His question is who was Ravana in reality and he wants to know something about his character. Ravana was not a bad person. During Ravana’s era, there existed four types of cultures. Like, in today’s time we have different religions followed by different people. This existed in Ravana’s era too. There used to be a Demi-God culture (Yaksh sanskriti)
. The Demi-God culture consisted of Demi-Gods like Kuber etc. who lived in luxury. There was a demon’s culture (Raksh sanskriti) which consisted of demons. These demons used to reside in Jungles in tribes or on the banks of the sea and they were the bandits that is the pirates.
They used to stop the boats while coming and took money from them. There was a God’s culture (Dev sanskriti). The Gods culture consisted of All Gods like Indra. There was the Aryan culture (arya sanskriti). The Aryan culture consisted of humans. Those belonging to the Aryan culture(arya sanskriti) and God’s culture (Dev sanskriti) believed in the Vedas. Like in today’s time, though, we don’t have a perfect example, there are several similarities between the Hindu religion and the Sikh religion or in the Hindu religion and the Buddhist religion. Yet there are differences.
Difference existed in the God’s culture (Dev sanskriti) and the Aryan culture (arya sanskriti) as in the God’s asked the Aryans to worship them so that they will help the latter. Though it might sound a little funny but the way we call people from countries that are better than ours as guests for our national celebrations like Independence day, republic day etc.,
the Aryans used to call the Gods as they used to praise them because the Gods were very prosperous. The Gods existed since a long time, had ample amounts of money and Sage Narada was basically their liaising officer. This was the reality. Sage Narada used to go to several places and had an inclination for food. God Indra had praised Sage Narada to get his own glorification included in the Vedas. But, lord Vishnu used to favour the Gods And the humans because he was the cousin of Gods. But Lord Shiva used to remain neutral and that is why he is called Bholenath as whoever went to him with a problem, he used to ask them not to stop them from wailing and did whatever they asked for. He always helped the demons of the Raksh sanskriti. This used to cause the Gods to worry a lot and many times, they used to go to Lord Shiva to stop him from doing this.
They used to say that you should favour us because we are so prosperous. They live in tribes and indulge in immoral acts like looting travellers; so, why do you help them? So, lord Ashutosh replies saying like it is the nature of the tree to harbour everyone like it harbours the birds, similarly it harbours a lion. It harbours everyone equally and cannot say that since you are not good, go away from here. It has to harbour everyone. So, it is my task to harbour everyone and it is lord Vishnu’s call to decide about morals. I cannot do all this. I am sitting here comfortably chanting, meditation and practice is my religion. Lord Vishnu has a lot of patience, he is very tolerant and he keeps smiling always. But lord Shiva was not like that. So, Ravana did not find anyone who could compete with him. Not like Ravana was not defeated by anyone. He was defeated by Bali, Sahastrarjun etc. However, he was not in search of a warrior.
Rather he was searching for someone adorable, someone who was unbiased, neutral, with a clear vision and with a clear heart. Ravana did not find these qualities in lord Vishnu as he always favoured the Gods. Because lord Vishnu himself led a luxurious life. So, Ravana walked according to his maternal Grandfather (nana), Sumali. He had told Ravana to speak to Brahma, who was his paternal great grandfather (dada). He is the originator of everything; both the Gods and the demons come from him. Take wisdom from him. Ravana himself was a wise man, a visionary.
His only fault was that he did not act diplomatically. Whatever happened with Shurpanakha, I forgot Shurpanakha’s real name; it was not Shurpanakha. I will remember it later, may be. Shurpanakha was very dear to her brother. Therefore, Ravana had given her a complete forest named Dandakaranya, to live with her tribe. So, when Lord Rama and Laxman went to Dandakaranya, with Mata Janki, they did not take permission from Shurpanakha. She was roaming in her own house. In the Raksh culture, female was considered the head. The female could choose her groom as per her wish. Moreover, a female could have many grooms. So, when Shurpanakha saw that lord Rama was so good looking, the proposal she gave was as per their tradition only. There was nothing controversial about it.
It was nothing immoral. However, lord Rama was in a slightly sarcastic spirit that time. Because that is what he probably wanted to do. That was probably his spectacle. So, he sent her to Laxman and Laxman sent her back. Then you know when a female becomes aggressive then no one can face her. She thought that these people are mocking at me.
However, Laxman did not like it, he shot his arrow, and her nose was cut off. So, the sister ran to her brother and told him that she had been wronged. That time Ravana had tremendous influence and power. Wherever he went, kings there would honor him. In those times, to avoid wars between two countries, the kings used to establish family relations with each other by getting their daughters married in the other kingdom; this prevented them from getting into wars and killing each other. So, wherever Ravana went, the kings gave him their daughters in marriage.
So, that place would yield him taxes. The Raksh sanskriti flourished the most under Ravana. So, Shurpanakha, told him that how could a common man shoot an arrow towards her, the sister of such a powerful king. Shurpanakha was very beautiful, her nails were like Shrup and hence her name Shurpanakha. This was an endearment. Her real name was something else. A female loves her face most, even more than her husband. She tells Ravana to look at what has been done to my face and what kind of a brother are you. If you are really my brother then I want revenge for this.
So, if lord Rama and Laxman could have been from the Raksh Sanskriti, he would have kidnapped them and forcibly got her married too. But, lord Rama was a very special case that neither he belonged completely to the Arya sanskriti nor to the Dev sanskriti. He was an incarnate of Lord Vishnu. So, he was an arya, a dev and Vishnu; how could Ravana stand against him. But, Ravana fulfilled his duty as a brother. He said that since they have hurted the girl of our ancestry, so we will kidnap the female of their family.
So, Ravana did whatever was right in his jurisdiction. There, this was right. For example you are from Uttar Pradesh. And you have taken something from there then the jurisdiction there will take decisions for it. So, Ravana said that this is in our jurisdiction and here it is the norm that you kidnap any female you like. But, after that the female’s consent is required.
So, he kidnapped Sita ma. And it is not like that he had gone to kidnap Sita in a different shape. He had dressed up but he was not unidentifiable. Though he was in a different get up but he was like his own self only. One thing I have told you already that the demons never looked as portrayed by Ramanand Sagar; like they were very shabby. They used to be very strong, graceful people. They did not have horns and messy hair. So, Ravana decided to bring ma Janki. Let me show my strength and so he went and kidnapped ma Janki. So, Ravana brought her and gave her space in Ashok Vatika.
Different Shastras have different description. He told her that unless she consents Ravana would not touch her. He did not do anything immoral. Lord Shri Krishna had done the same in Dwaparyuga. He had kidnapped Rukmini. Prithviraj Chouhan had done the same in Kalyuga. But it is said that Rukmini had urged lord Krishna in a letter to take her away. But this was not the case with Ravana and Sita. Therefore, Ravana kidnapped her. The whole society has the expectation that only Ravana can save Lanka. So, really when Hanuman went to see Lanka, he was astonished by the splendour there. Everything there was so organized and luxurious.
So, Ravana fulfilled his moral duty. Similarly, Duryodhana did what felt right to him. Ravana decided to take revenge for his sister and said that he would naturalize Sita and snatch her away from Rama. But Rama reached there looking for her. And in the Raksh sanskriti, whenever they met any stranger, they considered it a war. Either the stranger had to surrender or had to fight. If in the war, I win you are mine or if I lose, my kingdom is yours. So, Ravana did whatever was in accordance with his culture. In my view or as per my perspective, Ravana was not a bad person. He merely had a role to play in the nature’s cycle, which he played. Otherwise, how would such a majestic person fight lord Rama. So, he did whatever was righteous on his part. Like, Karna followed his path of righteousness by standing with Duryodhana in both right and wrong. Karna said that Duryodhan had stood by my side when no one else did. Duryodhan had accepted me when everyone had me, so whatever happens, I would never leave Duryodhan; even if it costs me my life. Ravana also did the same. He thought that he would not do anything that his subjects would call him a coward; because he had given Dandakaranya to his sister and it fell under his rule. Its area was about 14,000 square feet. He thought that someone causes so much injury to a subject of my kingdom and I don’t do anything; this is not possible. He also thought that he had lord Shiva’s boon, I have lord Pashupatinath’s weapons, so I will fulfil my duty as a king. He was very intelligent and strategic that he ousted Kuber, from his own kingdom.
When Ravana and his brother went to Kuber, they had nothing except for 2 or 4 broken boats. But he went so strategically that Kuber welcomed them as his own brothers and asked them to stay with him for 6 months and asked them to not worry about anything and enjoy. So, Ravana decided that this Lanka should be in his possession as his maternal grandfather (nana), Sumali was telling him. So, during that time Ravana had acquired a large portion of Lanka and then had challenged Kuber for a war saying that either he should fight with him or surrender Lanka.
Kuber told him that he had called him here and when they had come 6 months ago, they did not even have clothes to wear and now he is challenging him for war. This whole is my kingdom and how will you fight here against me. So, Ravana challenges him to a fight then. Whatever I could do here, I have already done that here. More than half the army was with Ravan.
The same way like Chanakya had prepared Chandragupta Maurya. Ravana had prepared everyone to stand with him. Then, Kuber says that he will consult with Brahma. Brahma was not as shown on TV, sitting on the clouds with three heads and white beard. He did not get old as soon as he was born. [laughs]. So he said that I will consult with Brahma as he is our ancestor and also the elder one in the family. Brahma told Kuber that he had no dearth of wealth, as he was the treasurer of the Gods. So, he should establish another city and not fight. Anyway Ravana would not give up as he is very strong.
How will you fight with someone who is ready to die? War has only one end- you would lie flat or the other person would. There’s nothing more to this. It does not make any sense fighting with a person who is ready to die. So, Brahma said that he should not puzzle over with these people and establish a new kingdom as he had lots of wealth. So, Ravana got Lanka and Kuber established a new kingdom. When he went to see that he demanded the Pushpak vimaan saying that it suited Lanka. The first time he met lord Shiva was when he brought the Pushpak.
Then and there only, he became Shiva’s devotee. This story has been told already. I guess twice. He was so influenced by lord Shiva that he told Sumali that he and others should not visit Ravana for a year because he wanted to be surrendered to lord Shiva only. So, he sent Sumali and his brothers. Ravana stayed there and told lord Shiva that he wanted to serve him. God said, see I don’t have any Ashram. No, really God said that he does not keep anyone with himself.
This became funny but it’s true. So, God told him that he does not keep anyone with himself and anyone who wants comes here and goes. I have only the Ganas. The ghost etc. who are not accepted by the society live with me and it’s not that I have constructed rooms etc. for them or anything. They come and so as per their own wish. They might be living close by but no one stays with me. I do not need any service. Saying this, lord Ashutosh told Ravana that he can teach him how to acquire the divya astra but nothing more. So, Ravana started residing at the foothills of mount Kailash.
There Ravana found the daughter of a sage, who considered Vishnu as her husband earlier. So, she told Ravana that till she attains Vishnu, she would physically be his only. Ravana used to meet that lady every evening.
One day in the evening, that lady was passing through the Jungle and a lion came before her. That time she did not remember Vishnu but her first thoughts were about Ravan and coincidently, Ravana was there. And Ravana killed that lion without any weapon.
She saw that Ravan killed the lion with a tree he had uprooted from there. Then, she stayed quiet so Ravana offered to leave her to her home (Kutiya). She then told Ravana that her dedication was incomplete as when it was possibly the end of her life, she could not remember Vishnu but she remembered Ravana.
So, Ravana told her that he can win over Vishnu if she was with him, which he eventually did with lord Ram. So, they have a Gandharv vivah (marriage). A girl was born out of this union. Some Shastras also mention that that same girl later became Janki, Sita.
So, the moment, Sumali heard about this girl, they took her away because they thought that if she stayed there, Ravana would get attached and if a king gets attached, his destruction is inevitable. There is a lot to be done still and she is not good for Ravana now.
So, she gave up her life after giving birth. She felt how could she give birth to an offspring as she had dedicated herself to lord Vishnu and decides to go to lord Vishnu; so she sits in the funeral pier. So, Ravana quivers.
After 13 months from this, Sumali and others go there. They say that the baby girl should be taken away from there quietly. Then the girl was taken and left at a far off place. The girl was then buried; but she was in such a chest that she survived and was later found by king Janak. Ravana did whatever was his tactics, his ethics and his righteousness.
He did not do anything inappropriate and that is why he is remembered till date. There have been several monsters but only Ravana is remembered. Like a game of chess, he had come last to the ground. There was Meghnaad, there was Kumbhakarana. Several of their monsters died but Ravana is still remembered.
So, in Valmiki Ramayan, Rama is not depicted as God but he is depicted as a great human a person of very superior intellect and wisdom. He is different, extra-ordinary but belongs to the human culture. But, for Tulsidas, since Rama was his favorite and being from U.P, he had seen the devotion of lord Shiva since his childhood so, he could not leave both Rama and lord Shiva. He was also the one who held the flag of Kashi Vishwanath.
So he considered Rama as Brahma in Ramcharitmanas. If you read the Valmiki Ramayan, you will see a historical perspective of this whole incident and if you read the Ramcharitmanas, you will find a devotional perspective.
Devotional stories keep on getting bigger and bigger; this often happens after the human dies. Like we had a Guruji, he was sitting on a wall and the wall moved ahead. [Laughs] I grew up hearing such stories. So, when emotions cover the truth, the smallest of it takes a huge form. In my childhood when I used to perform Yajna, that time for Ganesh sthapana, I used to cover a beetle nut (Supari) with Mauli (a red cotton thread).
This I did every time I did a Yajna; then there came a time when because of the Mauli, it became this big. Then if u removed the thread of each Yanjna, you will finally get a small Betle Nut, which is the truth. Similarly, time covers the truth with layers.
If lord Krishna killed a bird, it became Bakasur; killed a donkey, it became Dhenuka. Whoever helped his duties as a shepherd, was rewarded well. So, when stories like these become popular, devotion becomes stronger but the knowledge is lost somewhere. We tell stories to the children just for fun. If you narrate Bhagavad Gita, no one would be interested.
You can tell them some interesting stories which do have some logic in them. So, in terms of Dussehra, I would say that Ravan was not Dashasheesh only because he had ten heads Naga baba used to say that think how he used to sleep? If someone has ten heads, he cannot sleep on his side. He would require some special type of pillow.
He was called Dashasheesh because he had control over ten senses. He was popular in ten directions. He had attained ten types of Maha Vidya. He had ten Sidhis. The eight Sidhis had come later. We count the ten Sidhis in Shri Vidya. He had all the ten Sidhis, so he was called the Dashasheesh or Dashaanan.
He had ten heads but only two ears; and this was the reason for his ruin. If he had twenty ears and only two faces, it would have been better. But, he has been portrayed as bad, as a symbol of evil. It is propagated in a way of the victory of truth over evil just to prevent the rise of evil.
Also, it has been depicted that anyone who keeps an eye over another women will have a fate like Ravan. Though, this is not the sole truth but it has been propagated like this. It is said that in a class, the teacher asked the difference between a poem and an essay; it is not essential for a poem to have a rhyming scheme, it can also be free-style.
What is the difference between a poem and an essay? So, the student replied saying that whatever your own wife recites is an essay and whatever the neighbour’s wife recites is a poem. So, whatever one’s wife says feels like an essay and what the neighbour’s wife says feels like a poem. So, the teacher promised the student to appoint him as the class monitor. [Laughter] Anyway, so Ravana is not evil; because what we understood here is that no person is bad but his deeds may be bad. How can anyone be bad when everything created by God is great.
We create things the way we are. The kind of material you carry depicts your feelings, how is your mind. But, a man’s karma can be bad. So, when a person appreciates you, loves you, works according to you, you love the person. If the same person goes against you or has tension with you, you start disliking the same person.
So, Ravana is not evil in himself, Ravanta (the evil acts) is bad. What was Sita’s fault in this. The lady you captured was weak. If you were strong enough, then you should have directly caught hold of Rama or Laxman. This deception was not during the war but before it and that was the mistake. This is the answer.