Take the 2-minute tour ×
Hinduism Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for followers of the Hindu religion and those interested in learning more about Hinduism. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Ravana was one of the greatest devotees of Lord Siva. He also worshiped Lord Brahma and two of them had given him enormous powers. Among Trimurthis, only Lord Vishnu punished him as the Lord Rama.

Ravana is considered as a symbol of cruelty. Many people believe that Ravana as a villain who kidnapped Goddess Sita from Lord Rama and killed many people. And at the end of the story Lord Rama killed Ravana and returned to his Kingdom Ayodhya with Sita. But can it be considered as a punishment? It is a rare privilege to be killed by the hands of God, Isn't it?

Was Ravana actually a villain as people believe today or a devotee of Lord Vishnu? What is the actual story behind the scene?

share|improve this question
2  
I'd say both. From my understanding, he was a Brahmana and a devotee of Shiva who used his powers and moved to the side of Adharma. Can compare him with Darth Vader in Star Wars who was initially a good Jedi but used his powers to join he dark side of the Force. –  Bharat Jul 12 at 13:56
1  
@RBK Ravana didn't "turn to the dark side" after originally being good. He was both a religious scholar and a power-hungry enemy of the gods throughout his life. He was doing bad deeds both before and after his interactions with Shiva. –  Keshav Srinivasan Jul 12 at 15:46
    
Yes, true. Same can be same about Anakin Skywalker too. He was a good Jedi at the same time he always exhibited a tendency to succumb to greed and do bad things..until he completely became Darth Vader :) Raavana after tapas to Shiva and winning boons conquered Lanka and that was beginning of his Darth Vader phase. –  Bharat Jul 12 at 16:46
    
@RBK The Tapas was to Brahma, not Shiva. Stuff like taking Lanka (without a fight), fighting Kubera, taking the Pushpaka Vimana, etc. all happened before his interactions with Shiva. So it wasn't a case of someone turning to the Dark Side. Ravana never became more or less evil. It was a case of a guy who was evil throughout his life but also was a religious scholar. –  Keshav Srinivasan Jul 12 at 17:42
    
Oh ok got it. He seems to have used taps to do bad.. wonder why Gods granted him boons when he was already bad... –  Bharat Jul 12 at 18:04

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Was Ravana actually a villain?

Yes, he was. If by villain we mean someone who trades the path of unrighteousness then Ravana was nothing less than a villain:

जप जोग बिरागा तप मख भागा श्रवन सुनइ दससीसा।
आपुनु उठि धावइ रहै न पावइ धरि सब घालइ खीसा।।
अस भ्रष्ट अचारा भा संसारा धर्म सुनिअ नहि काना।
तेहि बहुबिधि त्रासइ देस निकासइ जो कह बेद पुराना।। [RCM - 1.182]

Meaning
Ravana would get up and run at once to stop austerity, penance, dispassion, etc. as soon as any talk of it entered in his ears. Such prevalent was corruption and sinful wrong actions that dharma was no where to be heard of. He would torture in many ways and sent to exile whoever read the Vedas and puranas.

Was Ravana a devotee of Lord Vishnu?

No, he was not. He was a devotee, or better a worshiper, of Lord Shiva and Brahma like you have stated. He did this to acquire power and boons which he used to spread terror and havoc on people. No devotee can ever imagine hurting his deity even in his dream, let alone stealing the wife of his deity and fighting with him. The definition of a devotee is someone who thinks in favour of his deity:

anyabhilasita-sunyam jnana-karmady-anavrtam
anukulyena krsnanu-silanam bhaktir uttama
[BRS - 1.1.11]

Meaning
Devoid of any personal desires, not tainted with impersonal knowledge and fruitive actions, following of Krishna in favour of Him is known as the best of all devotions.

But Ravana's actions caused difficulties and hardship for Shir Ram. No devotee can do that. So he was not a devotee of Vishnu, otherwise he wouldn't have developed such an enmity towards His human incarnation.

It is a rare privilege to be killed by the hands of God, Isn't it?

Yes, it is. Ravana got the privilege which is even rare to get for the saints and sages:

खल मल धाम काम रत रावन। गति पाई जो मुनिबर पाव न।। [RCM - 6.113.5]
- The wicked, sinful, lustful Ravana attained an exalted state even rare and scarce to the sages.

So now we need to do the thinking. Can any ordinary soul compel and make the the supreme Lord to descend on earth for him? Can any ordinary soul dare to take away Maa Sita, the wife of Shri Rama, from the Lord Himself? Can any ordinary soul get the privilage of getting killed in the hands of the Lord Himself? The plain answer is, no.

Story behind the scene

So Ravana was no ordinary soul. He was previously one of the two gatekeepers at Vishnu's abode Vaikuntha. Due to stopping the four Sanat kumaras they got cursed and had to take birth in demonic families as the Lord had desired:

The Lord replied: O brāhmaṇas, know that the punishment you inflicted on them was originally ordained by Me, and therefore they will fall to a birth in a demoniac family. But they will be firmly united with Me in thought through mental concentration intensified by anger, and they will return to My presence shortly. [SB - 3.6.26]

So Ravana's activities were of a villain, but it was only to render a pastime for the Lord. So the moral of the story is that, even the greatest enemies of the Lord are nothing but His true devotees. And Ravana in his life did nothing but devotion to Vishnu in the mode of enmity. It is because, due to enmity and anger he always remembered and thought of Shri Rama. And we know thinking of the Lord in any way is nothing but an act of devotion and it causes oneness with Him:

kāmaṁ krodhaṁ bhayaṁ sneham aikyaṁ sauhṛdam eva ca
nityaṁ harau vidadhato yānti tan-mayatāṁ hi te
[SB - 10.29.15]

Meaning
Persons who constantly direct their lust, anger, fear, protective affection, feeling of oneness and friendship toward Lord Hari are sure to become absorbed in Him.

This type of devotion out of anger and fear is known as pratīpa bhakti (BRS- 2.3.92). But it only suits such powerful personalities like Kamsa, Ravana, Sisupala, etc. who behind the scene are nothing but Vishnu's personal servants and devotees.

share|improve this answer
2  
Thanks for pointing out the another mode of devotion, 'enmity'. And the story behind the scene is explained in @Keshav Srinivasan's answer. –  A_runningMind Jul 13 at 8:03

As far as Ravana was concerned, he had a genuine enmity with Rama. But Ravana and Kumbhakarna were actually incarnations of two great devotee of Vishnu, Jaya and Vijaya. The story is told in this chapter and this chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam.

Among the oldest beings in creation are the Sanat Kumaras, four sages who are mind-born sons of Brahma, and who look eternally young. The Sanat Kumaras once visited Vaikuntha to see their grandfather Vishnu, but when they tried to enter they were stopped at the gates by Vishnu's gatekeepers Jaya and Vijaya, who thought they were mere children:

The four boy-sages, who had nothing to cover their bodies but the atmosphere, looked only five years old, even though they were the oldest of all living creatures and had realized the truth of the self. But when the porters, who happened to possess a disposition quite unpalatable to the Lord, saw the sages, they blocked their way with their staffs, despising their glories, although the sages did not deserve such treatment at their hands. When the Kumāras, although by far the fittest persons, were thus forbidden entrance by the two chief doorkeepers of Śrī Hari while other divinities looked on, their eyes suddenly turned red because of anger due to their great eagerness to see their most beloved master, Śrī Hari, the Personality of Godhead.

The sages said: Who are these two persons who have developed such a discordant mentality even though they are posted in the service of the Lord in the highest position and are expected to have developed the same qualities as the Lord? ... Therefore let us consider how these two contaminated persons should be punished. The punishment should be apt, for thus benefit can eventually be bestowed upon them. Since they find duality in the existence of Vaikuṇṭha life, they are contaminated and should be removed from this place to the material world, where the living entities have three kinds of enemies.

So Jaya and Vijaya were cursed to be born on Earth. Vishnu then came to the gates and said this to the Sanat Kumaras:

These servants of Mine have transgressed against you, not knowing the mind of their master. I shall therefore deem it a favor done to Me if you order that, although reaping the fruit of their transgression, they may return to My presence soon and the time of their exile from My abode may expire before long.... O brāhmaṇas, know that the punishment you inflicted on them was originally ordained by Me, and therefore they will fall to a birth in a demoniac family. But they will be firmly united with Me in thought through mental concentration intensified by anger, and they will return to My presence shortly.

And he told Jaya and Vijaya, "By practicing the mystic yoga system in anger, you will be cleansed of the sin of disobeying the brāhmaṇas and within a very short time return to Me." So they would take births as various enemies of Vishnu, so that they could be killed by Vishnu and quickly return to Vaikuntha.

Jaya and Vijaya took three births on earth:

  1. They were born as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu, the two demon sons of Diti who were killed by Vishnu in his Varaha and Narasimha incarnations.

  2. They were born as Ravana and Kumbhakarna and were killed by Vishnu in his incarnation as Rama.

  3. Finally they were born as Shishupala and Dantavakra, who were killed by Vishnuin his incarnation as Krishna.

So Ravana genuinely had feelings of enmity towards Rama. But the reason he had such feelings in the first place was that Vishnu gave him those feelings as a way of lessening the length of time he would have to be on Earth.

share|improve this answer
    
This answer is also accepted...it explains the story. The 'mystic yoga system in anger', I guess it is same as devotion by enmity. –  A_runningMind Jul 13 at 8:20

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.