Sage Pulatasya’s descendent; Vaishrava son Kumbhakarna was the younger brother of Ravana. He was older than Vibheeshan. Virochana, the king of Daityas, had his grand daughter Vatrajwala married to him. They had two sons Kumbh and Nikumbh. Kumbakarna was as massive as a mountain and his diet matched his size. He drank thousands of potfulls of liquor and chewed up thousands of animals at every meal. His nostrils were like two twin caverns.
Along with Ravana, Kumbhakarna also prayed at Gokarnkshetra, and was in deep penance to seek a boon from Lord Brahma. He wanted Indrasan (the throne of Indra, the king of Devas). But before granting him his wish, Brahma paused for a while. He may eat up all creatures of the world, he thought and decided to consult Devi (goddess) Saraswati. He asked her to addle his brains for a bit and confuse him. Saraswati made Kumbhakarna confused in his mind for a while. Brahma then asked him to name his boon.
Kumbhakarna asked “I want to sleep for six months and wake up for a day”.
Brahma said, “Tathastu! (So be it!)” Ravana had a huge palace built for Kumbhakarna in which he would lie asleep for months. Kumbhakarna was told by Narad that when Ravana takes Sita away to Lanka, the Rakshasa race will meet its end.
In their earlier lives, Kumbhakarna and Ravana were the gate guards of Vaikunthdham (Vishnu’s abode). Ravana’s name was Jay and Kumbhakarna’s was Vijay. They prevented Sanaka, Brahma’s son from entering Vaikunth. It was as an outcome of the curse he gave them that they were born as Rakshasas (demons). In the earlier life Kumbhakarna was Hiranyaksha who was killed by Vishnu in his Varaha (boar form) avatar (incarnation). Ravana was born as Hiranyakapishu, the father of the child devotee Pralhad and his end was at the hands of Vishnu’s incarnation Narasimha (half-lion and half human). In this life, the two were born as wicked rakshasas who were destined to be killed by Vishnu in the avatar (incarnation) of Rama.
When Ravana brought Sita to Lanka, Kumbhakarna was in deep slumber. To get Sita back, Rama made a setu a (bridge) on the ocean, which he used to cross with his army to Lanka. In the Rama-Ravana battle, all Ravana’s warriors were killed. Ravana then ordered his soldiers to wake Kumbhakarna. Thousands of drums were rolled and beaten near his huge eardrums. Hundreds of elephants walked over his gigantic supine form. Whole armies of soldiers poked him with sharp weapons. It was only with all these efforts that Kumbhakarna woke up.
Ravana narrated to him all the events from taking Sita away to the battle being waged by Rama’s army. Kumbhakarna criticized Ravana’s action of kidnapping Sita. He said Sita is a veritable goddess and Rama an incarnation of Vishnu. According to Narad’s prophesy, the end of our Rakshasa clan is now certain.
However, he said, I will go and fight and meet an auspicious death at Rama’s hand. Kumbhakarna drank up thousand of pots of liquor and ate hundreds of animals as a meal and then walked to the battlefield. As he put each foot down, the earth trembled on his impact. Vibheeshan informed Shri Rama that Kumbhakarna was approaching the battlefield. He went ahead and paid his respect to his elder brother, bowing respectfully before him. He told him how he had been insulted by Ravana and had come to Shri Rama for refuge. Kumbhakarna praised Vibhishana for his decision and then fell upon the battlefield. He caught hold of hundreds of vanaras (monkeys) and began to eat them. Many got trampled under his feet. Some of the monkeys he gobbled, came out and escaped from his huge ears and nose. There was mayhem in Rama’s army. Rama picked up his bow and reassured his people. In a matter of moments, Rama cut off Kumbhakarna’s head and cut his torso into two.
The Gods in heaven sounded drums of joy and the Vanara soldiers whooped with joy crying aloud, “Jai Jai, (victory, victory)!” Having met his end at Shri Rama’s hands made Kumbhakarna gain endless merit in his after life.
Kumbhakaran – Ramayana Characters