Ravan. For those of us who have known Ravan through Dussehra celebrations, may know him only as an abductor of Mata Sita who was later slayed by Bhagwan Ram. However, as every thing, place, event and person has both good and bad aspects to them, even Ravan had the two attributes to his character.
Who was Ravan?
According to the following verses in the “Balkaand” of Shri Ramcharitmanas, Bhagwan Shankar narrates this story to Mata Parvati.
जनम एक दुइ कहउँ बखानी। सावधान सुनु सुमति भवानी॥
द्वारपाल हरि के प्रिय दोऊ। जय अरु बिजय जान सब कोऊ॥
I will refer to one or two such births at some length; please listen attentively, O wise Bhavani. Sri Hari had two favourite gate-keepers Jay and Vijay, who are known to everybody.
बिप्र श्राप तें दूनउ भाई। तामस असुर देह तिन्ह पाई॥
कनककसिपु अरु हाटकलोचन। जगत बिदित सुरपति मद मोचन॥
Due to the curse of certain Brahmans (Sanak and his three brothers) both these brothers were born in the accursed species of demons. One of them was known as Hiranyakashipu and the other as Hiranysksh. They became known throughout the universe as the tamers of the pride of Indr (the chief of gods).
बिजई समर बीर बिख्याता। धरि बराह बपु एक निपाता॥
होइ नरहरि दूसर पुनि मारा। जन प्रहलाद सुजस बिस्तारा॥
Both of them were celebrated heroes who came out victorious in battle. The Lord assumed the form of a Boar in order to kill one of the two brothers (viz., Hiranyaksh); while bodying Himself forth as a Man- Lion, He killed the other (Hiranyakashipu) and spread the fair renown of His devotee, Prahlad (Hiranyakashipu’s son).”
भए निसाचर जाइ तेइ महाबीर बलवान।
कुंभकरन रावन सुभट सुर बिजई जग जान॥
“It is these two brothers that were born again as the powerful and most valiant Rakshasas. Ravan and Kumbhakarn, who were great warriors and, as all the world knows, conquered even gods.”
The Good in Ravan
Ravan was the son of Pulastya rishi who was the Manas-putr (mind-born son) of Bhagwan Bharma and had mastered all Vedas in his childhood. He grew up to a great administrator heading the kingdom of Lanka. In his youth, to see his kingdom rise, valorous Ravan instigated the Kings of South India to revolt against King Dashrath (father of Shri Ram) and even defeated him in a battle and almost killed him. Queen Kaikayi, who herself was a warrior, saved King Dashrath’s life, in return of which King Dashrath promised to fulfill two wishes of her.
He was such a devout worshipper of Bhagwan Shankar that he went to Kailash Mountain and at the Rakshas tal lake meditate to please Bhagwan Shankar and offered Him his head. Ravan also composed Shiv Tandav Stotram that is sung by all Bhagwan Shankar’s devotees, even in the modern day.
Why is Ravan hated so much?
Ravan, in order to avenge the rejection and humiliation of his sister, Surpanakha, by Shri Ram and Lakshaman, abducted Mata Sita.
Why readers of Ramayan and Ramcharitmanas do not hate Ravan so much?
Readers of Hindu holy scriptures know that those who don’t learn from their minor mistakes, one day God instigates them into committing such an act that is unforgiveable and attracts the highest punishment. When everyone in Ayodhya was preparing for the coronation of Shri Ram, gods, who wanted Ravan to be punished, went to Mata Saraswati and requested her to do something that Shri Ram’s coronation stops and he is sent to the jungle which would later lead to His encounter with Ravan and eventually end Ravan’s life. Following verses from the “Ayodhya Kaand” of Shri Ramcharitmanas describes the event –
तिन्हहि सोहाइ न अवध बधावा। चोरहि चंदिनि राति न भावा॥
सारद बोलि बिनय सुर करहीं। बारहिं बार पाय लै परहीं॥
The rejoicing that was going on in Ayodhya did not please them even as a moonlit night is not liked by a thief. Invoking Sharada the gods supplicated her and laying hold of her feet fell at them again and again.
बिपति हमारि बिलोकि बड़ि मातु करिअ सोइ आजु।
रामु जाहिं बन राजु तजि होइ सकल सुरकाजु॥
“Perceiving our grave calamity, O Mother, manipulate things in such a way today that Shri Ram may retire into the forest, relinquishing His throne, and the object of us immortals may be wholly accomplished.”
नामु मंथरा मंदमति चेरी कैकइ केरि।
अजस पेटारी ताहि करि गई गिरा मति फेरि॥
Now Kaikeyi (Bharat’s mother) had a dull-witted servant-maid, Manthara by name; having perverted her reason and making her a receptacle of ill-repute, the goddess of speech returned to her abode.
And then Manthara instigates Kaikayi to use the two wishes granted to her by King Dashrath and ask for her son’s (Bharat’s) coronation and 14 years of life in a jungle for Shri Ram.
It’s nowhere mentioned explicitly, but there’s a strong possibility that Gods may have tricked Ravan to be blinded with his ego and not listen to advices given to him by his wife, son, brother, father in law and other well-wisshers.
As Ravan had never done any wrong to any woman earlier, he himself wasn’t comfortable abducting Mata Sita. Following verse from the “Aranya Kaand” of Shri Ramcharitmanas explains the state of mind immediately after forcefully boarding Mata Sita on his flying chariot –
क्रोधवंत तब रावन लीन्हिसि रथ बैठाइ।
चला गगनपथ आतुर भयँ रथ हाँकि न जाइ॥
Full of rage, Ravan now seated Her in his chariot and drove through the air in great flurry: he was so much afraid that he was scarcely able to drive.
Here, we need to understand why was Ravan scared? Despite having committed so many atrocities against the sages, his enemies and revolting kings under him, he was so scared that his hands were trembling out of fear. Was he afraid of Shri Ram? Perhaps, that wasn’t the case. Ravan was a great warrior and had the blessings of Bhagwan Shiv. He also knew Shri Ram was the son of King Dashrath, whom he had defeated in a battle, long ago. Perhaps, the reason for his fear was that he was aware that he was committing a crime that was considered the most heinous in the society – abducting a woman.
Ravan could have easily taken Mata Sita to his Palace. But instead he kept Mata Sita in Ashok Vatika (a garden in his kingdom) and instructed the lady guards of the garden to scare Mata Sita and compel Her to accept the marriage proposal from Ravan. After the abduction, Ravan did not even touch Mata Sita’s hands while he had kept Mata Sita in the Ashok Vatika and insisted his wife, Mandodari to give him company whenever he went to Ashok Vatika.
This shows Ravan did not waver from his righteousness towards ladies.
Mata Sita , who was abducted by Ravan was just an image of actual Mata Sita whom Shri Ram had handed over to Angi Dev until his expedition to against Ravan completed. Read about the event in this blog.
Why did Ravan push himself to a place where the Gods wanted him to be killed?
Perhaps, because of the following reasons –
- He was cursed by Sanak rishi and his three brother to meet this fate in multiple births as demons
- He had used unfair means like instigating others for a rebellion to benefit his own clan and subjects
- He was cruel to Sages who meditated in the jungles and often obstructed their meditation and worship
- He had emerged as a strong challenger to the Gods, especially God Indr.
What behaviors should one learn from Ravan’s life?
It’s great to take a learning from every event and person, without being judgmental. From Ravan’s life we must learn to be a great worshipper of God, righteous, a learned person, a great warrior, protector and nurturer towards our dependents.
How to avoid having a fate like Ravan?
We must keep our egos in check, and balance it with self-respect, wherever required. We must, under all circumstances, be very cautious towards our deeds, especially of the ones that can or potentially can harm others. In case we identify such mistakes, we must boldly accept our faults and quickly rectify the misdeeds. If not done quickly, the smaller misdeeds will one day lead us to a bigger misdeed and subsequently lead us a place from where there’s no return but to face our destruction.
I have many more blogs planned that will potentially help everyone understand the good learnings from Shri Ram’s life in simple language. I am hoping to publish them soon. Until then, if it interests you, you may read Ramcharitmanas in Hindi and English on the Mere Vishnu app. You may download the Android app from this link – https://t.ly/mvsn or scan the QR code in the following picture.