledge of the Vedas. Even the Shaiva Nayanar saints wrote of him as such. Saint Jnana Sambandhar referred to him as, "versed in the Vedas and learning" and in the Tirumarais "Sama vedamore Githa mothia Dasamukan."
Ravana also was a musician and was specialized in both singing and the veena instrument. Saint Appar writes of Ravana in the Tirumarais that the king loved singing the Vedas, "Veda Githangal pada," "Kannalin githam pada," "patthu voi gitam pada," "thuttanai thuttu-thirthu-chuvai-pada-Githam ketta," and "Githakinnaram pada."
Tapasya to Brahma
Following his initial training, Ravana performed an intense penance (or tapasya) to Brahma, lasting several years. During his penance, Ravana chopped off his head ten times as a sacrifice to appease him. Each time he sliced his head off a new head arose, thus enabling him to continue his penance. At last, Brahma, pleased with his austerity, appeared after his tenth decapitation and offered him a boon. Ravana asked for immortality, which Brahma refused to give; in place of this, he asked for absolute invulnerability from and supremacy over gods, heavenly spirits, other rakshasas, serpents, and wild beasts. Contemptuous of mortal men, he did not ask for protection from these. Brahma granted him these boons in addition to his ten severed heads and great strength by way of knowledge of divine weapons and magic. Thus Ravana is also known as Dasamukha or Dashaanan (Dasa being ten, mukha/anan being face). Later, after learning from Ravana's mother (who can see fortune) Ravana's wife Mandodri brings him the nectar of immortality by suffering great hardships.
Devotee of Shiva
Following his conquest of Lanka, Ravana encountered Shiva at his abode in Kailash. Ravana at first went to meet Shiva. Nandi the vehicle of Shiva, refused to let Ravana in. He got annoyed and started teasing Nandi. Nandi in turn got annoyed and cursed Ravana that Lanka would be destroyed by a monkey. To show Nandi his love for Shiva, Ravana attempted to uproot and move the mountain on a whim. Shiva, annoyed by Ravana's arrogance, pressed his littlest toe on Kailash, pinning him firmly and painfully under it. His ganas informed Ravana of whom he had crossed, upon which Ravana became penitent. He plucked his nerves and used them as strings to compose music and sang songs praising Shiva, and is said to have done so for years until Shiva released him from his bondage.
Pleased with his resilience and 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", given to him by Shiva – the earth is said to have quaked at Ravana's cry of pain when the mountain was pinned on him. Ravana in turn became a lifelong devotee of Shiva and is said to have composed the hymn known as Shiva Tandava Stotra.
Shiva had given his sword Chandrahasa with a warning that if it was used for unjust causes, it would return to the three-eyed one and Ravana's days would be numbered. After Ravana had been given the Celestial Nectar of Immortality by Brahma, he went on to please Shiva. He cut his head & put it as sacrifice for pleasing Shiva, but Shiva replaced his head with a new one. This was repeated Nine times, on which Shiva was happy and pleased with Ravana's resilience and devotion.
The devotion to Shiva by Ravana was written about by the Nayanar saints also. "Tham-aratthal pora-thankai kol val padai, Kamarathal Sivan Karatthu Vanginan." It is said that before he aimed him missile, he worshiped Isa (Shiva) in his usual manner and performed puja, "Pusanai-tholil - purinthu-than-Muraimayir-potrum-Isanai-tholuthu." By his austerities and penances for years he obtained boons from Shiva, as longevity, and a broad bright sword, which gave him victory over battles; "mukkodi vannal," "valodu nal avarkku arul seitha." It is believed by some that he made a six-stringed yal instrument, and it was his forte. With it made of his own nerves, he pleased Shiva and won His mercy and grace; "Tham-aratthal pora-thankai kol val padai, Kamarathal Sivan Karatthu Vanginan."
Priestly administrative ministers
One of the most original, which is not found in earlier manuscripts, tells how Ravana orders his court priest Brhaspati (all the gods are his slaves) to read the Chandi stava (mantras of Chandi), that is, the Devi Mahatmya, in order to stave off defeat; if he can recite it. According to the Krttivasa text, Ravana arranged for a peaceful yajna (sacrifice) and to start the recitation of Chandi, Brhaspati was invited. Accordingly Brhaspati recited the same correctly.
King of Lanka
Lanka was an idyllic city, created by the celestial architect Vishwakarma for Shiva and acquired by Kubera, the treasurer of the gods upon advice of his father Visravas. Visrava had asked for Lanka made from gold from Shiva as dakshina for the house warming ceremony he had conducted for Lanka. Kubera had generously shared all that he owned with Ravana and the latter's siblings, who were Kubera's half-brothers and half-sister from his stepmother Kaikesi. However, Ravana demanded Lanka wholly from him, threatening to take it by force. Vishrava, their father, advised Kubera to give it up to him, as Ravana was now undefeatable.
Although Ravana usurped Lanka, he was nevertheless regarded as a benevolent and effective ruler. Lanka flourished under his rule, to the extent that it is said the poorest of houses had vessels of gold to eat and drink off, and hunger was unknown in the kingdom.
Emperor of the Three Worlds
His abilities now truly awe-inspiring, Ravana proceeded on a series of campaigns, conquering humans, celestials and other demons. 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. Ravana defeated Indra and the gods, Surya, Varuna and Yama.
Kubera at one point chastised Ravana for his cruelty and greed, greatly angering him. Proceeding to the heavens, Ravana fought and defeated the devas, singling out his brother for particular humiliation. By force he gained command over the devas, celestials, and the serpent races. At the time of the Ramayana, set several years later, Ravana is shown as dominating all human and divine races – so much so that he can command the sun's rising and setting.
Depiction in other Scriptures
As Vishnu's cursed doorkeeper
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.
Vishnu agreed that they should be punished. They were given two choices, that they could be born seven times as normal mortals and devotees of Vishnu, or three 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 of Vishnu (Hiranyaksha by Varaha and Hiranyakashipu by Narasimha) and the curse of third birth was fulfilled by Dantavakra and Shishupala in the Dwapar Yuga when they both were slain by Krishna, the eighth avatar.
Conflict with other kings and Asuras
Ravana had gotten into a conflict with some other major asuras.
In Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh is where he is said to have fought, but lost, to Sahasrarjuna, and he was tied up.
Ravana had wrestled his cousin Paulastya for the Puspaka car.
In the Ramayana, he had fought Bali the Kishkindha King, but was defeated by him.
He had also fought with the Nivatakavachas, the descendants of Prahlada, but being unable to defeat them, struck an alliance with them.
According to the Uttra Kanda section of Ramayana, the Rakshasa were the demons or evil people in Sri Lanka. They were led by Malyavantha, Sumali and Sukesha of the Rakshasa, who were ousted by the Deva with the help of Vishnu, and then subsequently ruled by King Ravana.
There have been several Buddhist Ramayanas written, and in the Dasaratha Jataka, the Buddha is said to have been Rama in a previous life. Further, even in modern day Vibhishana (the brother of Ravana) is one of the compatriots of the Lankans held in high esteems as a national hero. In the Ramayana, Vibhishana had defected from Ravana's administration to help Rama overthrow the tyrant demon Ravana. Vibhishana since then, up to modern-day has been venerated as one of the four guardians (another being Vishnu) of Lanka.
Buddhist scriptures mention rakshashas, a general term for evil people, including ones in Sri Lanka. In one story, because the island has a huge problem with cannibal rakshasas, the hero Simhala escaped to later return and rid Sri Lanka of the plague of cannibalism. Further, the Buddhist scripture Janavamsa of the 15th century Sri Lanka mentions cannibalism on the island.
Just as there are Brahmins whose origins are associated with Rama, such as the Saryuparins that came into being when Rama reached Ayodhya after slaying Ravana, and the Sanadhs, who recall their acceptance of dakshina from Ramchandra on the victory over Ravana, there are also Brahmins that are associated in origin from Ravana, and these include the Daves (of Mudgal gotra) of Rajasthan, as well as Gujarat's Sachoras, the Kanyakubjas of Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh, and the Brahmins of the Kaumara sub-gotra of the Vasistha gotra. Ravana himself is described in some Ramayanas to have been as Brahmin because he was the son of Rishi Vishrava and grandson of Pulastya. The Indonesian Ramabatara also described Ravana as having been a Brahmin. Ravana described himself to Sita as being of Kashyapa lineage.
The Dave Brahmins of Mudgal gotra, in Jodhpur/Mandor of Rajasthan state who were originally from Gujarat, India claim to be the descendants of Ravana. The say that since time immemorial they are performing the shraddha (death anniversary) of Ravana on Dashehra Day every year. They offer pind daan and take a bath after that ritual. They recently erected a Ravan temple in Jodhpur, India where daily puja is performed.
The Kanyakubja Brahmins of Vidisha district worship Ravana as he is personified as a symbol of prosperity and regarded as a saviour by them, and they claim that Ravana was also a Kanyakubja Brahmin. Thousands of Kanyakubja Brahmins of the village Ravangram of Netaran, in the Vidisha District of Madhya Pradesh, perform daily puja (worship) in the Ravan temple and offer naivedyam / bhog (a ritual of sacrifice to the Gods). Centuries ago King Shiv Shankar built a Ravana temple at Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The Ravana temple is opened once in a year, on Dashehra Day, to perform puja for the welfare of Ravana.
The Sachora Brahmins of Gujarat also claim to descend from Ravana, and have "Ravan" as their surnames sometimes.
A Brahmin gotra descending from Rishi Kaumarayana, which is a sub-section of the Vasistha gotra is identified in lineage from Ravana ("kaumarah ravanah koksah krsnah.")
There is also reference to "Ravani", lineage of Upadhyaya Yasastrata II, who was of the Gautama gotra and was a son of Acharya Vasudatta, and described as "born of Ravani" 
Temples built by Ravana
In Himachal Pradesh
Baijnath is a Shaiva temple in Himachal Pradesh state is also known as Ravankhola (Place of Ravana.)
Many people believe that Baijnath is not where Ravana descended to the earth, and that either the Baidyanath Temple in Jhkarkhand state or Vajinath in Maharashtra state is the actual site.
Two Hemadpanti temples were built by Ravana's demons in Kuntalapur within Maharashtra state.
Murudeshwara is a Shaiva temple in Karnataka state is said by tradition to have been built by Ravana. It lies in the holy beach town in the Bhatkal Taluk of Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka state.
Gunavanteshwar is a Shaiva temple in Karnataka is said by tradition to have been built by Ravana.
Shejjeshwar is a Shaiva temple in Karnataka is said by tradition to have been built by Ravana.
In Andhra Pradesh
Kakinada is a Shaiva temple in Andhra Pradesh containing a huge Shivalinga, supposedly installed by Ravana himself, with a statue of Ravana near by. Both Shivalinga and Ravana are worshiped by the fishermen community there.
Other temples and relevant places
At the altar can also be found the images of Saptamatri (Seven Mothers) flanked by Ganesha and Veerabhadra. The Saptamatri images are said to precede the time of the Pratihara Dynasty (founded in the 6th century AD) and are in fact reminiscent of the images of seven female deities of Harappa – the oldest civilisation in India. In the nearby stepwell, a stone bears a script that resembles the Harappan script.
Koneswaram temple, then-Dakshina Kailasam is a classical-medieval Hindu temple complex in Trincomalee, a Hindu religious pilgrimage centre in Eastern Province, Sri Lanka. This temples is associated with Ravana and his mother. They had worshiped Shiva at the shrine.
Kanniya Hot water spring in Sri Lanka has the history from the King Ravana era. It says that King Ravana stuck the earth with his sword in several spots for his mother's funeral event and several fountains were started on those places. The water was hot and it is now a tourist attraction in Sri Lanka.
Ravana-Dahan (burning effigy of Ravana)
The ancient instrument known as a Ravanahatha is said to have belonged to a sovereign in present-day India around 5000 BC. It replicates the ancient instrument called Ravan Hatta which is found even today in Rajasthan. Mythology credits this creation to Ravana.
The Ravanahatha was played on one string which was 22 inches long encompassing the 3 Octaves. Whereas the Violin encompasses the 3 octaves on 4 strings with a finger board which is 5 1/4 inches long.This 5 1/4 when multiplied by 4 is 21 inches which was the size of the Ravan Hatta. Both are played with a bow.
Influence on Indian culture and art
A Ramleela actor wears the traditional attire of Ravana. One of the most important literary works of ancient India, the Ramayana has had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
Texts attributed to Ravana
There is also texts attributed to Ravana. The Ravan Samhita is an astrological text or scripture narrated by Shiva and written by Ravana.
The Ravanakumara Tantra is a part of the tantric rituals of the Kriyakalagunottara Tantra, and it is an 11th century Sanskrit work for the treatment of children's diseases. It is also known as the Ravanaproktabalacikitsasutra ("Sutra Spoken by Ravana on the Curing of Children's Diseases.")
Ravana appears as the composer of the 16th century C.E. text, Arka Prakasa, which is a dialogue between the king of Lanka and his wife Mandodhari about which herbs and chemicals can be used in a mixture to cure illnesses, such as syphilis
Ravana is also the composer of the 16th century C.E. scriptures Nadi Pariksa and Nadi Vijnana on knowledge about the veins.
Ravana is the composer of the Ravanabhet, a Vedic text on phonetics of the Sanskrit language.
Ravana is also the composer of the Ravaniya, also known as Ravanabaith, text on phonetics of the Telugu language.
"Ravana Lankesvara" is to whom the Prakrta-Kamadhenu grammatical text on the Prakrit language is attributed.
There is also the Samkhya scripture known as the Ravana-bhasya, which is also known as Ravanabhasya, is believed to be written by Ravana.
Ravana is also the name used by a commentator of the Shaiva Rudrapurascharana.
"Ravanacharya" is the scholar who wrote the Padaratna, a commentary on the Rig Veda.
Ravana is the composer of the Shavite scripture, Shiva Tandava Stotram.
Rama is always the protagonist. In Rin-spuns-pa Tibetan Ramayana, it is prophesised that "Ramana" will return as the Buddha incarnation of Vishnu in the Kali Yuga.
The Khamti Ramayana as well describes Rama as a Bodhisattva incarnated to punish demon Ravana.
In the Laotian Buddhist text, Phra Lak Phra Lam, Rama is a Bodhisattva and the embodiment of virtues, while Ravana is a Brahmin ("mahabrahma") son of Virulaha but is highly materialistic.
In the Cambodian Buddhist text, Preah Ream, Buddha is an incarnation of Rama and Ravana is a rakshasa.
In the Lankavatara Sutra, Gautama Buddha pays a visit to Ravana in the demon's layer in Lanka, and in the scripture he is addressed as a "Rakshasas." He is normally identified as a demon.
In the Karandavyuha Sutra, god Yama asks if the visitor in hell (Avalokitesvara) that he hasn't seen yet is a god or a demon, and asks whether he is Vishnu, Mahesvara, or the "rakshasa" ("demon") Ravana.
Jain accounts vary from the traditional Hindu accounts of Ramayana. The incidents are placed at the time of the 20th Tirthankara, Munisuvrata. According to Jain version, both Rama as well as Ravana were devout Jains. Ravana was a Vidyadhara King having magical powers. Also, as per the Jain accounts, Ravana was killed by Lakshmana and not Rama in the end.
In one tribal version, Ravana is described as having been a very cruel monarch that ruled over the whole university and had oppressed the poor people, and so they had prayed to God to kill him.
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