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

Ravana is considered as a symbol of cruelty. Many people believe that Ravana is 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 of Ayodhya with Sita. But can it be considered as a punishment? Isn't it a rare privilege to be killed by the hands of God?

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

  • 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
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 13:56
  • 2
    @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. Commented Jul 12, 2014 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
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 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. Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 17:42
  • 1
    There is no rama without ravana,the poorest ate in golden plates in ravana's kingdom, we could see a lot of brutality on woman in the places which are belived to be ruled by rama, ravana wanted to avenge for his sister never have abducted his wife , ravana was a visionist than any scholar of his age and yuga even can be compared to this yuga. Ravana is an example of a ruler and administrator
    – user5697
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 19:33

3 Answers 3


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]

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]

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 Shri 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]

Persons who constantly direct their lust, anger, fear, protective affection, feeling of oneness and friendship toward Lord Shri 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.

  • 4
    Thanks for pointing out the another mode of devotion, 'enmity'. And the story behind the scene is explained in @Keshav Srinivasan's answer.
    – user11
    Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 8:03
  • @BeHappy u have quotes BRS 1.1.11. What is BRS? Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 12:59
  • But Ravana is said to be the greatest minds who understand Vedas very well
    – Ritesh.mlk
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 9:37

As far as Ravana was concerned, he had a genuine enmity with Rama. But Ravana and Kumbhakarna were actually incarnations of two great devotees 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 Vishnu in 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.

  • This answer is also accepted...it explains the story. The 'mystic yoga system in anger', I guess it is same as devotion by enmity.
    – user11
    Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 8:20

Ravana was the worst villain of his time.

Armed with the boon of near-invincibility from God Brahma, Rakshasa Ravana drove his half-brother Kubera out of Lanka and also stole his pushpaka-vimana.

Ravana had raped Rambha, the daughter-in-law of Kubera [Ref: Mahabharata 3.278]. Ravana had also molested Rishi Kushadhwaja’s daughter Vedavati in Naimisha-vana (grove) near Kurukshetra in present-day Harayana state [Ref: Ramayana 7.17].

Ravana had molested Dvaipayana's sister, Atri's wife, Rtuvarman's wife Madanamanjari, Agni's wife Svaha, Brihaspati's daughter Sulekha and God Brahma's daughter Punjika [Ref: Puranic Encyclopedia page 646].

As per folklore, Ravana had also raped Rishi Udanga’s daughter Malati on the banks of River Godavari.

Ravana was not known to be a devotee of God Vishnu. Ravana had even cast his evil eye on Goddess Lakshmi in the higher regions. He was dumped back on Earth by God Vishnu, as he remained protected by God Brahma’s boon [Ref: Ramayana 7.28].

Source: 'Essence of the Fifth Veda' by Gaurang Damani pages 15-16


You must log in to answer this question.