Raavana has always epitomized the evil force; the devil who abducts Lord Ram’s wife and then later on goes on at war with Ram. Ram Leela is staged every year in India around the month of October, where people celebrate the triumph of good over evil, of the Hero Ram and the Villain Raavana. We’ve grown up listening to and watching Ramayana, so much so that the traits of the characters have been etched in our minds so profoundly that it takes time for us to understand and entertain different opinions on them.
Raavana is one such character – probably one of the most misunderstood characters of the epic. He was shunned for one evil deed of his, while all his good deeds were overlooked. We burn the effigy of Raavana every year on Dusshera; this time let’s delve a little deeper into his character-
10. Raavana was an astonishing veena player
Raavana had keen interest in music and is known to be an accomplished veena player. In many of his depictions and pictures he can be seen carrying a veena. He was a great musician and is also known to have designed his own string instrument, called the Raavana Veena. He is known to have narrated the very first ragas. Legend has it that Raavana also invented the bow of the violin. Raavana was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and composed the Shiv Tandav, the most valuable work on the praise of Lord Shiva.
9. At many places, he is worshipped as a God
Raavana took over Sri Lanka by force from his step brother Kuber. He wasn’t a cruel leader. In fact, he proved to be the most prominent Sri Lankan king ever. Sri Lanka prospered the most under his reign. Raavana is worshipped at several places in Sri Lanka and India. In Andhra Pradesh, there’s a huge Shiva linga apparently established by Raavana himself. There is a Raavana temple in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh while there’s another one in Alwar, Rajasthan. Daily pooja is performed and bhog is offered by thousands of Brahmins of village Ravangram of Netaran in Madhya Pradesh.
8. He was a loyal devotee of Lord Shiva
Raavana was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva; so much so that he wanted Shiva to relocate from Kailash to Lanka. For this, he attempted to uproot the Kailash Mountain. This angered Lord Shiva and he put one of his feet on the mountain thus crushing Raavana’s finger with his one foot. It is believed that Raavana had to endure this punishment for nine years. Raavana let out a loud roar of pain. At the same time, he was so awestruck by the power and strength of Lord Shiva that his love for Lord Shiva only grew. He performed the Shiva tandava and it is believed that he plucked the nerves of his hand to provide accompanying music. Lord Shiva was so impressed that he gave him the name Raavana- the one with a loud roar.
7. The reason behind his 10 heads
Mythology has survived by the word-of-mouth legends and no concrete proof. On that note, have you ever wondered why Raavana had ten heads? According to some versions of the Ramayana, he did not actually have ten heads; it appeared so because of an illusion that was created by a necklace of nine pearls that Raavana’s mother gifted him.
According to another legend, it is said that to please Shiva, Raavana scythed his own head into pieces, but his devotion made each piece grow into another head.
6. Raavana was aware of his imminent doom
Raavana was a powerful demon who was well aware of his impending doom. Most of the asuras (demons) come to the earth to perform and fulfill certain roles. Raavana was also aware of the fact that he would die at the hands of an avatar of Vishnu, which would help him attain salvation and rid him of his demon form.
5. He is known to be Brahma’s great grandson
Raavana was half Brahmin and half demon. Raavana’s father was the famous sage Visravas, who was a son of Prajapati Pulastya- one of Brahma’s ten mind-born sons. Visravas was the well-learned Brahmin and Raavana’s mother Kaikesi was a demon. Hence, Raavana is known to possess the expertise and knowledge of a Brahmin along with the ferociousness of a demon. Lord Rama praised Raavana as a Mahabrahmin.
4. A brilliant scholar!
Raavana had thorough knowledge of 4 Vedas and 6 Upanishads. He is known as a learned scholar and a great warrior. He was also regarded as the most brilliant demon. He was a master of many sciences and was also known as a physician. He was well versed in Ayurveda and wrote a book on it called Raavana Samhita, which talks about the science behind Ayurveda. He was also the greatest astrologer of his time, knew 64 different kinds of arts and had a critical understanding of the Vedas.
3. Raavana and his airplanes.
That Raavana abducted Sita and took her along in his Pushpak Vimaan is a well known fact. But did you know that Raavana had a number of such airplanes? Yes. Raavana not only had airplanes but also airports to land. There are certain places in Sri Lanka that are still referred to as the airports Raavana used- Weragantota in Mahiyangana, Thotupola Kanda at Horton Plains, Wariyapola in Kurunegala and Gurulupotha in Mahiyangana. Isn’t that cool? Guess Raavana was pretty much ahead of his time.
2. Raavana imparted valuable knowledge to Lakshmana
Raavana was one of the most learned scholars to ever have lived. After an exhausting battle with Lord Rama, when Raavana lay dying, he imparted valuable knowledge to Lakshmana. It was Lord Rama who asked his brother Lakshmana to sit beside Raavana and learn certain valuable lessons from him. On his death bed, Raavana enlightened Lakshmana on a variety of subjects such as politics and astrology. He also advised him to maintain good relations with charioteer, cook, gatekeeper and brothers as these people can harm you the most. Raavana also told Lakshmana never to underestimate one’s enemy.
1. He performed a yagya for Lord Rama
When Lord Rama and his army were to begin constructing the bridge to Lanka, they sought the blessings of Lord Shiva and set up a yagya for the same. Raavana was known to be the most devout worshipper of Lord Shiva and was also a half Brahmin. Hence, he was fit to perform the yagya. It was courageous on Raavana’s part that he actually showed up and performed the yagya for Lord Rama and even gave him his blessings before the commencement of the war.