Monday, May 7, 2012

Ravana's Other Side by Alankrita Daya

Group 3 [Age 12-15 yrs]
Alankrita Dayal- Fremont, CA
Age: 15 yrs
Ravana’s Other Side
A major Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana is regarded as a scripture of the allegorical lessons in righteous living integral to the many Hindus from the Indian subcontinent and beyond. The Ramayana is a story about the Ayodhya Prince Rama, who defeats the Lanka King Ravana to free his kidnapped wife, Sita, with the aid of an army of sophisticated and knowledgeable monkeys. The most common tradition regards Rama as the god Visnu’s human avatar and Ravana as a monster king of demons. However, Ravana has set an example for future generations as he followed his dharma, or morals, until the very end!
                Ravana mastered sixty-four forms of knowledge ranging from the holy books of Brahmins such as the Vedas to arts and ways of Ksatriyas, including archery. Although he was arrogant and aggressive, his arduous asceticism and austere penances brought him two boons from two of three primary gods. Brahma allowed him to become invulnerable to the wrath of any god/Devas, and Shiva granted him indestructibility from all powers excluding humans in Heaven/Earth. These powers fueled his arrogance and aggressiveness, the result which eventually led to his demise.
                As a brother, Ravana supported his family. He indirectly defended his sister, Soorpnakha, who was insulted by Rama and Lakshmana, in so much as to wage war with full combat. Moreover, Ravana respected Vibhisna’s (his brother’s) decision to join the opposing forces even though he knew that would give a grand advantage to his enemy. Once the battle ensued, Vibhisna helped Rama in many important ways (ex. sending spies to Lanka, educating Rama of the prowess of the demon Prahastha, and destroying many demons in battle). Even so, Ravana didn’t try to prevent him from joining nor imprisoned him for going against his orders—king’s orders.
                Most importantly, Ravana fulfilled his duty as Brahmin to the last bit, which is best exemplified when Rama wanted to install Shiva lingam to win Shiva’s favor when fighting to win against Ravana. With no other priest nearby, Rama accepts Ravana as his guru, leading Ravana to observe all rites meticulously and dutifully chants Rama’s intent in establishing the lingam in order to slay Ravana, himself, in battle.
                Furthermore, there are many instances where Ravana didn’t fully employ his demonic behavior. For instance, once kidnapped, he never touched Sita because he was never able to get her approval. He never physically/emotionally hurt her like Rama and Lakshmana did to Soorpnakha. Once within Lanka, he had all the power to easily have taken advantage of her. Instead, already knowing that Sita was renowned for being the most dharmic woman on the earth, which also meant that she would be the last woman to give approval for his touch, Ravana gave her time to mourn in hopes of changing her decision. He also employed her with many servants and varieties of foods and distractions in the setting of the beautiful garden, Ashoka Vatika, because he respected Sita’s refusal to stay at his palace. Some would say that Ravana wanted to win her favor by providing all such commodities but one should also note that Ravana did not have the need to win her favor once she was within his territory with no impending threat.
Ravana was a master of maya, illusionary arts.  He presented events before others that never happened. For example, he created a scene in front of Sita that Rama had been killed in battle. This all looked so real that Sita was shocked and fell unconscious; however, even after just great illusory powers, Ravana still didn’t have his way with her. Similarly, another possible route that Ravana could have undertaken was using his shape-shifting capabilities to appear as Rama in front of Sita, and thus winning her love. However, he never made use of such powers. When his primary wife, Madodar, asked him why he didn’t take this action, Ravana explained how Rama had a sacred and divine form, which would not be able to hide Ravana’s real character. He recognized the fact that he was sinful and impure—qualities appropriate for his Rakshasa form. He was only able to take on the form of a sage when he kidnapped Sita because he was a practicing Brahmin as well. Hence, Ravana was also very clever and shrewd.
Ravana had immense powers and possessed many great qualities along with a great sense of arrogance. Ravana had the ability to control is anger and rage. Unlike usual tyrannical monarchs, he didn’t kill disobedient servants but evaluated their past deeds. He was praised by many.  Mandodari recites that Earth shook and stars and sun remained obscured in front of his splendor. Neither Varun Kuber nor Indra had the courage to confront him in battle. He had conquered Death (Yama). His sons and kinsmen possessed immense strength. Moreover, Angad also praised Ravana. When Angad visited Ravana, he appreciated his noble descent of Brahma. Later, Mandodari, on his deathbed, praised Ravana while also condemning him since his arrogance and hostility reduced him to such a plight that none of his sons was alive to lament over his death.
                Finally, also at Ravana’s deathbed, Rama recognizes how great a scholar Ravana is. Ravana enlightens Lakshmana with knowledge and experience attained over his lifetime about being a good king and ruler and waging war effectively. At first, reluctant to believe that Ravana could be a scholar worth listening to, Lakshmana stands at his head and asks Ravana to shed his knowledge upon him, saying that he is obliged to ask by his brother. At this point Ravana has to remind Lakshmana that although Ravana is at a lower position than him in the course of life, he is asked to be a teacher, which should oblige Lakshmana to give his respects by sitting at Ravana’s feet. Lakshmana feels ashamed and follows through his duty as student and is astounded by last minute teachings. Thus, Ravana doesn’t die with malice and grudge but with altruism in shedding knowledge onto inexperienced and young noble Lakshmana.
In fact, people of some equally remote places like Melghat and Dhanora have worshipped Ravana religiously for generations. They consider Ravana as an ardent Shiva devotee and great scholar who mastered all four Vedas and six Shastras, which most likely accounts for Ravana’s depiction of having ten heads or as knowledgeable as ten scholars. More globally, Ravana is known to have written great Sanskrit literature: Tandav Stotram, a poem praising Shiva in such a grand way that it is even in use in worshipping in Hindu temples today, and the Ravan Samhita, a book in narration of Shiva of advanced astrology, which is referenced by astrologers today.
In addition to viewing the Ramayana as a story of the battle between the good and evil, one should focus on morals of the story at hand. A moral that could be gained from the story is that one, such as Ravana, should not be too arrogant or proud of oneself and one’s accomplishments because that can create a sense of false security and hamper judgment. Despite Ravana’s refusal for advice, his loyalty towards his duty as a brother, Brahmin, and king has set an example for future generations!


  1. Amazing! You are truly wonderful!

  2. You should've also mentioned that Ravan was one of the reincarnations of the gatekeeper of Vaikuntha and truely a loyal messenger/servant(दूत) of the Lord Vishu himself( in a sense that Lord Vishnu is hard to attain for any ordinary soul)

    According to Puranas, the gatekeeper( look up in wikipedia for his name) of Vishnu Lok stoped a holy sage from entering into Vaikuntha only because he wasn't wearing a single piece of cloth. The sage cursed the gatekeeper for his rude behaviour that the gatekeeper will have to take three consecutive births to the earth(land of mortals) and will have to get killed in the hands of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu each time if he(gatekeeper) wanted to return back to the lotus feet of the Lord.

    For this reason, Ravan also deliberately wanted a feud with Rama so that He will kill Ravana to ultimately give him moksha. Thus Ravana kidnapped Sita for that reason as well.

    (In those three births, the gatekeeper appeared as Hiranyakasyap, Ravana and Kansa respectively. Each time, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu killed them.

    Please consult the books themselves and the internet for more information about this. )
    Thank you