Yesterday at work while having lunch Yuram tossed the topic why I have an admiration for a demon king, Ravana. I smiled and replied back, my admiration isn’t for a demon but for the great king, warrior, poet, musician & devotee he was. King Ravana was indeed, as history stipulates, the greatest devotee of Lord Shiva that has ever walked the earth. Yet the evil he became is somewhat associated with his childhood.
Drum beating… The story of King Ravana begins.
Ravana was the son of sage Vishrava (also known as Vesamuni) and demon princess Kaikesi. He was the half-brother of Kubera. Brahmin from birth, Ravana showed exceptional skills and grasped the knowledge of vedas quickly. He grew to be an exemplary scholar and mastered the art of weaponry to be a great warrior King. His upbringing was however shadowed by the hate for demi-gods fuelled by his mother & maternal uncles Maricha and Subahu.
While doing severe penance to Lord Brahma, Ravana chopped his head 10 times. Each time he would cut off his head, it would appear again. After his 10th decapitation Lord Brahma manisfested and granted him the nectar of immortality. This nectar was stored under his navel and he would live as long as the nectar lasted. Ravana was also granted invincibility over the mortals and demi-gods. Lord Brahma restored his 10 severed heads thus bestowing him with immense knowledge and power. That’s how he got the name Dasamukha, meaning ten-headed.
Ravana then proceeded to conquer Lanka, which belonged to Kubera. Under Ravana’s rule Lanka flourished into a great kingdom. Even his peasants had vessels in gold, to this extent Lanka had riches. Ravana was a great poet, composer and musician. He was a maestro of veena (musical instrument) and had its symbol on his flag.
Once Ravana went to have a darshan (meeting) of Lord Shiva on Kailash mountain. He got annoyed when Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva, wouldn’t let him through. To show Nandi his adoration for Lord Shiva and what he is capable of, he attempted to uproot Mount Kailash. Angered by such arrogance of Ravana, Lord Shiva pressed his little toe on the tip of Mount Kailash, thus crushing Ravana beneath it. Out of penitence & regret, Ravana composed the Shiva Tandava Stotra and therefore was able to appease Lord Shiva’s anger.
The Shiva Tandava Stotra is one of the most beautiful hymns I’ve ever heard. I in fact fell in love with it & was mesmerized with the words, the tune … when I was still a kid. Many variations/compositions can be found on YouTube. I had previously posted the lyrics, both in Sanskrit and its translation in the Hindi\Sanskrit section of my blog.
Ravana fell due to his ego & over-confidence that blinded his knowledge. This led him into actions that brought his downfall. Sita upharan (kidnapping of Sita) caused the end of his existence. This Divali when you folks celebrate arrival of Lord Rama from exile … Have a thought on the downfall of this great scholar. We all have demons inside us. At times they grow strong & we indulge into actions that could make us regret later. Let’s learn from the life of Ravana!