With Dussehra and Diwali just crossing our calendars, there couldn’t be a better time to talk about the most ‘famous’ villain of our mythological universe- Raavan. He is popularly be termed as the Rakshas, evil, which is not entirely wrong. But there is so much which is not discussed when it comes to Raavan. Even though this demon king is the prime antagonist character in the epic Ramayana, most of the people are not aware of his background, conquests and scholarly knowledge.
Before we get to know him better, it is important to understand a few concepts. The essence of Indian Mythology is beyond the rudimentary good or evil. After all, we also worship Asuras (Rahu and Ketu) alongside our Gods. Raavan was the much needed villain to balance the Mariyaada Puroshottam timeline in which Ramayana is set. To have a glorified Hero, requires a worthy and capable villain to defeat. Here are a few facts about Raavan which will give you a deeper perspective into the Hindu Mythology.
Raavan was half-Brahmin and half-demon- his father Vishwashrava was a Rishi, while his mother Kaikasi was from the Rakshas’ clan. There are many versions of Ramayana that have been written, and a few of them mention that Raavan and his brother Kumbhakaran were actually Jai and Vijay, the gatekeepers of Lord Vishnu. A turn of events resulted them into getting cursed and being born as enemies of Vishnu’s Avatars for three lives on earth. He knew that he would achieve moksha only after being killed by the hands of a Vishnu avatar. So some might say that he may have brought the war onto himself, since being such a learned and powerful Brahmin, he knew what his end will have for him.
Likewise, if you dig deep enough, many of the events were foreseen in the Ramayana. Raavan performed penance for many years and received the boon from Brahma that no God, Demon, Kinnar or Gandharva may kill him; not realizing that his boon did not cover human beings. Hence it was Ram, as a human, who ultimately slayed him. Also, he had killed King Anaranya of the Ikshawku dynasty to which Lord Ram belonged. While dying King Anaranya had cursed Ravana saying that the son of King Dashartha will eventually kill him. If you read carefully enough through the characters, you see the underlying message- Many things may happen, and they do. But all of them lead to one ultimate ending. This is a very good way to understand how many things happen in our lives.
He was a very scholarly person. Raavan has been known to be well-read in all the scriptures, be the owner of a rich library, and be extremely skilled in yagnas. He even composed the Shiva Tandava Strotam, since he was unmatched in music and dance. Legend has it that when Ram had his Vaanar Sena (army) build the bridge to Lanka, they had to perform a yagna for Lord Shiva’s blessings. And Raavan being a Brahmin and a passionate devotee of Shiva, performed the rites of a purohit. Well, guess some duties run above personal interests.
Ram might have killed Raavan and won from the side of Good over Evil, but when Raavan lived his last breaths, he sent his brother Lakshman to gain knowledge about the art of statecraft and diplomacy from the demon king himself.
Raavan was so powerful, he could interfere with the positioning of the planets. It is said that when his son was born, he instructed Saturn (Shani) to stay in the 11th house, to grant him immortality. Now this, did not really happen since Saturn refused and stood in the 12th house instead. It is said that Raavan then attacked and kept him captive.
There are yet many things that are always missing when we talk about Raavan in today’s time. His kingdom then, spread through today’s Bali and Malaysia! His kingdom was covered in gold, and he also owned the Pushpak Vimaan which was known to travel at the speed of the mind which is just a very fancy mythological way of saying that it was fast. Again, if you take mythology literally it instantly loses its basic intention and meaning.
Every time you look at it, Hindu Mythology has so much to offer to your conscience. And that was its truest intention- to impart provocation of thoughts. That is why it is composed in so many indirect statements, complex poetry and stories that are larger than life. Because if we could learn from the ordinary, we wouldn’t need Gods to do the miracles!