In the Ramayana, we know that Ravana was the King of the golden city of Lanka. How did he get this city? I know very little other than that it was offered by Shiva.

  • I don't know exactly, but there is story about Ravana defeating his brother Kubera and won the city of Lanka Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 17:18

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The story of Lanka is described in detail in the Uttara Kanda of the Ramayana. (The links in my answer link to different excerpts from the Uttara Kanda.) There were three Rakshasa (demon) brothers named Sumali, Mali, and Malyavan who obtained a boon of invincibility from Brahma and then told the divine architect Vishwakarma, "Erect a mansion for us resembling the mansion itself of Maheshwara [i.e. Shiva]." So on the island mountain Suvela, Vishwakarma "construct[ed] a city of Lanka there, having an area of thirty yojanas, and measuring an hundred (sic) in length; surrounded by a golden wall and furnished with golden gateways ... having a strong wall and a moat, abounding in hundreds of golden edifices". But then Vishnu defeated the three brothers, killing Mali and driving Sumali, Malyavan, and their Rakshasa comrades away to Patalaloka (the netherworld). Since Lanka was abandoned by the Rakshasas, when Kubera son of the sage Vishravas was made the god of wealth, he moved into Lanka at his father's suggestion.

Later on, the demon Sumali I mentioned earlier got his daughter Kaikeshi married to Kubera's father Vishravas, and they had many children including Ravana. Ravana got a boon of near-invincibility from Brahma, so at his grandfather Sumali's urging he attempted to retake Lanka for the Rakshasas. When Kubera heard that his half-brother Ravana wanted to move into Lanka, he was more than happy to have him, saying this:

My father had given [Lanka] to me, when it had been emptied of Rakshasas; and ... I have inhabited this place, furnished with charity, honor, and other virtues ... [A]s this city and kingdom are mine, so they are thine, O mighty-armed one. Do thou enjoy this kingdom without a foe. May my kingdom and wealth never undergo division when thou art present.

But Ravana wasn't willing to share the kingdom; he wanted it exclusively for him and his fellow Rakshasas, so Kubera at his father's suggestion abandoned Lanka and went to the Himalayas. That is how Lanka came to be under Ravana's possession. (Contrary to popular belief Ravana did not fight Kubera over Lanka; like I said he got Lanka without a fight. The battle between them happened later, when Ravana was attacking everyone under the sun in his attempt to take over the three worlds. It was during that battle that Ravana defeated Kubera and took the Pushpaka Vimana.)

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    @AmitSaxena Yeah, I also used to believe that. There's a lot of misconceptions about the Ramayana that were only cleared up for me when I started reading the Valmiki Ramayana. You might want to do the same: valmikiramayan.net More generally, in my younger days I had all sorts of misconceptions about Hinduism; I thought the Jivatma emerged from Paramatma, I thought the Dasavatara all happened in the present Mahayuga, etc. Reading Hindu scripture set me straight. Commented May 18, 2016 at 15:06
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    @ThePhone999 Well, there are cross references to lots of incidents recounted in the Uttara Kanda - the story of Sugriva and Vali's father, the story of Hanuman, various stories involving Ravana etc. Not all incidents are referenced, but that's to be expected. Vali just talked to Rama for a short time before he died, and even then he brags that he could have defeated Ravana and gotten Sita back. And who knows, Angada might have mentioned to Rama the Vali and Ravana incident in some conversation not recorded by Valmiki. And again, it may have some interpolations without being an interpolation. Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 8:38
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    I also have a question, if Sumali was already blessed with invincibility by Brahma, then why would he go to great lengths to look for establishing a relationship with Pulatsya's clan to get a successor like Ravan (who was not invincible)? Also purana's are POST-VEDIC TEXTS, they are not as authentic as Ramayana & Mahabharata. Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 9:02
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    @ThePhone999 First of all, the whole terminology of "post-Vedic texts" is based on a flawed premise. The Vedas are eternal, so all humanly composed texts are post-Vedic. And the Mahabharata and the Puranas were both composed by Vyasa, so they're equally authentic. In any case, even though Sumali was blessed with whatever limited "invincibility" Brahms granted him, he and his brothers were still defeated by Vishnu. So he presumably hoped that the next generation would be able to achieve what he couldn't. And indeed, Ravana got a boon that prevented the gods from defeating him. Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 9:09
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    Theirs also another problem. Chanakya considered Ramayana as itihaasa (history) but he never mentioned Uttara kanda as a part of Ramayana in his Arthashastra. Ramayana is narrated 3 times in Vana Parva (3rd part of Mahabharata) first by Lomasa, then by Hanumana, and finally by Markandeya no one, not one of them, neither of these narrators ever mentioned Uttara Kanda. Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 6:38

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