Ravan was one of the most important characters in the Indian epic Ramayana. He is better known and remembered as the demon king who kidnapped Sita whom Rama defeated and killed, in a battle fought at Lanka. But surely he is much more than that. Raavana’s thirst for knowledge, his desire to please Shiva and his austerities earned him the various yogic abilities.
While Hindu mythology expatiates the evil side of Ravana, his erudite knowledge and extraordinary skills cannot be overlooked. To put it in a nutshell, here we bring few interesting facts about Ravana that show the other side of the demon-king.
1. A Bright Scholar
Raavana was a great warrior as well as a learned scholar. He was regarded as the most brilliant demon who had thorough knowledge of 4 Vedas and 6 Upanishads.
Ravana was a master of tantra vidya and created an optical illusion of thoughts while fighting his enemies. He knew 64 different kinds of arts and had a deep understanding of the vedas.
2. Master of Science
The Scholar Ravana was a master of many sciences. He was well versed with Ayurveda. He has authored ‘Ravana Samhita,’ a famous book which is an excellent compilation of his scholarly works. It talks about the science of ayurveda. Ravana was also the greatest astrologer of his time, and was aware of esoteric practices similar to black magic.
3. Master of Astrology
With years of penance and dedication, Ravana was said to have become so mighty that he could even interfere with planetary alignments. It is said that Raavan had instructed all the planets to be in their proper position to create the most auspicious “lagna” for the birth of his second son, Meghnad, which would grant him immortality. However, it was Shani (Saturn) who changed his position at the last moment which infuriated Raavan so much that he struck him with mace and broke off one of its legs, maiming him forever.
Ravana Sanhita, a book that is considered the holy grail of Hindu Astrology, was originally authored by Ravana.
4. A scholar of Vedas and Sanskrit
Not only did he have in-depth prowess in Sanskrit, the demon king of Lanka had also authored Sanskrit classics such as Shivathandava Sthotra, Yuddisha Tantra and Prakrutha Kamadenu. He was well versed with the four Vedas, and was particularly a patron of the Sama Veda. He was also known to have mastered the art of pada patha technique, a distinctive style of saying the Vedic chants.
Raavana composed the Rudra Stotra in praise of Shiva, the ascetic-god. He also composed Shiva Tandava Stotram, which is an ode to Lord Shiva as the destroyer. The poetic aesthetics of Raavan can be seen in the Shiva Strotram. He had exhibited his skills of alliteration and onomatopoeia, the art of forming words to describe sounds, in the Shiva Strotram which is one of the landmarks of Hindu devotional poetry.
It was believed to have been composed in praise of Lord Shiva’s power, when the latter trapped him under Mount Kailash, with just a step of his foot, after the latter tried lifting it.
5. Ravan was an extraordinary Veena player
In many depictions of Ravan, he can be seen carrying a veena. It is believed that he had a keen interest in music and was a highly accomplished veena player. He designed his own string instrument called Ravana Veena. He also invented the bow of the violin called the Raavanhatha which is played widely in Rajasthan even today. He even narrated very first Ragas.
Ravan was the greatest devotee of Shiva. He once designed the lute known as Rudra-Veena using one of his ten heads as the lute’s gourd, one of his arms as the beam and his nerves as the strings. He then composed Shiv Tandav, most valuable work on praise of Lord Shiva.
6. Ravana as Doctor
Ravana was a great Aryuvedic physician and Vaidya Shiromani. He wrote valuable books called Nadi Pariksha (detailing of pulse-examination), Arka Shastra (compiling usage and dosage and cures of every herb for complex diseases), Arka Pariksha (work tinctures and extracts.), Kumara Tantraya (Gynecology and Peadetric Medicine), Uddisa Chiktsaya, Oddiya Chikitsa, and Vatina Prakaranaya.
In his book called the Arka Prakasha, an Ayurvedic treatise, Raavan had elaborated on various therapeutic values of essential oils. The book also contains an account of the standard operating procedures of extracting distillates from aromatic plants for internal use. He had the skills of preparing vitaminized rice balls which he had given Sita for refreshment while he carried her on his chariot.
Ravana was the founder of SINDHURAM medicine. This medicine cured wounds instantly.
7. Contribution in the field of gynecology and pediatrics
The Kumara Tantra is a complete health guide to pregnancy and child medicine of the ancient times. It has an elaborate description of causes, symptoms and treatments of over 100 diseases pertaining to motherhood and pediatrics. The book was wriitten by Raavan upon the request of his pregnant wife Mandodari.
8. Emperor of the 3 Worlds
Raavana was the emperor of the three worlds. With his might and intelligence combined, Ravana had not only conquered humans but also celestials and other demons making him the almighty of asuras (demons) in three different worlds.
9. Ravana Airways – Pushpak Vimana
Ravana’s Pushpak Vimana, which Lord Rama used to fly back Sita post her rescue, is very popular. But what is not widely known is that Ravana had a number of such airplanes and even had airports to land. Weragantota in Mahiyangana, Thotupola Kanda at Horton Plains, Wariyapola in Kurunegala and Gurulupotha in Mahiyangana are some of the places in Sri Lanka that are still referred as airports Ravana used.
10. The time when Raavan performed a yagya and helped Ram
It was Ravana, a Brahmin, who performed the rites of a purohit, when Lord Rama constructed the Rama Sethu to lead his monkey brigade to attack Lanka.
Lord Ram and Lakshman in their pursuit to save Sita, reach the shores that separate India from Lanka. In order to invade Lanka, Lord Ram decides to build a bridge with the help of Vanaras. But he was supposed to perform a Yagna before he could build a bridge, to get Shiva’s blessings.
In order to perform the Yagna, Ram required a highly knowledgeable Brahmin priest to execute it and also have his wife Sita by his side while performing it.
The only person who was qualified to perform this Yagna was none other than Ravan. Upon the respectful request of Lord Ram, Ravan, who committed to his dharma, came to the site with Sita and performed the Yagna. After the completion of the Yagna, Ravana even suggested auspicious time to Rama to begin the battle and blessed him Vijayi Bhava, when Lord Ram requested Ravan for his blessing to defeat him in the battle.
Rameshwaram is the holy place where Lord Ram, Ravana and Sita gathered together for the first time. The town acquired its name when Lord Ram worshiped God Shiva (Eshwar) to defeat the demon king Ravan.
11. As he lay dying, Ravan imparted valuable knowledge to Lakshman
Raavan was an incredibly able ruler and his subjects admired him for his just rule. He was a great practitioner of statecraft. When Lord Rama killed Ravana, who was on his last breath, Rama instructed his brother Lakshmana to go to Ravana and learn the art of statecraft and diplomacy from the dying demon king, since Ravan was one of the most learned scholars to have ever lived. Laxman did as asked and Raavan, in his last breaths, made Laxman sit at his feet, as a student would in front of teacher, and imparted some of the greatest knowledge of statecraft that he had acquired in his lifetime.
Raavan guided him to have always good relations with charioteer, cook, gatekeeper and his brothers, because those are the persons who can harm you most. He advised Lakshmana never to underestimate strength of his enemy, a mistake which he made. He asked Lakshmana to always believe in astrology and movement of stars which can never be wrong. He told him to trust a minister who criticizes, a mistake he made in case of his brother Vibhishan.
12. Ravana Ten Heads
Some versions of the Ramayan say that Ravan did not in fact have ten heads, but it appeared so because his mother gave him a necklace of nine pearls that caused an optical illusion for any observer. In another version, it is said that to please Shiva, Ravan hacked his own head into pieces, but his devotion made each piece spawn into another head.
The ten heads of raavan represent his knowledge of six shastras and 4 vedas. Also each head has a significance — Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Moha (delusion), Lobha (greed), Mada (pride), Maatsyasya (envy), Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chitta (will) and Ahamkara (the ego).
Raavana is worshipped as a god amongst many cults and is considered the master of astrology, ayurveda and saama veda. However, with unquestionable power comes absolute corruption. It was Raavana’s lust and pride that destroyed him.