Indian mythology often brings us tales of several wise men and women,
many of who were able rulers and administrators. These men and women
rose to the helm of their lives and careers, creating an indelible
mark in the history and culture of the land. They, however, had just
one small failing, which eventually emerged as the root cause for
their fall from the heights of success to the depths of despair and,
finally, decay. Such is the story of the mighty Ravana; the legendary
ruler of Lanka.
The Ramayana does not speak much about this powerful demon King, who
verily changed the course of the epic itself. While Ravana was born a
rakshasa (asura or demon), he emerged as a genius - a scholar of
repute; a great musician, especially known for his prowess on the
Ravanahatha (a variety of the Veena); and one who successfully ruled
over all the three worlds.
The life story of Ravana is truly inspiring. A devout follower of Lord
Shiva, he was one of the most powerful beings and rulers of all time.
He was known for his wisdom, strength and control over the gods,
demons and human beings alike. He is believed to have ruled over the
city of Lanka for several hundred years, prior to the emergence of the
Yet, the Valmiki Ramayana portrays the demon King in a rather negative
light; as a powerful tyrant, who committed evil deeds and, many a
time, held the gods at ransom. In the classic version of the epic, he
is despised for kidnapping Sita, Rama's wife. This he did, in order to
claim vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana, for them having cut
off his sister, Shoorpanakha's nose.
Let us now delve deep into the story of Ravana and know more about
this powerful ruler's life and times.
Ravana was born to a great sage, named Vishrava (also Vishravas or
Vesamuni) and his wife, Kaikesi, who was a daitya (demon) princess.
Even today, the residents of the Bisrakh village in Uttar Pradesh
claim that their village was named after Vishravas and that Ravana was
actually born there.
The word "Ravana” means "roaring”. It is the opposite of Vaisravana,
which means "to hear clearly”. Both Ravana and Vaisravana (more
popularly known as Kubera, the Treasurer of the Devas) are the sons of
Vishravas. Besides this name, Ravana is also addressed by other names
such as Dasaanana, Ravula, Lankeshwara, Lankeshwaran, Dasis Ravana,
Dasis Sakvithi Maha Ravana, Ravaneshwaran and Eela Vendhar.
Ravana is often portrayed with ten heads. These heads are symbolic of
his vast knowledge - they represent his mastery over the four Vedas
and the six Shastras. He was extremely wise, powerful and ambitious as
well - his major goal was to dominate the devas (gods) and gain full
control over the entire Universe.
He is believed to have been in possession of the Nectar of
Immortality, which he carefully stored within his belly. This was a
boon that he had received from Lord Brahma, the Creator of the
Universe. According to this boon, he could he vanquished only and only
if someone managed to pierce through his belly and destroy the nectar
Ravana prominently features in the Buddhist text, the Lankavatara
Sutra and some other texts of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism
as well. Ravana is believed to be the author of the Ravana Samhita (a
book on Hindu astrology), the Arka Prakasham (a book on Siddha
medicine and treatment) and seven other books on Ayurveda. Besides, he
also wielded completely mastery over Siddha and political science.
Moreover, he is worshipped by Hindus in some parts of India, Sri Lanka
and Bali. Since he was one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shiva, he
is sometimes associated with Shiva in some places.
Javanese and Other Legends
In some Javanese legends, Ravana is portrayed having only nine
heads. That is because he is believed to have sacrificed one head
to display the extent of his devotion toward Lord Shiva. In some
legends of Java, it is believed that Ravana cuts off one of his
heads every year and presents it to Shiva. Each of his heads
represents one type of desire. By cutting one of them and offering
the same to Shiva, he is believed to surrender one of his desires
at the feet of the Lord Mahadeva. Ravana kept doing this every
year, until only one head remained. This was his true head.
Considering this and being pleased with Ravana's devotion, Shiva
finally conceded that he was one of his greatest ever devotees and
showered his grace on the demon king.
In the Thai text, Ramakien, Ravana features as a Yaksa or
rakshasa. His other names in this text include Rapanasur (the
Asura Ravana), Totsapak (One with Ten Faces) and Totsakan (One
with Ten Necks).
Ravana is referred to as Yawana or Datha-giri in their
unofficial national epic, Yama Zatdaw.
In Jainism, the incidents narrated in the epic Ramayana are
believed to have occurred during the time of the 20th Tirthankara
Munisuvrata. According to this version, Rama and Ravana were both
devout Jains. Ravana was a Vidyadhara King, who wielded several
magical powers. Here, as against popular belief, Ravana was killed
by Lakshmana and not by Rama.
Ravana Tries to Appease Shiva
Ravana, though a Rakshasa, was one of the most devout followers of
Lord Shiva. He was also a favorite bhakta (devotee) of Shiva and had
received several boons from the Lord Himself. Ravana, however, was
also highly egoistic and hence, harbored a secret desire to subdue
Shiva. Knowing that this negative streak existed in him, Mahadeva
decided to teach him a lesson.
One day, Ravana decided to go to Shiva's abode, Mount Kailash. The
story goes that Ravana, on the orders of his mother, went to Kailash
to bring the mountain to Sri Lanka. He was unable to cross the
mountain with his pushpaka vimana. Shiva's vehicle, Nandi the Bull,
warned him that he was restricted entry into the region, as Shiva and
his consort, Parvati, were enjoying their time together there.
Shiva with Nandi
on Mount Kailash
Angered by Nandi's attitude, he mocked the bull and decided to take
the mountain by force. He placed his arms and 10 heads under the
mountain and proceeded to lift it. Shiva and Parvati started feeling
the tremors and decided to investigate the cause of the shaking.
Incensed by Ravana's arrogance, Shiva put his toe down on the ground.
This pressure caused the mountain to come down on Ravana, trapping him
beneath it. Only then did Ravana sense the real danger. He started
screaming for help and begged Shiva's forgiveness.
Fully understanding the Supreme power of Shiva, Ravana decided that he
had to appease him somehow, if he wanted to survive. He immediately
started chanting and singing the praises of his Lord. He cut off one
of his heads to make a Veena (musical instrument) out of it. He then
tore out his chest with his own hands; pulled out his tendons and
intestines; made strings out of them; and, connecting it to his head,
used the musical instrument to accompany his melodious singing.
Losing himself in the melody, Shiva, for a moment relented and
released his toe from the ground. In that instant, Ravana scrambled
out from under the mountain. Realizing his great folly, he fell at the
Lord's feet and shed tears of remorse and repentance. Pleased with his
bhakta's transformation, Shiva blessed him and asked him to head back
Evolution of the Ravanahatha
An ancient instrument, Ravanahatha, is said to have evolved from this
story of Ravana playing the Veena. Legend has it that Hanuman picked
up this instrument and brought it back to North India, after the end
of the Rama-Ravana war. Incidentally, this instrument is still played
in Rajasthan, India. It is also quite popular in the Middle East and
parts of Europe, where it is known as the Ravanastron.
Portrayal of Ravana in the Ramayana
According to the Ramayana, Ravana, though an Asura (demon), was born
into the Devagana category. His grandfather, sage Pulastya, was one of
the ten Prajapatis or the Manasaputras (mind-born sons) of Brahma -
this technically makes him the great-grandson of Lord Brahma himself.
Sage Pulastya was also one of the Saptarishis or the Seven Great
Sages. Ravana thus came from a very illustrious family. His siblings
included Vibhishana, Kumbakarn and Ahiravana and Kubera was his
Kubera had originally ruled Lanka. But Ravana eventually usurped the
kingdom and ruled over the idyllic, beautiful city for many centuries.
Lanka had been built by Vishwakarma, the Celestial Architect. Ravana
demanded the city from Kubera, threatening to take it by force. Kubera
discussed the matter with Vishravas, who urged him to give in to his
half-brother's demands. Thus, Kubera gave away Lanka to Ravana and
went off to the Himalayas.
Though Ravana seized Lanka, he was a good and benevolent
administrator. His ruled wisely and made sure to keep his subjects
happy at all times. Lanka flourished during his rule. Eventually,
Ravana proceeded to wage war against and conquer human, deva and asura
kingdoms. The Ramayana states that Ravana was killed by Lord Rama when
the latter waged a war to avenge the demon's act of kidnapping his
Ravana's Fall from Grace
Ravana's downfall started with a series of events, right from the time
of Sita's Swayamvara (marriage ceremony). The moment he set his eyes
on the beautiful and radiant damsel that was Sita, he could think of
nothing else. His wife, Mandodari, was a very beautiful woman. Besides
her, he had an entire harem of the world's most attractive women. Yet,
he wanted to make Sita his own.
Sita's father, Janaka, who was the king of Mithila, organized a grand
swayamvara ceremony for his daughter. He invited kings and princes
from far and wide to participate in the ceremony. He placed a mighty
bow inside one of the mandaps and announced that he would give away
his daughter in marriage only to the one who would be able to lift
this bow and string it. This bow was not ordinary - it was blessed by
Lord Shiva himself. Hence, only someone truly special would be able to
fulfill Janaka's condition.
Several of those present tried lifting the bow, but failed. It was
then Ravana's turn. The egoistic demon king was confident that he
would be able to lift it effortlessly. He casually sauntered toward it
and told everyone present that he would be able to lift it with his
left hand. However, he was in for disappointment - the bow refused to
budge. He then tried to lift it with both hands and again failed. This
continued in spite of several attempts. He finally had to accept
defeat and walk back to his place in the audience.
Rama and Lakshmana were also invited to the ceremony. Rama walked up
to the bow, saluted it and then lifted the bow in one easy, fluid
movement. He then strung it with a thunderous twang, after which the
bow broke into two. Sita walked up to Rama and garlanded him with the
Varmala. Their wedding was celebrated with great pomp and show.
Sri Rama Breaking the Bow to Win Sita as
In the meantime, Ravana, who was already bitter about losing the
competition, was also enraged that she wedded Rama. He swore to
himself that he would someday make her his own.
Soorpanakha (literally meaning, "the one with the long nails”), is
another very important negative character in the Valmiki Ramayana. The
sister of Ravana, she also features in Indonesia as Sarpakamaka, in
Khmer as Surpanakhar, in Malaysia as Surapandaki and in Thailand as
In the Ramayana, she is described as being a viroopi (ugly, with
contorted features) - pot-bellied, cross-eyed, with a grating voice
and thinning hair. She saw Rama while he was roaming in the forests of
Panchavati, during his vanavaasa (exile). She was instantly smitten by
his looks and physique and proceeded to make advances on him. She
approached him and expressed her desire to marry him. Rama refused,
saying that he was already married to Sita and had also taken an
ekapatni vrata (the vow to wed only once). He asked her to go to
Lakshmana instead. Though unwilling, she approached Lakshmana and
asked him if he would marry her. He too reacted in a similar fashion
and said that he would never be able to see her as a wife.
Soorpanakha kept beseeching both brothers and they kept refusing her
advances and also made fun of her. Enraged and humiliated, she
proceeded to attack Sita. However, she was stopped by Lakshmana, who
cut off her nose and ordered her to go back to Lanka.
Soorpanakha first went to her brother, Khara and told him about the
incident. He, along with an entire army, tried to attack the princes.
However, they were routed at the hands of Rama and Lakshamana. She
then went to Ravana, asking him to avenge her plight. Angered to see
his favorite sister suffering thus, Ravana decided that he would
abduct Sita to make Rama and Lakshmana realize their folly.
Ravana Abducts Sita
Ravana asked his uncle, Mareecha, to assume the form of a golden deer
and walk up to where Rama and Sita were living, so as to entice her.
Mareecha did as he was told - he took the form of a beautiful and
radiant golden deer. Sita was immediately attracted to the animal and
requested Rama to pursue it and bring it to her. Though he had
misgivings about this, Rama decided to fulfill his wife's desire.
Sita Requests Rama to Fetch
the Illusory Golden Deer
As he pursued the deer, it ran farther and farther into the forest.
When Rama finally caught up with it and shot an arrow at it, the
golden deer called out to Lakshmana, asking for help, in Rama's voice.
Mareecha then took his original form, before succumbing to his injury.
Shocked to hear her husband's voice, Sita ordered Lakshmana to go in
search of her husband. The latter was unwilling to leave her alone
there. However, when Sita insisted that he go help his brother, he
requested her to stay indoors and not come out. Lakshmana then took an
arrow, said a mantra and drew a protective line in the sand, all the
way around the house. He assured her that she would be completely safe
as long as she stayed inside this Lakshmana Rekha (line drawn by
Lakshmana). He then proceeded in search of his brother, Rama.
As soon as Lakshmana departed, Ravana, in the guise of an old Brahmin
sadhu, came to the hermitage, begging for alms. Sita was in a dilemma
- she could never refuse alms and yet, she was ordered to stay within
the Lakshmana Rekha. She asked him to come to her and take the alms,
but he adamantly refused; asking her to come to him instead. He was
well aware that he would not be able to cross the line and so, he
decided to lure Sita out of it.
Sita Crosses the
Eventually, Sita gave in and, crossing the Lakshmana Rekha, offered
the food to him. Ravana immediately took his original form and,
scooping the entire chunk of earth that Sita was standing on, carried
her away in his pushpaka vimana and proceeded to Lanka.
Ravana Abducts Sita
in his Chariot
Once there, he brought her to Ashok Vatika, a beautiful garden with
idyllic surroundings. There, he held her hostage, guarded by several
Rakshasis. Though he desired Sita, he decided not to take her by
force. Instead, he intended to keep her captive till the time that she
changed her mind and was willing to marry him.
Was Sita Ravana's Daughter?
There is yet another interesting angle to this story. Vedavati, a
pious Brahmin woman, was actually a human avatara of Goddess Sri Maha
Lakshmi. In her human manifestation, she always wanted to marry
Vishnu. One day, when she was meditating at the riverbank, Ravana
happened to see her and was instantly smitten by her radiant beauty.
He approached her and tried to violate her. Wanting to escape from
him, Vedavati jumped into a fire pit that had originally been created
for a yagna. Before dying, she cursed him that she would be
responsible for his death in her next birth. Sure enough, in her next
birth, she was born as the daughter of Mandodari and Ravana.
Remembering the curse, Ravana threw the child into the sea. She fell
on the lap of Goddess Varuni, who then took care of her, before
handing her over to Bhoomi Devi (Mother Earth). Bhoomi Devi then kept
her hidden in a casket beneath the earth and King Janaka found her
while ploughing the field.
Though the Valmiki Ramayana makes no mention of Sita being Mandodari's
daughter, some other versions of the epic narrate how Sita, born as
Mandodari's daughter, becomes the cause of Ravana's destruction and
death. According to the Adbhuta Ramayana, Ravana used to store the
blood of the sages that he killed, in a pot. Elsewhere, sage
Gritsamada was in penance to beget Goddess Lakshmi as his daughter. He
stored milk from the Durbha grass in a pot and purified it with
mantras, hoping that Lakshmi would inhabit it. Seeing all this, Ravana
poured this milk into his pot of blood. In the meantime, Mandodari,
who was already frustrated living with the evil Ravana, decided to
commit suicide. She drank from the pot of blood, hoping that it would
kill her. However, instead of dying, she became pregnant with the
incarnation of Lakshmi. Horrified, Mandodari buried the foetus in
Kurukshetra, where King Janaka discovered her later.
There are several more adaptations of the original epic, which mention
Sita as Ravana's and Mandodari's daughter. In all these versions, Sita
is described as Sri Lakshmi's avatara, who came down to Earth with the
mission of destroying the demon King.
Rama Kills Ravana
Rama decided that he would fight Ravana like a warrior, defeat him in
battle and then return to Ayodhya with Sita. The Yuddha Kanda, also
known as the Lanka Kanda, describes in detail the war between the
armies of Rama and Ravana. Rama's Vanarasena helped him build a bridge
to Lanka, using which they crossed over to the borders to that
country. A lengthy war ensued. Ravana's son, Indrajeet, hurled a
powerful astra (weapon) at Lakshmana, which seriously injured the
latter. Hanuman then rushed to Mount Sumeru on the Himalayas, to find
the Sanjeevani herb, which would bring him back to life. Not wanting
to waste time searching for the particular herb, Hanuman lifted the
Sumeru and brought it to Lanka. The herb brought a dying Lakshmana
back to life and the brothers resumed fighting Ravana's army.
Hanuman Lifts Entire Mountain
The war claimed many a life and created much damage on both sides. The
mighty Indrajeet was also killed in the war. Finally, Rama and Ravana
came face to face. Rama kept hurling arrow after arrow at the
Rakshasa, to no avail. They merely brushed past the demon, causing no
Rama grew increasingly anxious. The Gods too, who were watching from
heaven, started growing tense, wondering how to curb the ten-headed
Ravana. The Devas approached Indra, who thought a while. He then sent
his celestial chariot, driven by Matali - he was sure that his
charioteer would help Rama. Rama jumped into the chariot and started
firing more astras at Ravana.
Battle Scene Between Rama
and Ravana From Ramayana
Matali instructed Rama to use the all-powerful Brahmastra - the
ultimate weapon, which would definitely destroy the Ruler of Lanka. He
also reminded Rama that Ravana had to be struck below the navel, in
the location of the Amrit - only then would he be able to kill Ravana.
Rama invoked the Brahmastra, chanted the name of Parvati, Shiva's
consort, and aimed the astra at Ravana's navel. The potent weapon
pierced Ravana's body, making him stumble and fall to his death.
This signaled the end of the war between Rama and Ravana. Dying at the
hands of Lord Rama automatically bestowed Moksha (liberation) upon
Ravana. Hence, he immediately ascended to heaven. He was, after all, a
great scholar and a wise and pious person. Though he had committed
certain sins, it was only because it was his Asura guna that showed up
at that time. Also, he had died fighting valiantly on the battlefield.
Hence, Ravana was given a befitting funeral, receiving all the respect
a true warrior should.
The Gods rejoiced Ravana's death and showered flowers from the
heavens. Rama approached Vibhishana and thanked him for all his help
both before and during the war. He then announced Vibhishana as the
King of Lanka; released Sita from captivity and proceeded back to
Ayodhya along with her, his brother, Hanuman and the rest of his army.
Ten Lesser-Known Facts about Ravana
The Ramayana portrays Ravana in a negative light; as the main
antagonist in the epic. However, the fact remains that he was a great
man, worthy of the highest respect any living could get. Here are
certain interesting, lesser-known facts about the mighty Demon King of
1. Ravana Could Control Sunrise
The demon king was so powerful that, with a mere thought, he could
control sunrise and sunset. During the birth of his son, Meghnad, he
instructed the planets to line up in an auspicious manner, so that he
could be granted the gift of immortality. All the planets agreed to
his order, except Shani (Saturn), who moved to the 12th house. This is
regarded as inauspicious. It angered Ravana so much, that he is
believed to have imprisoned Shani Deva for his impudence.
2. Ravana Got His Name from Shiva
Ravana got his name, much later in life, from Lord Shiva himself. When
the latter tried to crush him under Mount Kailas, Ravana tore open his
own body, made a Veena out of it and sang the Shiva Tandava Stotram (a
hymn in praise of the Cosmic Dance of Shiva). Shiva was so enamored by
the Asura's genius, that he named him Ravana (the one who roars out
3. Ravana Helped Rama Perform a Yagna
Before starting the construction of the Rama Setu, Rama was searching
for a pundit to help him with the pooja ceremony. Since Ravana was the
most learned and qualified pundit in the vicinity, he helped out Rama
at the latter's behest. Ravana suggested the most auspicious time to
commence the battle and even blessed him saying "vijayi bhava” (may
you be victorious). Rama praised the daitya king as a Mahabrahmin and
so, he had to perform the Ashwamedha Yagna to defeat Ravana.
4. Ravana Was Defeated by Bali
Ravana was once defeated and imprisoned by Bali. One day, when Bali
was worshipping Surya Deva (the Sun God) in the morning, Ravana,
filled with pride at getting a varadana (boon) from Shiva, challenged
Bali. The latter tolerated him for some time. When he finally lost
patience, Bali grabbed Ravana, tucked his head under his armpit and
kept him imprisoned there for 6 whole months! He released the demon
king only after he had learnt his lesson.
5. Ravana Had a Weakness Towards Women
Ravana was weak towards women. Once, he made advances towards the wife
of Nalakubera (son of Kubera). The latter cursed him that he would not
be able to touch any woman without her permission to do so. That is
why Ravana could not touch Sita when he abducted her - he had to lift
the entire chunk of earth that she was standing on.
6. Ravana Was Shamed by Mandodari
Ravana had several wives, out of which Mandodari was his favorite. She
was also his Patrani (chief consort). Very beautiful and wise too, she
is one of the five sreshtha naaris or panchakanyas (the most exemplary
wives). When Ravana realized that Rama and his vanarasena (army of
monkeys) had routed his army and that he was the only one alive, he
decided to conduct a yagna to turn the tide. This yagna required him
to stay put in front of the homakunda (sacrificial fire) and not move
from there till it was over. Knowing this, Bali's son, Angada, grabbed
Mandodari and dragged her to him. Ravana saw this, but did not move
from his place. Furious at being humiliated thus, Mandodari screamed
at him and shamed him, saying that while Rama was waging a war to get
his wife back, he (Ravana) was doing nothing to protect her, his
favorite wife. This riled Ravana enough to get up from the yagna to
save her; thus leaving the ceremony incomplete.
7. Ravana Was Aware about His Impending Doom
Being a wise man, an ace astrologer and an equally powerful Asura,
Ravana was well aware about his impending doom at the hands of Rama.
He knew that Rama was an avatar of Vishnu and had come down to Earth
with the sole purpose of vanquishing him. He welcomed the idea of
attaining moksha at the Lotus Feet of the Lord, and hence, played
along with the elaborate cosmic drama.
8. Ravana Imparted Knowledge Even on His Deathbed
Ravana imparted valuable knowledge to Lakshmana, even as he lay dying
on the battlefield. Rama asked the latter to sit beside the dying
Asura and learn from his immense wisdom. In spite of being in terrible
pain, the dying Ravana gave him advice on politics, statecraft and
diplomacy. He related incidents and experiences from his own life and
guided the younger warrior on aspects such as maintaining good
relations with the charioteer, ministers, cooks, gatekeepers and so
on. He also advised Lakshmana never to underestimate enemies; to trust
his minister; and to delve deep into astrology as well. Such was the
demon king's magnanimity.
9. Ravana and Kumbhakarna Were Vishnu's Gatekeepers
The great Asura king and his brother Kumbhakarna were actually
incarnations of Jaya and Vijaya, the Dwarapaalas (Gatekeepers) of Lord
Sri Maha Vishnu himself. They were born on Earth, as a result of a
curse they got from the Four Kumaras (the mind-born sons of Brahma),
for having insulted them. When Jaya and Vijaya realized their folly
and begged for forgiveness, the sages said that they could either
choose 7 lifetimes as human beings, being allies of Vishnu's avataras;
or they could opt for 3 lifetimes as their enemies. The gatekeepers
chose the latter, which is why they were born as Ravana and
Kumbhakarna during one of those lifetimes.
10. Ravana is Worshipped Both in India and Sri Lanka
Ravana is worshipped in a temple in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh. Here,
one can find a huge Shivalinga, supposedly installed by the asura
himself. The fishermen community here worships him, along with Shiva.
There are temples dedicated to Ravana worship in Uttar Pradesh,
Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The Sachora Brahmins of Gujarat claim to
be descendants of Ravana - some of them even have Ravan as their
surname. Ravana is mainly worshipped in Sri Lanka. The Koneswaram
temple in Trincomalee and the Kanniya Hot Water Spring are two main
such sites in that country.
Was Ravana Only a Legend?
Some believe the Ramayana to be merely semi-fiction, based upon the
life of a real king who had ruled over Sri Lanka from 2554 to 2517 BC.
According to Sri Lankan legend, the city made much socio-economic and
scientific advancement during his tenure. This ruler's kingdom was
mostly concentrated around the Eastern and Southern corners of the
country. Eventually, after many years, it is believed to have been
lost to the sea.
Many even insist that Ravana was a Buddhist king, who was mainly
responsible for creating the several monasteries that can be found
even today in Sri Lanka, such as Kuragala and Rahalgala. The entire
nation is filled with locations such as SitaElisa and NumaraElisa -
these are believed to be the places where Sita was held prisoner.
Besides, regions such as the Wariyapola and Horton Plains are believed
to have been the landing sites of his Pushpaka Vimana (flying machine
Rumassala, a mountain peak in the South of Sri Lanka, is considered to
be a part of the Himalayan ranges. This mountain, filled with
medicinal plants, is believed to have been brought to this place by
Hanuman. The latter flew to the Himalayas to procure the Sanjivani
plant to cure Lakshmana of his fatal wounds during the course of the
war between Rama and Ravana. He is then believed to have left the
mountain here after the war ended. This mountain, to date, contains a
variety of medicinal plants and herbs.
Adam's Bridge, a chain of limestone shoals, connects Rameshwaram
Island (in the south eastern coast of Tamil Nadu) to Mannar Island
(off the north western coast of Sri Lanka). This bridge, which is
still in existence, is also connected to the legend of Ravana. Also
known as the Rama-Sethu or Rama's bridge, it is believed to have been
built by the latter's legendary Vanarasena (Army of Monkeys), thus
enabling Rama to cross over to Lanka. Interestingly, investigations
conducted by the Indian National Remote Sensing Agency indicated that
this bridge was manmade and may have been constructed 3500-5000 years
Some Sri Lankan historians, however, disagree with this view.
According to them, this bridge was built by Ravana and was a floating
structure, which connected Sri Lanka to India. They further aver that
the selfsame bridge was used later by Rama to cross over to Lankapura.
Once Rama had entered the boundaries of Lanka, he teamed up with
Vibhishana to overthrow one of the greatest ever rulers; eventually
bringing down one of the most advanced civilizations known to history
at that point in time.
Irrespective of whether Ravana actually existed or not, the fact
remains that the story of this demon King is both fascinating and
awe-inspiring. An expert in the 64 arts; a musician and astrologer par
excellence; a mighty Atimaharathi (warrior who could fight and
vanquish several warriors at a time); a capable ruler and
administrator; an unswerving devotee of Shiva; the one who got his
name from Shiva himself - there are indeed so many things to admire
about this great soul. Yes, his ego came in the way of his progress as
a seeker. Yet, none of us is perfect - all of us have faults; major
In spite of his failings, Ravana was fortunate enough to attain moksha
at the hands of an avatar of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu himself. This point
bears testimony to his true greatness and spiritual power.
This article was written by: Priya Viswanathan, a teacher/performer of Bharata Natyam, Classical Music and Classical Instrumental Veena. A recipient of several awards for both music and dance, Priya is also a freelance writer online. She currently writes for About.com, a subsidiary of the New York Times Company (http://mobiledevices.about.com)