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Asuras and Devas both trace their lineage back to Rishi Kashyapa - Asuras being the sons of Kashyapa and Diti while Devas being the sons of Kashyapa and Aditi. So why did the Asuras choose the path of Adharma (with exceptions like Mahabali) and Devas choose Dharma and gained administratorship over the cosmos as well as Amrutha?

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The nature of asuras is such because they were conceived in the womb of Diti at an improper time. Desiring to have children and overcome by lust Diti approached sage Kashyapa at the evening time when ghosts, demons, etc. were wandering lead by Shiva, the lord of ghosts. So Kashyapa told Diti to wait for sometime because that time was inauspicious:

This particular time is most inauspicious because at this time the horrible-looking ghosts and constant companions of the lord of the ghosts are visible. [SB - 3.14.23]

But as struck by lust, Diti approached sage Kashyapa neverthless. Knowing the course of fate Sage Kashyapa fulfilled the desire of Diti but after it he told her the consequence of it:

The learned Kasyapa said: Because of your mind's being polluted, because of defilement of the particular time, because of your negligence of my directions, and because of your being apathetic to the demigods, everything was inauspicious. [SB - 3.14.38]

O haughty one, you will have two contemptuous sons born of your condemned womb. Unlucky woman, they will cause constant lamentation to all the three worlds! [SB - 3.14.39]

So two demons Hiranyaksa and Hiranyakasipu were born to her from which the race of the asuras grew. But as Diti regretted and because she had faith in the Lord, Sage Kashyapa told that her grandson would be a great devotee of the Lord:

The learned Kasyapa said: Because of your lamentation, penitence and proper deliberation, and also because of your unflinching faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead and your adoration for Lord Siva and me, one of the sons [Prahlada] of your son [Hiranyakasipu] will be an approved devotee of the Lord, and his fame will be broadcast equally with that of the Personality of Godhead. [SB - 3.14.44,45]

So Prahlada, although was born in the race of the asuras was a great devotee and some of his attributes were also present in king Bali, the grandson of Prahlada.

  • Also Dasanandha or Ravana(before abduction of Sita) deserves mention as a great devotee(ParamaBhakth boon) of Lord Shiva with great compositions like Shiva Thandava Stotram. – Naveen Apr 4 '15 at 2:35
  • @Naveen Ravana wasn't a descendant of Diti at all. He was the grandson of the Rakshasa Sumali, as I discuss in this answer: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/392/36 Sumali was a descendant of Brahma's son Heti. (Kashyapa, in contrast, was the son of Brahma's mind-born son Marichi.) – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 4 '15 at 3:06
  • @Keshav this wiki page says that Sumali was a son of daitya Sukesh. Daityas(race of giants) were the children of Diti and the sage Kashyapa. So by maternal lineage Ravana is a descendant of Diti? – Naveen Apr 4 '15 at 3:18
  • @Naveen No, the Wikipedia page is wrong. Sukesha is the son of Heti's son Vidyutkesha, and Heti is the son of Brahma. See the Uttara Kanda of the Ramayana: books.google.com/… – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 4 '15 at 3:24
  • @Keshav So technically Ravana is a Rakshasha and not a Asura? Ravana is said to have qualities of Asura and Brahmana. In this case is usage of Asura a generalization which includes Rakshashas? – Naveen Apr 4 '15 at 3:28

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