The word Rāvana is from the Sanskrit, meaning “roaring.” In mythology, Rāvana played the role of a villain, but may have been a bringer of equilibrium, a balance in the equation of good and evil. Rāvana was born to a great Sage (good) Vishravan while his mother was the Raksashi (evil) Princess, Kaikashi. Hence he is considered half Asur (demon) and half Brahmin (sage). He is depicted as a demon and the great King of Lanka.
Rāvana was also a great follower of Lord Shiva, an inordinate scholar, an excellent ruler, and the maestro of the veena, a plucked musical string instrument. He wrote two master texts: the Rāvana Samhita (a book of astrology) and Arka Prakasham (book of Siddha medicine). His intelligence was highly respected, but he was a powerful user of magic. He was well versed in Ayurveda and darker practices, with it being said that he could control the planetary positions at his will.
He owned pushpakviman (a flying chariot), which he won from his step-brother Kuber. He had mastered tantra vidya (science of creating optical illusions, mastery over thoughts and compulsion) which he used in battles against his enemies. He was an outstanding warrior, mastered the magical scriptures, and was an expert in statecraft, so much so that Rama instructed Lakshman to learn the art of statecraft and diplomacy from Rāvana before his death. His mastery of magic enabled him to vanish, throw rain and fire or launch thousands of arrows during war. Rāvana conquered the three beings of the world defeating all gods, spirits and serpent (naga) races, and he made alliance with the only two clans he was unable to defeat – Nivatakavachas and Kalakeyas.
A prophecy was bestowed upon Rāvana that no god, demon, kinnar or gandharv could ever kill him. Out of arrogance, Rāvana did not seek protection from human beings. This arrogance led to his eventual death by Prince Rama.
The ten heads of Ravana
A devout follower of Lord Shiva, it came to pass that Rāvana owed the Lord Shiva a great penance. Willing to please the lord, Rāvana annexed his head and each time he did, the head grew back. He continued ten times thus enabling him to continue his penance. At the end of the penance, Lord Shiva granted him back the ten heads to Rāvana that he had sacrificed.
It is understood that the ten heads of Rāvana symbolize the ten great emotions that Rāvana frequently epitomized. Those emotions are: Kaam (lust), Krodh (anger,) Moha (delusion), Lobh (greed), Mada (pride), Maatsarya (envy), Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chit (will), and Ahamkara (ego). Traditions emphasized the importance of controlling one’s senses and projecting just the Buddhi (intellect) alone, which was considered supreme over others. In intellect, Rāvana was almost unsurpassed having mastered the six shastras and four Vedas scriptures.
The great king Mahabali advised Rāvana to shun the other nine emotions and to keep only intellect as the use of other emotions were considered to be detrimental to the growth of a soul. The one head of Buddhi controlled Rāvana’s destiny and the other heads of Rāvana controlled his actions, which ultimately led to his destruction. He eventually became a slave to his senses and since he could not control his desires, he not only destroyed himself and his clan. Ultimately, the whole kingdom of Lanka was reduced to ashes. Having all this knowledge but not being able to control his powers was one of his biggest regrets he had as he lay dying in the battlefield.
Rāvana had seven brothers and two sisters. It was from his brother Kuber that he killed, took the golden chariot for himself and usurped the kingship rule of Lanka. His queen was Mandodari, who was the daughter of a celestial architect, a channeler who studied the heavens with whom Rāvana was associated. He had two other wives. Together with his three wives he fathered a number of sons, the most powerful of which was Meghnaad.
Continuing the theme of his dual-sided nature, Rāvana’s high priests were both considered good and evil, but throughout his life, he made war with many asuras and kings.
Many temples are dedicated to Rāvana, whom is worshiped as one of Shiva’s most revered followers and for seeing him as a savior and sign of prosperity.
Rāvana’s most notorious act is immortalized in the Ramayana. Rāvana’s sister Shurpanakha was the main cause of the war between him and Rama. Prince Lakshaman saw the beautiful Sita, the bride of his brother Rama, and coveted an equally beautiful bride for himself. He targeted Shurpanakha, Rāvana’s sister, but when she rejected the prince’s proposal, he even cut her nose and declared that she would be hideous now in comparison to Sita. It was after this Shurpanakha incited Rāvana to kidnap Sita, describing her beauty, jealousy, and desire for revenge. Rāvana abducted Sita to teach his enemies a lesson, but he did not violate Sita while he held her captive. In his younger years, he was known to violently rape women, and as punishment, he was cursed by King Brahma with a binding that should he do it again, he would die. It did make him furious that she was not attracted to him as he was considered extremely handsome, adorned in the riches silks and decorated his arms and hair with gold ornaments.
In response, Rama summoned a vast army and attacked Lanka, but jealous of Rāvana’s power, his youngest brother Vibhishan, approached Rama, and told the Prince about Rāvana’s great secret. It was he who told Rama he could kill Rāvana only by striking an arrow at his navel.
Rama struck an arrow at Rāvana’s navel, killing him.
His intelligence is depicted with ten heads, and his strength depicted as having twenty arms, with a flying chariot and a city of gold, Rāvana is one of the most flamboyant villains in Hindu mythology. He abducted Sita, the wife of Rama, and was struck down for it. Rāvana is the demon-king of the Ramayana, the lord of the Rakshasas, making Rāvana the archetypical villain. And since Rama is God for most Hindus, Rāvana’s actions make him the devil incarnate.
1st Age – Ryker Petrovic, a covert intelligence operative for the CCD
2nd Age – He was an Aes Sedai diplomat connecting across the Dominions. He was incredibly strong in the One Power but seemed to lack an apparent talent that he could build himself prestige. He turned to the Shadow after constant disrespect from the Dragon and seeking his own place of power in the world. As a Forsaken he preferred manipulation and compulsion over outright attack, but when he was riled into battle, he was ferocious. While he was generally considered an excellent leader, his greatest skills were in meticulous care and planning.
3rd Age – He is often if not always bound to Shayol Ghul as one of the 13 Forsaken, and emerges into the land much unaffected by the bore’s effects. Still handsome and arrogant as always, he moves through the lands to gain control over highest-powered nations and armies, driving them toward the interests of the Shadow.