According to the Holy Book Ramayana written by Sage Valmiki, when Ravana attempted to lift the Bow in Sita Svayamvara, how much was he able to succeed?

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The story of Ravana attending Sita’s swayamvar and his encounter with the Shiva Dhanush has not been described in the Valmiki Ramayana. The Manas only mentions him having tested it much before the swayamvar. On the other hand the Ekanatha Ramayana describes a very different story.

In the Shri Ramcharitmanas, Ravana is described to have been intimidated by the mere sight of that bow, much before the swayamvar took place. The bards of Janaka while pronouncing his condition for Sita’s marriage describe the same:

[The Bandis said:]The strength of the kings is the moon and the Shiva bow is Rahu. It is heavy and hard, everyone knows this. That bow, seeing which great warriors like Ravana and Banasura, slipped away silently (didn’t have the guts to even touch it), whosoever breaks that hard Shiva Dhanusha.... [and the Bandis continue to recite the remaining part of Janaka’s vow].-
Shri Ramcharitmanas 1.250.2

The story of Ravana being present in the Swayamvara can be found in Sant Ekanatha’s Bhavartha Ramayana:

The bow was not turning despite Ravana’s efforts. He was trying to catch the bow with his twenty hands, but it was not getting caught. Even while being pushed by his twenty Hands it wasn’t getting pushed. Then the bow crashed against his chest and he fell down (with the bow on him). His fall made even Patala tremor. When his minister came to help, Ravana’s bones got further crushed by the bow. He said to Janaka, “Even if I die because of this bow, Indrajit and Kumbhakarna will destroy your lineage. This bow has humbled by arrogance. Do what you think fit.” Then Janaka rushes to help Ravana and alongwith many people lifts the bow off Ravana. They sprinkled water on him and made him sit on his seat. He sat there waiting to see the person who would lift the bow so that he could kill that person.
-Chapter 18 verses 117 to 132

From the above we can see that the bow wasn’t moving despite Ravana’s repeated attempts. He briefly managed to tweak its position which crash landed on him. He faced severe humiliation, described in Marathi as - रावणाची फजिती or the humiliation of Ravana.

Note: This incident is not found anywhere else and seems to be an insertion in Sant Ekanatha’s work when people got this misconception alongwith the existence of Ahiravana. Hence if at all Ravana ever came for darshan of the Shiva Dhanush, the Ramcharitmanas version is more likely where at a certain point in time (not in the Swayamvara, unrelated to Sitaji and probably even before her birth), long ago Ravana would’ve tested his strength with the Shiva Dhanusha.

  • Thanks for the information provided. Ideally, Ravana being a devotee of Lord Shiva, should get the strength to lift the Shiva Dhanush?. Sep 4, 2021 at 0:57
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    @PrashantAkerkar not being able to lift the bow wasn’t magic of Lord Shiva. One actually needed that level of strength to lift it which only Ramji had. Plus the divine marriage can only happen between Shri and Narayana irrespective of how big a devotee he maybe and hence such a tough condition was set for the marriage that only Narayana could fulfill it. In any case Ravana has been described as shiva devotee in Shiva Purana but again an arrogant one. Not something big as tv serials portray him.
    – Adiyarkku
    Sep 4, 2021 at 4:00
  • @Archit So of simply physical strength was the difference,does that mean the architect of the bow(I think Vishwakarma) could have lifted the bow?(since he made the bow,he should be able to lift it as well,right??)
    – Amethyst
    Sep 5, 2021 at 17:09
  • Thanks @Archit. It could be Lord Shiva himself not granting the permission to Lift the Shivadhanush to Ravana when Ravana attempted with all his might and inspite of namasmaran of Lord Shiva. What are your views regarding my opinion? Sep 24, 2021 at 9:42

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