Matrudevo Bhava Pitrudevo Bhava
Aachryadevo Bhava Pathakadevo Bhava
Grandson of Brahma Manasa Putra (a son born out of the will of Brahma) Sage Pulastya and son of Sage Vaishravas on the father’s side, grandson of Asura King Sumali and son of Asura Princess Kekasi, Ravana is considered as one of the evilest super villains in Indian scriptures. In fact, there is no other antagonist who comes anywhere close to him in his strength, intelligence, knowledge, military prowess, mastery over scriptures, tantric capabilities and sheer determination to achieve what he sets out to do. I could go on and on about this Brahmanic Asura who to date we burn, to signify the victory of good over evil, the cause for the birth of Lord Ram and Mata Sita into this mortal world.
So, who exactly is Ravana Brahma? The introduction answers this question, but inadequately. At a time when the Asuras were down and out, defeated by the superior strength of the Devas, the Asura King Sumali and his wife Tadaka deduced that to win back lost glory, they needed someone who could equal the Devas in not just might but intelligence and warfare. And to achieve this goal, the Asura Princess Kekasi was pressed into service. Her mission was to find an eligible sage and beget progeny who could be world conquerors. This mission though, came with a catch. Marrying an Arya (one of noble demeanor and conduct) could mean that the children Kekasi begot, would be of a noble and dharmic demeanor too. This could prove counterproductive to Sumali’s strategy. How could this risk be eliminated?
Kekasi had a plan. After searching far and wide, she approached Sage Vaishravas at Asura Sandhya i.e. during twilight requesting him to accept her as his wife. As the son of a Prajapati, it was the sacred duty of Sage Vaishravas to populate the Earth and he was duty bound not to refuse Kekasi’s request. He warned Kekasi though, that his acceptance of her proposal at that time of the day, might lead to them having children with Asuric pravritti or demonic disposition. Kekasi insisted that he accept her request without further delay and so was conceived Ravana. to a Brahman father and an Asura mother.
Ravana was given all the ritualistic and scriptural training that a Brahman is given. Here, it is important to understand what the word Brahman signifies. It signifies a person who is enroute to becoming a Brahma gnani. This is achieved by studying the Vedas, doing certain fire rituals and through Sandhya Vandanam. Like the word ‘Arya’ does not mean a race, but is a title given to person of Noble disposition and conduct, the word Brahman signifies a title bestowed to a person in pursuit of the ultimate knowledge – Brahma Gyana. He who knows Brahm is a Brahman. It does not denote birth into a certain family or caste.
Coming back to Ravana, he was taught the Vedas, Shastras and Puranas by his father along with his 2 brothers and sister. Sage Vaisharvas was preparing Ravana for a life of Penance and Austerities and Ravana earned the title Ravana Brahma being a master in all the Vedas and Shastras and especially gifted in Sama Veda. But Ravana was not satisfied with his satvik life. His mother stoked in him ambitions of conquering the three worlds and Ravana set out along with Kumbakarana and Vibhishana to immerse himself in severe penances to appease Lord Brahma. The Asuras considered Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva as being impartial, while considering Lord Vishnu as their enemy and protector of the Devas. And so, following the precedent of his ancestors Ravana performed the severest austerities to appease Lord Brahma.
Herein, lies the principle difference in Ravana and Rama. This we shall discuss later in the blog. From Lord Brahma, having acquired the boon of being unconquerable by all except man and monkey, Ravana was still not satisfied. He wanted immortality and so, he turned his attention to Lord Shiva. So sincere and so severe was his devotion to Lord Shiva, that he cut off his head 10 times, as each time his head would reappear attached to his body, in his effort to have the Lord appear in front of him.
Indeed, so pleased was the Lord with Ravana’s devotion that he not only gave him the Nectar of immortality (Amrutha) to be held in his naval but also bestowed on him many great weapons. And so, Ravana now became Dashanana, as each of his 10 heads were brought back to life by Lord Shiva. Ravana’s devotion to Lord Shiva increased with time just as his ambition increased too. Slowly but surely Ravana had usurped the City of Gold that his half-brother Kubera had built, called as the Swarna Lanka, conquered the three worlds, held the 9 planets his hostage. Indeed, such was the terror of Ravana, that the breeze in and around his palace was always slow and cool, the ocean surrounding Lanka, became still like a mirror, when Ravana came out to the waters for boating and irrespective of the seasons, all kinds of fruits and flowers bloomed in his Royal Gardens and Orchards.
I mentioned before that there is one principle difference between Rama & Ravana! Both Rama and Ravana are scholars in the Vedas, Shastras and Puranas, both are Arya in their conduct (Ravana, at least till one point in his life) both are great warriors and wise rulers, both are Maestros in music, both could play the Veena or the Lute and were great devotes of Lord Shiva. Ravana composed the Shiva Tanadava stotram extempore, when he tried to lift the Mount Kailash with his bare hands and the Lord, touched his toe down on the mountain gently to crush Ravana’s hands and arrogance. Writhing in pain, his hands crushed under the mighty Mount Kailash, blood streaming through his eyes, as Ravana Brahma sang the stotram, which we know today as Shiva Tandava stotram, the Lord was so moved that he came to him along with Mata Parvati and freed him from his pain and gave him the sword “Chandrahasa”. Please find below a link to Shiva Tandava Stotram
The only and the most crucial difference between Lord Rama and Ravana Brahma is that while Lord Ram won over his Indriyas (senses), Ravana Brahma suppressed his Indriyas. In any given situation, Lord Ram, would not allow the circumstances to affect his thoughts or reactions. In every situation, Lord Ram, would consider only 2 things. 1) what do the Vedas and Dharma Shastras say or 2) what do the Scholars and Teachers say? All his decisions were based on these considerations.
Diametrically opposite to Lord Rama was Ravana Brahma. When he needed to perform Penance to appease Lord Brahma and then Lord Shiva, for the period of his austerities, he suppressed all his desires and ambitions. But once his penance was completed, his suppressed desires and ambitions, awakened within him like a thousand-hooded serpent. His lust for woman and power combined with his arrogance of being undefeatable and unconquerable, became the cause of his downfall and the complete annihilation of his clan. He, who was conceived to take the Asura Clan to great heights, became the cause of their downfall.
As an example, please consider how arrogant Ravana spoke to Lord Brahma when the Creator himself appeared to grant a boon to Ravana. Ravana asks Lord Brahma to grant him immortality, but the Great Creator of the Universe explains, that all material manifestations must come to an end. He goes on to ask Ravana to choose those he wishes to remain undefeated by. We all have heard this story. What Ravana says next, will demonstrate to you, how inferior Human Race was considered in those times. Ravana says that he would like to be undefeated by the Yakshas, Gandharvas, Nagas, Kinneras, Kimpurushas, Devas, Ashta Dikpalas. Upon hearing Ravana’s answer Lord Brahma reminds him that he forgot to mention the Manushyas (humans) and the Vanaras (monkey clan). To this Ravana says that he did not even consider the Manushyas and Vanaras of any capability and that they were not even worthy of his mention.
We must remember that when Ravana asked for this boon, he was just an ascetic, far from being the Conqueror of the three worlds. If his arrogance was so dominant before his conquests had even began, you can imagine his arrogance at the peak of his reign on the three worlds. This is exactly why, despite knowing that he was committing a grave sin, Ravana went after and harassed many women and bore curses of his victims galore. And therefore, Ravana fell. Much before Lord Rama’s arrows had pierced his body, his arrogance and lust was scripting his death for him.
In our next blog, we shall explore one curse that turned into the death sentence for Ravana and another curse that turned into a boon for Mata Sita. We shall also compare the birth of Lord Rama and Mata Sita and find out some intriguing details about Lord Rama’s birth. And then, the stage is set to unravel some amazing details about Mata Sita, as described in the Valmiki Ramayana.
Jai Shri Ram