Tuesday, 3 May 2011

18. Story of Ravana (Devotional)

      Ravana was a king of Lanka (Ancient Sri Lanka) who popularly known as a villain in Ramayana but he is a great devotee of Lord Shiva and a great scholar. He has 10 heads possessing a very thorough knowledge over the 4 Vedas and 6 Upanishads which made him equal to 10 scholars. Once king of demons at that time Sumali wished his daughter Kaikesi to marry the most powerful being in the world so as to produce an exceptional heir. Kaikesi searched among all sages and finally chose Vishrava who is a son of sage Pulastya, one of the ten manasaputras of Brahma (refer Birth of Gods And Demons). Vishrava and Kaikesi got Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Ahiravana as sons and Meenakshi as a daughter. Meenakshi later got popular with name Shoorpanakha. Actually Ravana and Kumbhakarna were cursed doorkeepers of Lord Vishnu as explained in Varahavatar.

      Ravana performed an intense penance to Lord Brahma for several years during which he chopped off his head 10 times as a sacrifice to appease Brahma. Each time he sliced his head off a new head arose, thus enabling him to continue his penance. At last Brahama pleased with his austerity and appeared after his 10th decapitation and offered him a boon. Ravana asked for immortality which Brahma refused to give but gave him the celestial nectar of immortality. The nectar of immortality stored under his navel dictated that he could not be vanquished for as long as it lasted. Ravana also asked for absolute invulnerability from and supremacy over gods, heavenly spirits, other demons, serpents, and wild beasts. Contemptuous of mortal men, he did not ask for protection from these. Brahma granted him these boons in addition to his 10 severed heads and great strength by way of knowledge of divine weapons and magic. Thus Ravana known as 'Dasamukha' or 'Dasakanta' (Dasa means ten and mukha means face).

      Ravana sought out his grand father Sumali and assumed leadership over his army. He then set his sights on capturing the island city of Lanka. Lanka was created by the celestial architect Vishwakarma for Kubera (the treasurer of the gods) who is also son of Vishrava from another wife. Kubera had generously shared all that he owned with Ravana and the his siblings who were Kubera's half-brothers and half-sister through his stepmother Kaikesi but Ravana demanded Lanka wholly from him. Vishrava advised his son Kubera to give it up to his another son Ravana as Ravana was now undefeatable. Once Ravana attempted to uproot and move the Kailash mountain (Shiva residence) to show Nandi his love for Shiva. Shiva annoyed by Ravana's arrogance pressed his littlest Toe on Kailash pinning him firmly and painfully under it. Shiva's soldiers informed Ravana of whom he had crossed, upon which Ravana became penitent. He plucked his nerves and used them as strings to compose music and sang songs praising Shiva for years until Shiva released him from his bondage. From then Ravana became a life long devotee of Shiva. Pleased with his resilience and devotion, Shiva gave him the divine sword Chandrahas (Chandra-Moon, Has-laugh) and told him that if it was used for unjust causes, it would return to Shiva and Ravana's days would be numbered. Ravana used this sword on Jatayu while taking away Sita.

      Ravana's mother Kaikasi also was a great devotee of Shiva. Early morning she used to go to the ocean and make a Saikatha Lingam (Shiva linga with sand) and perform puja (penance). Her devotion was causing her sons' victory which was known by Indra who with the help of god of ocean and god of wind destroyed her Saikatha Lingam thus disturbing her penance. Ravana got so much angry on Indra, god of ocean and god of wind for doing this to his mother and asked his mother's permission to eliminate them. She replied that with out Shiva's permission no one can do anything. She blamed her way of devotion instead of Indra and others. She said that Shiva might have been unsatisfied with her devotion thus allowing Indra and others to disturb her penance. Finally she asked him to satisfy Shiva somehow, to which Ravana promised her that he will worship Shiva and bring his Athma Linga (Soul linga of Shiva which contains all his powers) for his mother's penance. She happily agreed and sent him to fulfil his mission.

       Mayasura, a son of sage Kashyapa (refer Birth of Gods and Demons) was married to an apsara (nymph) Hema. They had two sons Mayavi and Dundubhi, but long for a daughter so they started performing penances to seek the favour of the god Shiva. Before that, once an apsara named Madhura arrives at the abode of Shiva to pay her respects. In absence of his wife Parvathi, Madhura had clandestine coitus with Shiva. When Parvati returned she found traces of ashes from Shiva’s body on the breasts of Madhura. Agitated, Parvati cursed Madhura and sent her to live in a well as a frog for twelve years. Shiva consoled Madhura and said she will become a beautiful woman and be married to a great valorous man. After twelve years, Madhura became a beautiful baby and cries out loudly from the well. Mayasura and Hema, who were performing penance nearby, found her and adopt her as their daughter. They bring her up as Mandodari.

      Ravana went to a forest to fulfil his mission as promised to his mother and started meditating on Shiva. Mandodari saw him secretly during her visit to that forest one day and started loving him. After some years of Ravana's meditation, Shiva with Parvathi appeared before him to grant him a boon. By this time Narada had asked Lord Vishnu to change Ravana's mind in order to protect Athma Linga. If Ravana gets Athma Linga, he will be as powerful as Shiva. As a result of Vishnu's plot, Ravana got enticed by Parvathi's beauty and asked Shiva for Goddess Parvati. Shiva left her and disappeared. On his way back to Lanka Narada tells Ravana that Shiva had not given him the real Parvathi and that the real Parvathi was in Pathala (Underworld). Parvathi took her Kali form after seeing which Ravana believed that Narada was right. Ravana freed Parvathi and went to Pathala to get real Parvathi where he saw Mandodari and fall in love with her thinking that she was real Parvathi. He married her after fighting with Mayasura and returned to Lanka with her. He was introducing Mandodari to his mother Kaikasi, as Parvathi but Mandodari was arguing that she was not Parvathi. Ravana knew the truth and started abusing Shiva for cheating him. Kaikasi scolded Ravana for breaking his promise to bring Athma Linga. Then Ravana came to his senses and felt sorry for what he did. He started his mission again and went to forest to meditate begging for his forgiveness.

      Lord Shiva appeared and this time Ravana requested for Athma Linga as his boon. Lord Shiva gave him the boon with the condition that it should never be placed on the ground till he reaches to the place where he wanted to install Athma Linga. If the Athma Linga was ever placed on the ground, it will be attracted by mother earth and even Shiva cant move Athma Linga from that place. Ravan started his journey to Lanka with Athma Linga. After knowing this, Narada approached the Lord Ganesha (refer Story of Ganesha) and reminded him that every one has to worship Ganesha before starting a big mission to avoid obstacles. Narada told Ganesha that Ravana didn't worship Ganesha and achieved Athma Linga from Shiva so Ganesha should stop him. Ganesha made a plan to achieve this.

      According to that, as Ravana was nearing Lanka, sun was setting. Ravana now had to perform his evening rituals to sun but was worried because with the Athma Linga in his hands, he would not be able to do his rituals. At that time, Ganesha in the disguise of a Brahmin boy accosted him. Ravana requested him to hold the Athma Linga until he performed his rituals and asked him not to place it on the ground. Ganesha struck a deal with him saying that he would call Ravana thrice and if Ravana did not return within that time, he would place the Athma Linga on the ground. As predicted, before Ravana could return after completing his rituals, Ganesha had already placed the Athma Linga on the ground. Ravana tried to move Athma Linga but failed. Ravana called it Mahabala (Too Strong). From then that place is being called Mahabaleswharam.

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