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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 worshipped 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.
The word Rāvaṇa 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.
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 also Arka Prakasham, a 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 Kaikesi. People of Bisrakh village in Uttar Pradesh claim that their village was named after Vishrava and that Ravana was born there.
According to the Uttra Kanda section of Ramayana, the Rakshasa (also known as Raksha) clan were the mythical inhabitants of Lanka who were said to have lived among the Naga, Yakkha and Deva. They were led by Malyavantha, Sumali and Sukesha of the Raksha, who were ousted by the Deva with the help of Vishnu, and then subsequently ruled by Ravana.
The Raksha vanish from history after their mention in the Ramayana, except in Sri Lankan folk stories. European scholars consider the story of Ravana and the Raksha to have been made in historic times, due to the knowledge of Sri Lankan locations mentioned in the stories, and therefore the story is considered not to be based on fact. The Mahavansa also makes no mention of a great Raskha civilisation and there is no archaeological evidence suggesting a civilisation ruled by Ravana existed.
There are some Shaiva temples where Ravana is worshipped. Ravana is considered the most revered devotee of Shiva. The images of Ravana are seen associated with Shiva at some places.
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.
- Identified by many with modern-day Sri Lanka
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