Ravana – Valmiki Ramayana Story

RavanaRavana (रावण, Ravan) is the multi-headed Rakshasa the great king of Lanka in Hindu mythology. Ravana is worshipped by Hindus in some parts of India, Sri Lanka and Bali (in Indonesia).

Birth of Ravana

Ravan was born to a great sage Vishrava (son of Pulastya) and daitya princess Kaikesi (daughter of Sumali and Thataka). He was born in the Devagana gotra, as his grandfather, the sage Pulastya, was one of the ten Prajapatis or mind-born sons of Brahma and one of the Saptarishi (Seven Great Sages Rishi) in the first Manvantara.

Kaikesi’s father, Sumali, king of the Daityas, wished her to marry the most powerful being in the mortal world, so as to produce an exceptional heir. He rejected the kings of the world, as they were less powerful than him. Kaikesi searched among the sages and finally chose Vishrava, the father of Kubera. Ravan was thus partly Brahmin and partly Daitya.

Under Vishrava’s guidance, Ravan mastered the Vedas, the holy books, and also the arts and ways of Kshatriyas (warriors). Ravan was also an excellent veena player and the sign of his flag had a picture of veena on it. Sumali, his mother’s father, worked hard in secret to ensure that Ravan retained the ethics of the Daityas (Asura) . Ravan, by birth was a Brahmin and by action, Asura.


Family of Ravana

Ravan had six brothers and two sisters.

  1. Kuber – half-brother of Ravan: they were born to the same father by different mothers ( Devranini),
  2. Vibhishan,
  3. Kumbhakarn.
  4. Khara
  5. Dushana
  6. Ahiravan
  7. Kumbhini
  8. Minakshi (the fish-eyed one) known as Surpanakha.

Ravan was married to Mandodari, the daughter of the celestial architect Maya, Dhanyamalini, and a third wife. He had seven sons from his three wives: Indrajit, Prahasta, Atikaya, Akshayakumara, Devantaka, Narantaka and Trish.


Ravana conducted a tapasya of Shiva lasting many years. He cut off his head ten times as a sacrifice to appease Lord Shiva. Each and every time he chopped his head off a new head arose, thus permitting him to continue his tapasya. Finally, Shiva, pleased with his austerity, appeared and offered him a boon. Ravan demanded immortality, which Shiva declined to provide, but gave him the celestial nectar of immortality which was stored under his navel.

Ravan also asked for supremacy over gods, heavenly spirits, other rakshas, serpents, and wild beasts. Nara (man) and vanara (monkey) were not a part of those blessings. Because of this, Ram, in the form of man, killed Ravan with the help of vanaras. Shiva granted him these boons as well as his 10 severed heads and great strength by way of knowledge of divine weapons and magic. Thus Ravan is known as ‘Dasamukha’.

According to some views, at one stage in his life, Ravan became so powerful and egoistic that he felt he could defeat his benefactor Lord Shiva himself. With that intention he reached Mount Kailash, Shiva’s abode. He became so blind in his ego that he inserted his toes beneath the mountain with the intention of overturning the mountain from its base. Shiva was mighty displeased with Ravan’s misdeeds and put pressure on the mountain top with his foot. Ravan’s toes were stuck under the mountain.

He suffered tremendous pain and could not free his toe. Ravan realized his mistake, started his japas (penance) for years to appease Shiva and continued his japas till Shiv was pleased. Shiv blessed Ravan and gave him his sword Chandrahasa with a caveat that if it was used for unjust causes, it would return to the three eyed one and Ravan’s days would be numbered. Ravan used the sword to kill Jatayu when kidnapping Sita and it disappeared when he used it to kill Jatayu.

Depiction in other Scriptures, as Vishnu’s cursed doorkeeper

In the Bhagavata Purana, Ravana and his brother, Kumbhakarna were said to be reincarnations of Jaya and Vijaya, gatekeepers at Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu and were cursed to be born in Earth for their insolence. These gatekeepers refused entry to the Sanatha Kumara monks, who, because of their powers and austerity appeared as young children. For their insolence, the monks cursed them to be expelled from Vaikuntha and to be born on Earth.

God Vishnu agreed that they should be punished. They were given two choices, that they could be born about 7 times as normal mortals and devotees of Vishnu, or 3 times as powerful and strong people, but as enemies of Vishnu, for which they chose the latter one. Ravan and his brother Kumbhakarna were born to fulfill the curse on the second birth as enemies of Vishnu in the Treta Yuga. The curse of first birth was fulfilled by Hiranyakashipu and his brother Hiranyaksha in Satya Yuga when they were both vanquished by earlier avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu and the curse of third birth was fulfilled by Kangsha and Shishupala in the Dwapar Yuga when they were both vanquished by Lord Krishna.

Ravan was a scholar

Ravan was a scholar of all four Vedas. According to one opinion he took great interest in astrology and knew quite a lot about it. Ravan also authored Ravan Sanhita, a powerful book on the Hindu astrology. Ravan possessed a thorough knowledge of Ayurveda and political science . He probably knew that Ram was actually God Vishnu in the form of Man. After kidnapping Sita, Ravan knew of his imminent death and wished that if he was to die, better to die at the hands of Lord Vishnu and attain Moksha.

Ravana was one of the most learned scholars to have ever lived, Rama asked his brother Lakshmana to sit next to the dying demon-king and learn from him important lessons in statecraft and diplomacy.

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