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Statue of Ravana from 18th century CE
|Nickname(s)||Dashagriva or Dashanana (Ten-headed)|
|Family||Vishrava (father), Kaikesi (mother)|
|Mythic king of Lanka|
Rāvaṇa(//) is the primary antagonist in the Hindu epic Ramayana, where he is depicted as the king of Lanka.[note 1] Rāvaṇa is depicted and described as having ten heads. He is described 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, Rāvaṇa is the antagonist, kidnapping Rama's wife Sita to exact vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister Shurpanakha.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Iconography
- 3 Depiction in the Ramayana
- 4 Depiction in other Scriptures, as Vishnu's cursed doorkeeper
- 5 Ravana's family
- 6 Historicity
- 7 Ravana temples and temples related with Ravana
- 8 Ravana-Dahan (burning effigy of Ravana)
- 9 Ravanahatha
- 10 Influence on Indian culture and art
- 11 Jain version
- 12 Filmography
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
- 15 External links
The word Ravana (Sanskrit: रावन्) means roaring opposite of Vaiśravaṇa meaning "hear distinctly" (passive). Both Ravana and Vaiśravaṇa who is popularly known as Lord Kubera are considered to be patronymics derived as sons of Vishrava.
Ravana is depicted and described as having ten heads. Sometimes he is depicted with only nine heads because he has sacrificed a head to convince Lord Shiva. He is described as a devout follower of the god 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. Ravana possessed a thorough knowledge of Ayurveda 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.
Depiction in the Ramayana
Birth of Ravana
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, 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. Kaikesi's father, Sumali (or Sumalaya), king of the Daityas, 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 was a Daitya or Rakshasa. Ravana later usurped Lanka from his half brother Kubera and became the King of Lanka and became a Kshatriya thereon. Rama had once addressed Ravana as a "Maha Brahman" (Great Brahmam in the context of his education).
His brothers were Vibhishana and Kumbhakarna (some sources mention of another brother called Ahiravan). Through his mother, he was related to the daityas Maricha and Subahu. Kaikesi also gave birth to a daughter, "Chandramukhi" ("girl with moon-like face"), although later she was dubbed the infamous Surpanakha "winnow-like nails".
Father Vishrava noted that while Ravana was aggressive and arrogant, he was also an exemplary scholar. Under Vishrava's tutelage, Ravana mastered the Vedas, the holy books, and also the arts and ways of Kshatriyas (warriors). Ravana was also an excellent veena player and the sign of his flag had a picture of veena on it. Sumali, his maternal grandfather, worked hard in secret to ensure that Ravana retained the ethics of the Daityas.
The Ramayana tells that Ravana had close connections with region of the Yadus, which included Gujarat, parts of Maharashtra and Rajasthan up to Mathura south of Delhi. Ravana is believed to be related to Lavanasura, also regarded as a Rakshasa, of Madhupura (Mathura) in the region of the Surasenas, who was conquered & killed by Shatrughna, youngest brother of Rama.
After worshiping Lord 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 very clear from the references in the Ramayana that Ravana was no commoner among the Humans or Asuras, a great chanter of the Sama Veda.
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 10 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 10th decapitation and offered him a boon. Ravana asked for immortality, which Brahma refused to give, but gave him the celestial nectar of immortality. The nectar of immortality, stored under his navel, dictated that he could not be vanquished for as long as it lasted.
Ravana also asked for absolute invulnerability from and supremacy over gods, heavenly spirits, other rakshas, 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 10 severed heads and great strength by way of knowledge of divine weapons and magic. Thus Ravana known as 'Dasamukha' or 'Dashaanan' (Dasa - ten, mukha/anan - face).
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.
Devotee of Lord 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 Lord 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.
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.
Lord Vishnu agreed that they should be punished. They were given two choices, that they could be born 7 times as normal mortals and devotees of Vishnu, or 3 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.
This section deals with many members of Ravana's family. Since they are hardly mentioned outside the Ramayana, not much can be said about them. They are presented here as they are in the Ramayana, which is viewed by some as being only the point of view of Rama devotees, but is the most complete account of the story that is known.
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 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.
- Meghnaad (also known as Indrajit because he defeated Lord Indra), the most powerful son
According to the Uttra Kanda section of Ramayana, the Raksha (also known as Rakshasa) clan were the mythical inhabitants of Sri 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 Lord Vishnu, and then subsequently ruled by King Ravana.
The Raksha vanish from history after the 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 civilization and there is no archaeological evidence suggesting a civilization ruled by King Ravana existed.
There is a huge Shivalinga in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, India. supposedly installed by Ravana himself, with a statue of Ravana near by. Both Shivalinga and Ravana are worshiped by the fishermen community there.
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.
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.
The Dave Brahmins of Mudgal Gotra, Jodhpur/Mandor who were originally from Gujarat, India claim to be the descendants of Ravana. The say that since time immemorial they are performing the shraddh (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.
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)
This ancient instrument is said to have belonged to a sovereign in present-day India 5000 BC. It also replicates the ancient instrument called Ravan Hatta which is found even today in Rajasthan. Mythology credits this creation to the great Sri Lanka King Ravana from Ramayana.
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. The story ushered in the tradition of the next thousand years of massive-scale works in the rich diction of regal courts and Brahminical temples. It has also inspired much secondary literature in various languages, notably the Kambaramayanam by the Tamil poet Kambar of the 13th century, the Telugu-language Molla Ramayana, 14th century Kannada poet Narahari's Torave Ramayan, and 15th century Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha's Krittivasi Ramayan, as well as the 16th century Awadhi version, Ramacharitamanas, written by Tulsidas.
The Ramayana became popular in Southeast Asia during the 8th century and was represented in literature, temple architecture, dance and theatre. Today, dramatic enactments of the story of Ramayana, known as Ramleela, take place all across India and in many places across the globe within the Indian diaspora. The Ramayana has inspired works of film as well, most prominently the North American Seeta Sings the Blues, which tells the story supporting Seeta through song.
Jain accounts vary from the 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.
|Year||TV Series||Channel||Country||Played by|
|1987||Ramayan (TV series)||DD National||India||Arvind Trivedi|
|1997||Jai Hanuman (TV series)||DD National||India||Anil Yadav|
|2002||Vishnu Puran (TV series)||Zee TV and DD National||India||Nimai Bali|
|2003||Ramayan (2003) (TV series)||Zee TV||India||Surinder Paul Singh|
|2006||Raavan (TV series)||Zee TV||India||Paras Arora/Narendra Jha|
|2008||Ramayan (2008 TV series)||NDTV Imagine||India||Akhilendra Mishra|
|2012||Ramayan (2012 TV series)||Zee TV||India||Sachin Tyagi|
|2015||Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman||Sony Entertainment Television||India||Aarya Babbar|
|2015||Siya Ke Ram||Star Plus||India||Karthik Jayaram|
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|Emperor of Lanka||Succeeded by