Ravana, South India, 18th century AD
Ravana, South India, 18th century AD
Sanskrit transliterationRāvaṇa
AffiliationLanka, Rakshasa
PredecessorKubera (King of Lanka)
SuccessorVibhishana (King of Lanka)
MountPushpaka Vimana
TextsRamayana and its versions
Personal information
Spouse and Chitrangada
ChildrenIndrajit, Atikayaand Akshayakumara by Mandodari

Narantaka, Devantaka and Trishira by Dhanyamalini Veerbahu and Anangakusuma by Chitrangada

Mahiravana(spiritual sons)

Ravana (Sanskrit: रावण, IAST: Rāvaṇa, pronounced [ˈraːʋɐɳɐ]) was a ancient mythological king[1] of the island of Lanka, and the chief antagonist in the Hindu epic Ramayana.[2][3] In the Ramayana, Ravana is described as the eldest son of sage Vishrava and Kaikasi. He abducted Prince Rama's wife, Sita, and took her to his kingdom of Lanka, where he held her in the Ashoka Vatika.[4] Rama, with the support of vanara King Sugriva and his army of vanaras, launched an invasion against Ravana in Lanka. Ravana was subsequently slain, and Rama rescued his beloved wife Sita.[5][6]

Ravana is widely portrayed as being an evil character, though he is also a learned scholar. He was well-versed in the six shastras and the four Vedas, including the Shiva Tandava Stotra.[7] Ravana is also considered to be the most revered devotee of Shiva. Images of Ravana are often seen associated with Shiva at temples. He also appears in the Buddhist Mahayana text Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, in Buddhist Jatakas, as well as in Jain Ramayanas. In Vaishnava scriptures, he is depicted as one of Vishnu's cursed doorkeepers.[8]


Statue of Ravana at Koneswaram Hindu Temple, Sri Lanka

The word Rāvaṇa (Sanskrit: रावण) means "roaring" (active), the opposite of Vaiśravaṇa which means to "hear distinctly" (passive).[9][10] Both Ravana and Vaiśravaṇa, who is commonly known as Kubera, are considered to be patronymics derived from "sons of Vishrava".[9][10][11][12]

Ravana was a title later taken on by Dashānana, and it means "the one with ten (dasha) faces (anana)". Further, roravana is Sanskrit for "loud roaring." In Abhinava Gupta's Krama Shaiva scripture, yāsām rāvanam is used as an expression to mean people who are truly aware of the materialism of their environment.[citation needed]

Ravana has many other popular names such as Dasis Ravana, Dasis Sakvithi Maha Ravana, Dashaanan, Ravula, Lankapati, Lankeshwar, Lankeshwaran, Ravanasura and Ravanaeshwaran.[13]


Ravana is depicted and described as having ten heads, although he is sometimes shown with only nine heads since he cut one off to convince Shiva.[14] He is described as a devout follower of Shiva, a great scholar, a capable ruler, and a maestro of the Veena. Ravana is also depicted as the author of the Ravana Samhita, a book on Hindu astrology, and the Arka Prakasham, a book on Siddha medicine and treatment. Ravana possessed a thorough knowledge of Siddha and political science. He is said to have possessed the nectar of immortality, which was stored inside his belly thanks to a celestial boon from Brahma.In the War with Lord Rama , Ravana was killed by 31 arrows which were shot by Rama at him. One arrow dried up his nectar , ten arrows cut off his heads and twenty cut off his arms.[15][page needed]

Life and legends


The abduction of Sita

Ravana was born to the sage Vishrava and the Rakshasa princess Kaikasi in Treta Yuga. Villagers from Bisrakh in Uttar Pradesh claim that Bisrakh was named after Vishrava, and that Ravana was born there.[16]

Ravana's paternal grandfather, the sage Pulastya,[17] was one of the ten Prajapatis, or mind-born sons of Brahma, and one of the Saptarishi (seven great sages) in the first Manvantara (age of Manu). His maternal grandfather was Sumali (or Sumalaya), the king of the Rakshasas and the son of Sukesha. Sumali had ten sons and four daughters. Sumali wished for Kaikasi to marry the most powerful being in the mortal world, so as to produce an exceptional heir. He rejected the kings of the world, as they were less powerful than him. Kaikasi searched among the sages and finally chose Vishrava, the father of Kubera. Ravana and his siblings were born to the couple and they completed their education from their father, with Ravana being a great scholar of the Vedas.[citation needed]

Boon from Brahma

Ravana and his two brothers, Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana, performed penance on Mount Gokarna for 11,000 years and won boons from Brahma. Ravana was blessed with a boon that would make him invincible to all the creations of Brahma, except for humans.[18] He also received weapons, a chariot, as well as the ability to shapeshift from Brahma.[citation needed] According to the Ramayana, demigods approached Brahma since Ravana was causing harm on Earth. Lord Vishnu appeared and gave blessings that he will incarnate as a human (Rama) and kill Ravana since his invincibility boon did not include humans.[19]

Devotee of Shiva

See also: Ravananugraha

Ravananugraha theme

One of the most popular images of Shiva is called "Ravananugraha", which was popular in the Gupta era. It depicts Ravana beneath Mount Kailash playing a veena made out of his head and hands, and strings made out of his tendons, while Shiva and Parvati sit on top of the mountain.[20][full citation needed] According to scriptures, Ravana once tried to lift Mount Kailash, but Shiva pushed the mountain into place and trapped Ravana beneath it. For a thousand years, the imprisoned Ravana sang Shiva Tandava Stotra, a hymn in praise of Shiva, who finally blessed him and granted him an invincible sword and a powerful linga (Shiva's iconic symbol, Atmalinga) to worship.[21][20]


Queen Mandodari and the women of Lanka mourning the death of Ravana. Bas-relief of 9th century Prambanan Temple, Java, Indonesia

Ravana's parents were the sage Vishrava (son of Pulastya) and Kaikesi (daughter of Sumali and Ketumati). Ravana had seventeen maternal uncles and three maternal aunts. Dhumraksha, Prahastha, Akampana, Vajramushti, Suparshwa and Virupaksha, a few of his maternal uncles, were generals in the Lanka army. Kaikesi's father, Sumali,and uncle Malyavan were instrumental in making Ravana the king of Lanka by advising him to receive boons from Brahma, defeat Kubera, and establish rakshasa rule in the three worlds.[22]

Ravana's granduncle was Malyavan, who opposed the war with Rama and Lakshmana. He also had another granduncle named Mali who was killed by Vishnu.[22]

Ravana had seven brothers and two sisters, named Kubera, Kumbhakarna, Vibhishana, Khara, Dushana, Ahiravan, Kumbhini, Sahastra Ravana, and Shurpanakha.

Ravana had three wives, Mandodari, the daughter of the celestial architect Maya, Dhanyamalini, and a third wife. His sons from his three wives were Meghanada, Atikaya, Akshayakumara, Narantaka, Devantaka, Trishira, and Prahasta.

Priestly ministers

In some accounts, Ravana is said to have had Shukracharya, the priest of the Asuras, as his minister, and in other accounts, Brihaspati, the priest of the Devas.[citation needed]

One account narrates how Ravana ordered Brihaspati to recite the Chandi stava (mantras of Chandi), more specifically the Devi Mahatmya, in order to stave off defeat. According to the Krttivasa text, Ravana arranged for a peaceful yajna, and invited Brihaspati to start the recitation of Chandi.[23][full citation needed]

Ravana in Sanskrit drama of Kerala, India- Kutiyattam. Artist: Guru Nātyāchārya Māni Mādhava Chākyār[24]

Other legends

Vishnu's cursed doorkeeper

In the Bhagavata Purana, Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna are said to be reincarnations of Jaya and Vijaya, gatekeepers at Vaikuntha (the abode of Vishnu), and were cursed to be born on Earth for their insolence.[25]

These gatekeepers refused entry to the Sanatha Kumara monks who, because of their powers and austerity, appeared as young children. For their insolence, the monks cursed them to be expelled from Vaikuntha and to be born on Earth.[25][8]

Vishnu agreed that they should be punished and gave them two options. First, that they could be born seven times as normal mortals and devotees of Vishnu, or be born three times as strong and powerful beings, but as enemies of Vishnu. Eager to be back with the Lord, they chose the latter option. The curse of the first birth was fulfilled by Hiranyakashipu and his brother Hiranyaksha in Satya Yuga, when they were both vanquished by earlier avatars of Vishnu (Hiranyaksha by Varaha, and Hiranyakashipu by Narasimha). Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna were born to fulfill the curse in their second birth as enemies of Vishnu in Treta Yuga. The curse of the third birth was fulfilled by Dantavakra and Shishupala in the Dvapara Yuga, when they both were slain by Krishna, the eighth avatar.[8]

Other conflicts

In Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh, Ravana is said to have fought and lost to Kartavirya Arjuna. Ravana was vanquished by the Ikshvaku King Mandhata, an ancestor of Rama, as well as by the sage Kapila. In the Ramayana, he fought Vali, the Kishkindha king, but was defeated by him because of his boon to obtain half the strength of anyone he fought.[26] He also fought with the Nivatakavachas, descendants of Prahlada, but struck an alliance with them after being unable to defeat them.

Once, upon hearing a discourse from Sage Sanatkumara, Ravana attempted to invade Vaikuntha. Only Ravana managed to enter Vaikuntha's capital, Shwetadwipa, where he was hopelessly outmatched by the inhabitants and was forced to retreat.

He killed Anaranya, the king of Ayodhya, although he cursed Ravana to be slain by Rama.

Ravana had wrestled his brother Kubera for the Pushpaka Vimana.

He also fought Marutta (Chakravarti King of Ushiraviga), Gadhi (Vishwamitra's father), Dushyanta (Bharata's father), Suratha (King of Vidarbha), Gaya (Chakravarti king of Dharmaranya), and Paurava (King of Anga).

Rape of Rambha

Ravana is regarded to have once caught sight of the apsara Rambha and was filled with lust. Even as the apsara resisted his advances by asserting that she was his daughter-in-law, he raped her. When she reported this to her husband, Nalakuvara, he cursed Ravana to be unable to cause violence to any woman who did not consent to being with him, his head splitting into a number of pieces if he did so. This incident is stated to explain why Ravana could not force the abducted Sita to submit to his desire.[27][28]

Worship and temples

Thotsakan (Ravana)'s sculpture as a guardian of Wat Phra Kaew, Thailand


Ravana is worshipped as one of Shiva's most revered followers,[29] and he is even worshipped in some Shiva temples.[29][30][31]

Ravana is worshipped by the Kanyakubja Brahmins of the Vidisha region, who see him as a savior and a sign of prosperity, claiming Ravana was also a Kanyakubja Brahmin. Thousands of Kanyakubja Brahmins of the village Ravangram of Netaran, in the Vidisha District of Madhya Pradesh, perform daily puja in the Ravana temple and offer naivedyam or bhog (a ritual of sacrifice to the gods).

King Shiv Shankar built a Ravana temple in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The Ravana temple is open once a year, on the day of Dashera, to perform puja for the welfare of Ravana.[32]

Ravana is also worshipped by Hindus of Bisrakh, who claim their town to be his birthplace.[33]

The Sachora Brahmins of Gujarat claim to be descendants of Ravana, and sometimes have "Ravan" as their surnames.[34]

Saraswat Brahmins from Mathura claim Ravana as a saraswat Brahmin as per his lineage.[35][36]

There has also been reference to "Ravani", the lineage of Upadhyaya Yasastrata II, who was of the Gautama gotra and Acharya Vasudatta's son, and described as "born of Ravani".[37][full citation needed]

The Gondi people of central India claim to be descendants of Ravana, and have temples for him, his wife Mandodari, and their son Meghnad. They also state that Ravana was an ancient Gond king, the tenth dharmaguru of their tribe, and the eighteenth lingo (divine teacher). Annually on Dussehra, the Gondis from the village of Paraswadi carry an image of Ravana riding on an elephant in a procession.[38]


The following temples in India are for Ravana as a Shiva Bhakta.

Influence on culture and art

Ravana with Hanuman in tholu bommalata, a shadow puppet tradition of Andhra Pradesh, India
A carnival of Ravana

Ravana-Dahan (burning effigy of Ravana)

An effigy of Ravana with burning sparklers on Dusshera. Dashehra Diwali Mela in Manchester, England, 2006

Effigies of Ravana are burned on Vijayadashami in many places throughout India to symbolize Rama's triumph over evil.[41]


According to mythology, the ravanahatha, an ancient bowed string instrument, was created by Ravana and is still used as a Rajasthani folk instrument.[42]

In other religions

In the Rin-spuns-pa Tibetan Ramayana, it is prophesied that Ravana will return as the Buddha incarnation of Vishnu in Kali Yuga.

The Arunachal Pradesh Tai Khamti Ramayana (Phra Chow Lamang) shows Rama as a Bodhisattva who was reborn so Ravana could torture him.

In the Laotian Buddhist text Phra Lak Phra Lam, Rama is a Bodhisattva and the embodiment of virtues, while Ravana is a Brahmin ("mahabrahma") son of Virulaha who is highly materialistic.[citation needed]

In the Cambodian Buddhist text Preah Ream, Buddha is an incarnation of Rama and Ravana is a rakshasa.[citation needed]

In the Thai Buddhist text Ramakien, Ravana is a rakshasa[43] known as "Thotsakan" (ทศกัณฐ์, from Sanskrit दशकण्ठ, Daśakaṇṭha, "ten necks"), and is depicted with green skin.[citation needed]

In the Karandavyuha Sutra, Yama asks if the visitor in hell (Avalokitesvara), whom he hasn't seen yet, is a god or a demon, and whether he is Vishnu, Mahesvara, or the rakshasa Ravana.


Further information: Salakapurusa

A diorama in Jain Museum of Madhuban depicting Ravana

Jain accounts vary from the traditional Hindu accounts of the Ramayana. The incidents are placed at the time of the 20th Tirthankara, Munisuvrata. In Jainism, both Rama and Ravana were devout Jains.[44] Ravana was a Vidyadhara king who had magical powers,[45] and Lakshmana, not Rama, was the one who ultimately killed Ravana.[46]

Dravidian movement

Pulavar Kuzhanthai's Ravana Kaaviyam is a panegyric on Ravana that is made up of 3,100 poetic stanzas in which Ravana is the hero. The book was released in 1946, and was subsequently banned by India's Congress led government. The ban was later lifted in 1971.[47][48][49]

In popular culture

Sri Lanka named its first satellite Raavana 1 after Ravana.[50]

Ravana appears as the primary antagonist in films and television series based on the Ramayana. Movies like Bhakta Ravana (1938) and its Telugu (1940 and 1958) and Kannada (1958) adaptations as well as television series Raavan (2006-2008)[51] are focused on the tale on Ravana. The Tamil film Raavanan (2010) and its Hindi counterpart Raavan (2010) narrate the epic from Ravana's perspective in a modern setting.

See also


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  2. ^ Wheeler, James Talboys (1869). The History of India from the Earliest Ages. Vol. II The Rámáyana and the Vedic period. N. Trubner & Co. p. 281.
  3. ^ Brown, Nathan Robert (2 August 2011). The Mythology of Supernatural: The signs and symbols behind the popular TV show. Berkley Boulevard books, Newwork. ISBN 9781101517529. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Sunderkand explanation" (PDF). sunderkandsatsangsamuh.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2021. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  5. ^ Das, Subhamoy. "The Ramayana". Learn Religions. Retrieved 12 May 2020. Summary by Stephen Knapp
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  9. ^ a b Aiyangar Narayan (1909) "Essays On Indo-Aryan Mythology-Vol.", p.413
  10. ^ a b "Cologne Scan". sanskrit-lexicon.uni-koeln.de.
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  13. ^ "10 Names of Ravana". LifeStalker. 6 October 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  14. ^ "When Ravana tore his head and a hand to apologize to Lord Shiva". www.mensxp.com. 26 October 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2022.
  15. ^ Valmiki. Ramayana. Tulsidas. Vibhishana, Lanka Kanda; Samvaad, Rama (eds.). Ramcharitmanas.
  16. ^ Dutta, Prabhash K. (10 October 2016). "Did you know? Ravana was born in Greater Noida West". India Today. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  17. ^ Rajarajan, R.K.K. (2018). "Woven Threads of the Rāmāyaṇa The Early Āḻvārs on Brahmā and Rāvaṇa". Romanian Journal of Indian Studies. 2: 9–45.
  18. ^ Manglik, Reshu (29 September 2017). "Happy Dussehra 2017: 11 important facts to know about Ravana, primary antagonist of epic Ramayana". indiatvnews.com. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  19. ^ Rosen, Steven (2006). Essential Hinduism. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. pp. 68–69. ISBN 0-275-99006-0. OCLC 70775665.
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  21. ^ Rathore, Vinod (29 June 2020). "Know the unique story of Ravana's devotion to Shiva". News Track. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
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  28. ^ Vālmīki (2007). The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki: An Epic of Ancient India. Araṇyakāṇḍa. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 393. ISBN 978-81-208-3164-3.
  29. ^ a b "Ravana has his temples, too". Spectrum. The Sunday Tribune. 21 October 2007.
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  31. ^ Dave, Kamalesh Kumar (2008). Dashanan (in Hindi). Jodhpur, India: Akshaya Jyotish Anusandan Kendra.
  32. ^ Siddiqui, Faiz (10 October 2016). "A temple where demon king has his day". The Times of India. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  33. ^ "Only the elderly come to mourn Ravana in 'birthplace' Bisrakh". The Indian Express. 4 October 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  34. ^ People of India. Vol. 4: A–G. Oxford University Press. p. 3061.
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  37. ^ "[no title cited]". Indian Culture: Journal of the Indian Research Institute. 15. I.B. Corporation.
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  39. ^ a b c d e "Five temples of Ravana in India where demon king is worshipped". India TV. 11 October 2016.
  40. ^ a b "Unique Ravana temples in India". Travel guide. Native Planet. 27 April 2018.
  41. ^ "Dussehra 2018: What is the significance Of Ravana Dahan?". Dehli news. NDTV.com. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
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  46. ^ Ramanujan, A.K. (1991). "Three hundred Rāmāyaṇas: Five examples and Three thoughts on Translation". In Paula Richman (ed.). Many Rāmāyaṇas: The diversity of a narrative tradition in south Asia. University of California Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-520-07589-4.
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Preceded byKubera Emperor of Lanka Succeeded byVibhisana