Though demon king Ravana is the prime antagonist character in the epic Ramayana, yet most of the people are not aware of his background, his conquests and his erudite knowledge.
To put it in a nutshell, here are eleven big facts you should know about Ravana (of course, they are based on Hindu shastras and religious texts):
1. Ravana was half-Brahmin and half-demon. His father was Vishwashrava, a rishi belonging to the Pulastya clan, and mother Kaikasi belonged to a demon clan.
Vishwashrava had two wives – Varavarnini and Kaikasi. Kuber, the god of wealth was born to the first wife, and Ravana, Kumbhakarna, Shurpanakha and Vibhishana were born to Kaikasi.
It was Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarana, who performed penance, got miraculous powers from Lord Brahma and drove out Kuber to occupy the golden kingdom of Lanka.
2. Ravana was not named so since birth. He was Dashagriva or Dashanana (demon with ten heads).
While trying to dislodge Mount Kailash on which Lord Shiva was meditating, Shiva pressed the mountain with his toe crushing Ravana’s forearms.
As Ravana let out blood-curling screams in agony, he came to be known as Ravana (one who screams).
It was then that Ravana became one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shiva, and composed the Shiva Tandava Stotram.
3. Ravana had killed King Anaranya of the Ikshawku dynasty to which Lord Rama belonged. While dying King Anaranya had cursed Ravana saying that the son of King Dashartha will eventually kill him.
4. Ravana had also tried to kill the monkey king Bali, who was performing prayer to the Sun God at a seashore.
Bali was so powerful, that he carried Ravana with his arms and took him back to Kishkindhya, where he asked Ravana what he wanted.
Ravana offered friendship and the two became friends. It was Bali, who while fighting with Sugriva, was slayed by Lord Rama.
5. 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.
6. Ravana was not only a stupendous fighter, but also an expert of the Vedas and an expert in astrology.
It is said that when his son Meghanada was to be born from his wife Mandodari’s womb, Ravana “instructed” all the planets and the Sun to be in their proper position for the auspicious “lagna” so that his son would become immortal.
But Saturn suddenly changed its position. Noticing this, a furious Ravana attacked Saturn with his mace and broke off one of its legs, maiming him for life.
7. Ravana 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.
8. Ravana, after thousand years of penance, sought a boon for immortality from Lord Brahma, but the later politely declined saying that his life would be concentrated at his navel (naabhi).
Ravana’s brother Vibhishana, a devotee of Rama, knew this, and on the tenth day of the battle, he told Rama to strike his arrow at Ravana’s navel, killing the demon king.
9. Ravana had acquired a boon from Lord Brahma by beseeching that no god, demon, kinnar or gandharva could ever kill him.
He was granted this boon, little knowing that he did not seek the boon for protection from human beings. It was Rama, as a human, who ultimately slayed Ravana.
10. Ravana’s empire spread over Balidweepa (today’s Bali), Malayadweep (Malaysia), Angadweepa, Varahdweepa, Shankhadweepa, Yavadweepa, Andhralaya and Kushadweepa.
11. Ravana not only usurped Kubera’s kingdom of Lanka, but also his golden Pushpaka Vimana. It is said the vimana (aircraft) could take different shapes and could travel at the speed of mind.