On the south of India, in the sea lies a beautiful island of which Ravana was the King. At that time the entire Kingdom of Lanka was made of gold. Ravana’s father was Vaishrava, who was the son of sage Putsalya. His mother was Kaikesi. From the first wife of Vaishrava, Kuber was born, who became the Dhanpati, treasurer of the Gods. He was earlier the King of Lanka but Ravana took the golden Lanka from him by force and sat on the throne as king.
Filled with desire, Kekasi once propositioned Sage Vaishrava during the time of evening prayers and lay with him at that auspicious time. Sage Vaishrava said, “You have forced me to co-habit with you at the Sandhya Kaal (evening prayer time) so the sons born will be cruel and mean.” Kaikesi begged him for a least one son who would be pious and spiritual. Vaishrava said, “So be it! One of your sons will be a devotee of God.” Hence Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana were born, of whom Vibhishana was a devout soul.
Ravana’s wife was Maya Danava’s daughter Mandodari, a very pious lady devoted to her husband. Ravana had several valiant sons like Meghnad, Narantaka, Akshaykumar and AhiRavana. Meghnad proved to be stronger and more powerful than Ravana. Once he overpowered Indra in a fight and tied him up. Since then he was also called Indrajeet.
Ravana had ten heads and twenty hands, which he acquired after praying to Lord Shiva. When Ravana walked, the entire earth trembled by the impact of his footsteps.
The son of a sage, Ravana was well versed with the scriptures and had learned the Veda and Vedanga. It was as a result of the curse of an earlier life that he had become a terror. There were two gatekeepers at the main gate of Vaikunth (the abode of Vishnu). They were Jay and Vijay. When the sons of Brahma, Sanaka, Sanandan, Sanatana and Sanakadi went to Vaikunth for a darshan (sighting) of Vishnu. But when they tried to go in, Jay and Vijay blocked their way and insulted them. The four of them laid a curse on Jay-Vijay. As a result of the curse, they were born as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakishpu. In the next life during Tretayuga (one of the four periods the earth goes through each extending for millions of years before creation is destroyed by the great Pralaya (deluge) and started all over again) they were born as Ravana and Kumbhakarna.
Ravana was very ambitious. He along with his brothers undertook a severe penance to propitiate Brahma. Brahma granted a boon to him so Ravana said, “There should be no one in the three words, stronger than me and I should not be killed by any deva, Danava, Gandharva, Yaksha. I have no fear from humans or monkey for they are our food.”
Brahma granted his wish that he would not be killed by any being except humans. Brahma’s boon made Ravana very vain and fearless and he began to create havoc in all three worlds. He won over all the Gods of all directions including Indra. He even subjugated Yama (the God of Death) and made him his slave. The Gods began to flee from heaven and hide in hills and mountains.
The Yagna and the religious rites performed by sages and Rishis on earth provide nourishment to the Gods. When Ravana realized this, he began to banish all such Yagna (sacrifices). The hordes of rakshasas began to harass and torment sages and ascetics, hurting them and even killing them. Piles of bones and skeletons of sages devoured by rakshasas began to collect in forests where sages earlier dwelt in peace and calm. The earth was heavy with the weight of sinners. The gods led by Indra along with Prithvi, the personification of earth, went to Brahma for help. Brahma took them all to Shiva.
Lord Shiva said, “We need Vishnu to solve this problem as his presence is in every particle of creation. Why don’t we pray to him in unison for help.” Responding to their collective plea an akashavani (a celestial announcement) was heard. “Soon I will appear on earth in the form of a human being and kill all rakshasas including Ravana.”
Ayodhya’s King Dashratha had been blessed in an earlier life that God would be born to him as his son. Hence Shri Rama was born to Dashratha and Kaushalya. Bharat , Shatrughna and Lakshman were part incarnation of him.
In the end, Rama killed Ravana in war. Rama declared Vibhishana to be the king of Lanka. After the death of Ravana, the Devas became fearless again and the people on earth were at peace too. And why not? There was the rule of Shri Rama on earth.
Though Ravana was the main “bad” character in the story around which the whole Ramayana is centered, it must be brought to attention, the great powers of Ravana, which he attained through severe penance, which forced God himself to incarnate on the planet earth to annihilate him. Thus Ravana was no means some sort of an evil character. He was a great-learned Pundit (holy man), a great musician, a noted scholar and devotee of Lord Shiva who became arrogant afterwards and thought that no one was greater than him. That was when God had to descend to the earth to teach him a lesson but ultimately Ravana attained salvation because he was slain by God himself.
Ravan – Ramayana Characters