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Ravana British Museum.jpg
Statue of Ravana from the 18th century CE
Devanagari रावण
Sanskrit transliterationRāvaṇa
AffiliationThe King of Lanka, Rakshasa
Predecessor Kubera (King of Lanka)
Successor Vibhishana (King of Lanka)
Abode Lanka
Mount Pushpaka chariot
Texts Ramayana and its versions
Personal information
Siblings Kumbhakarna, Vibhishana, Shurpanakha
Children Indrajit, Atikaya, Akshayakumara, Narantaka, Devantaka, Trishira

Ravana( /ˈrɑːvənə/ ; [1] Sanskrit : रावण, IAST : Rāvaṇa, pronounced  [ˈraːʋɐɳɐ] ) is a king of Lanka and the chief antagonist in the Hindu epic Ramayana and its adaptations. [2] [3] [4] In the Ramayana, Ravana is described to be the eldest son of sage Vishrava and Rakshasi Kaikeshi. He abducted Rama's wife Sita and took her to his kingdom of Lanka, where he held her as a prisoner in Ashok Vatika, [5] and also expressed a desire to marry her. Later, Rama, with the support of vanara King Sugriva and his army of vanars, attacked Ravana in Lanka. They killed Ravana and Rama rescued his beloved wife Sita. [6]


Ravana is widely considered to be symbol of evil. In Sri Lankan mythology, however, he is considered as a great ruler. [7] Ravana also had many qualities that made him a learned scholar. He was well-versed in the six shastras and the four Vedas. [8] Ravana is considered to be the most revered devotee of Shiva. Images of Ravana are seen associated with Shiva at some places. He also appears in the Buddhist Mahayana text Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra , in Buddhist Ramayanas and Jatakas, as well as in Jain Ramayanas. In some scriptures, he is depicted as one of Vishnu’s cursed doorkeepers. [9]


Statue of Ravana at Koneswaram Hindu Temple, Sri Lanka Ravanan - King of Lanka.jpg
Statue of Ravana at Koneswaram Hindu Temple, Sri Lanka

The word Rāvaṇa (Sanskrit: रावण) means roaring opposite of Vaiśravaṇa meaning "hear distinctly" (passive). [10] [11] Both Ravana and Vaiśravaṇa, who is popularly known as Kubera, are considered to be patronymics derived as "sons of Vishrava". [10] [11] [12] [13]

Rāvana was a title taken on later by Dashānana, and it means "screamer" in Sanskrit (Ravana would sing hymns). [14] 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 in terms of the materialism of their environment.

Ravana has many other popular names, such as Dasis Ravana, Dasis Sakvithi Maha Ravana, Dashaanan, Ravula, Lankeshwar, Lankeshwaran, Ravanasura, Ravanaeshwaran, and Eela Vendhar.[ citation needed ]


Ravana is depicted and described as having ten heads, although sometimes he is shown with only nine heads, as he cut one off to convince Shiva.[ citation needed ] He is described as a devout follower of Shiva, a great scholar, a capable ruler and a maestro of the Veena (pronounced veh-nah; a chordophone instrument). 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 by Brahma. [15] [ page needed ]

Life and Legends


Ravana was born to great sage Vishrava (or Vesamuni), and his wife, the Rakshasa princess Kaikesi in the Treta Yuga. People of Bisrakh village in Uttar Pradesh claim that Bisrakh was named after Vishrava, and that Ravana was born there. [16] But according to Hela historical sources and folklore, Ravana was born in Lanka, where he later became king.[ citation needed ]

Ravana's grandfather on his father's side, the sage Pulastya, [17] was one of the ten Prajapatis or mind-born sons of Brahma and one of the Saptarishi (Seven Great Sages Rishi) 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 Kaikeshi 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. Kaikesi searched among the sages and finally chose Vishrava, the father of Kubera. Ravana and his siblings were born to the couple. They completed their education from their father, with Ravana being a great scholar of the Vedas.

Boon of Ravana

Ravana and his two brothers Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana performed penances on Mt Gokarna for 11,000 years and won boons from Brahma. Ravana was blessed with a boon that would make him invincible to the creation of Brahma, except for humans. [18] He also received weapons, chariot as well as the ability to shapeshift from Brahma. Ravana later usurped Lanka from his half-brother Kubera and became the King of Lanka. He appointed Shukracharya as his priest and learned the Arthashastra (Science of Politics) from him.

Devotee of Shiva

Ravananugraha theme RavanKailashAndolan.jpg
Ravananugraha theme

One of the most Popular Images of Shiva is called as "Ravananugraha" which was popular in Gupta era which depicts Ravan beneath Mount Kailasa Playing the Veena Made out of his head and hand and strings made out of his Tendons with Shiva Parvati sitting on top. [19] 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 hymns (Shiva Tandava Stotra) in praise of Shiva, who finally blessed him and granted him an invincible sword and a powerful linga (Shiva's an iconic symbol, Atmalinga) to worship. [20] [19]


Queen Mandodari and the women of Lanka mourning the death of Ravana. Bas-relief of 9th century Prambanan temple, Java, Indonesia. COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Relief op de aan Brahma gewijde tempel op de Candi Lara Jonggrang oftewel het Prambanan tempelcomplex TMnr 10016175.jpg
Queen Mandodari and the women of Lanka mourning the death of Ravana. Bas-relief of 9th century Prambanan temple, Java, Indonesia.

Ravana's family are hardly mentioned outside the Ramayana, which is viewed by some as being only the point of view of Rama devotees. According to that:

  1. Kubera – The King of the North direction and the Guardian of Heavenly Wealth. He was an older half-brother of Ravana. Kubera was born to Vishrava's other wife, Ilavida.
  2. Kumbhakarna – One of the most jovial demons in Hindu mythology. When offered a boon by Brahma, he was tricked into asking for eternal sleep. A horrified Ravana, out of brotherly love, persuaded Brahma to amend the boon. Brahma mitigated the power of the boon by making Kumbhakarna sleep for six months and being awake for the rest six months of a year (in some versions, he is awake for one day out of the year). During the war with Rama, Kumbhakarna was untimely awakened from his sleep. He tried to persuade Ravana to open negotiations with Rama and return Sita to him. But he too failed to mend the ways of Ravana. However, bound by a brother's duty, he fought on the side of Ravana and was killed in the battlefield. Before dying he met Vibhishana and blessed him for following the path of righteousness.
  3. Vibhishana – A follower of Rama and one of the most important characters in the Ramayana. As a minister and brother of Ravana, he spoke the truth without fear and advised Ravana to return the kidnapped Sita and uphold Dharma. Ravana not only rejected this sane advice but also banished him from his kingdom. Vibhishana sought protection from Rama, which was granted without hesitation.
  4. Khara – King of Janasthan. [23] He was a cousin of Ravana and the son of Kaikesi's sister Raka.
  5. Dushana – Viceroy of Janasthan. Cousin of Ravana and twin brother of Khara.
  6. Ahiravan – In Krittivasi Ramayan, Ahiravan was king of the Underworld ruled by the rakshasas by Ravana and the demon king Maya.
  7. Kumbhini – The older half-sister of Ravana and the wife of the demon Madhu, King of Mathura. She was the mother of Lavanasura.
  8. Sahastra Ravana - He is mentioned in Adbhuta Ramayana as the elder brother of Ravana, one thousand armed and thousand-headed, living on an island named Pushkar, he was much more powerful than his younger brother. He is slain by Sita who takes the form of Mahakali to slay him. [24]
  9. Shurpanakha – The sister of Ravana. She was the ultimate root of the kidnapping of Sita. She was the one who instigated her brothers to wage a war against Rama.
  1. Meghnaad (also known as Indrajit because he defeated Indra), the most powerful son of Ravana. He was born to Ravana's elder consort Mandodari.
  2. Atikaya
  3. Akshayakumara
  4. Narantaka
  5. Devantaka
  6. Trishira

Priestly ministers

Ravana is said in some version to have had Shukracharya, the priest of the Asuras, as his minister, and in some versions Brihaspati, the priest of the Devas.

One of the most original, which is not found in earlier manuscripts, tells how Ravana orders his court priest Brhaspati (all the gods being his slaves) to read the Chandi stava (mantras of Chandi), that is, the Devi Mahatmya, in order to stave off defeat if he can recite it. According to the Krttivasa text, Ravana arranged for a peaceful yajna (sacrifice) and to start the recitation of Chandi, Brihaspati was invited. Accordingly, Brihaspati recited the same correctly. [25]

Ravana in Sanskrit drama of Kerala, India- Kutiyattam. Artist: Guru Natyacharya Mani Madhava Chakyar. Mani Madhava Chakyar as Ravana.jpg
Ravana in Sanskrit drama of Kerala, India- Kutiyattam. Artist: Guru Nātyāchārya Māni Mādhava Chākyār.

Other legends

As Vishnu's cursed doorkeeper

In the Bhagavata Purana, Ravana and his brother, Kumbhakarna, were said to be reincarnations of Jaya, and Vijaya, gatekeepers at Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu and were cursed to be born in Earth for their insolence.

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.

Vishnu agreed that they should be punished. They were given two choices, that they could be born seven times as normal mortals and devotees of Vishnu, or three times as powerful and strong people, but as enemies of Vishnu. Eager to be back with the Lord, they choose the latter one. Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna were born to fulfill the curse on the second birth as enemies of Vishnu in the Treta Yuga. The curse of 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) and the curse of third birth was fulfilled by Dantavakra and Shishupala in the Dvapara Yuga when they both were slain by Krishna, the eighth avatar. [9]

Conflict with other kings and Asuras

Ravana had gotten into a conflict with some other major Asuras.

  1. In Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh is where he is said to have fought, but lost, to Kartavirya Arjuna, and he was tied up; later Kartavirya got the name Daśagrivajayi (the conqueror of Ravana just like Indrajit got his name by defeating Indra) and released him on the request of his grandfather sage Pulastya. Ravana vanquished.
  2. Marutta (Chakravarti King of Ushiraviga),
  3. Gadhi (Vishwamitra's father),
  4. Dushyanta (Bharata's father),
  5. Suratha (King of Vidarbha),
  6. Gaya (Chakravarti king of Dharmaranya), and
  7. Paurava (King of Anga).
  8. Ravana killed Anaranya, the king of Ayodhya although the latter cursed Ravana to be slain by Rama.
  9. Ravana was vanquished by the Ikshvaku King Mandhata, an ancestor of Rama.
  10. Ravana had wrestled his brother Kubera for the Pushpaka Vimana.
  11. In the Ramayana, he fought Vali the Kishkindha king, but was defeated by him. [27]
  12. He also fought with the Nivatakavachas, the descendants of Prahlada, but being unable to defeat them, struck an alliance with them.
  13. Another time he was vanquished by the sage Kapila.
  14. One time, 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 over there and was forced to retreat.

Worship and temples

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


As he is considered one of the most revered devotees of Shiva, Ravana is worshiped in several places. [8] There are some Shiva temples where Ravana is worshiped. [28] [29] [30]

The Kanyakubja Brahmins of Vidisha district worship Ravana; they personify him as a symbol of prosperity and regard him as a saviour, claiming that 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 (worship) in the Ravan temple and offer naivedyam / bhog (a ritual of sacrifice to the Gods). Centuries ago King Shiv Shankar built a Ravana temple at Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The Ravana temple is opened once a year, on Dashehra Day, to perform puja for the welfare of Ravana. [31]

Ravana also worshiped by Hindus of Bisrakh, who claim their town to be his birthplace. [32]

The Sachora Brahmins of Gujarat also claim to descend from Ravana, and sometimes have "Ravan" as their surnames. [33]

Some Saraswat Brahmins from Mathura claim Ravana as a saraswat brahmin as per his lineage. [34] [35]

There is also reference to "Ravani", the lineage of Upadhyaya Yasastrata II, who was of the Gautama gotra and was a son of Acharya Vasudatta, and described as "born of Ravani". [36]

The Gondi people of central India claim to be descendants of Ravana, and they also have temples set up for him, his wife Mandodari, and their son Meghnad. They also state that Ravana was an ancient Gond king and the tenth dharmaguru of their tribe. Every year on Dussehra, the Gondis of the village of Paraswadi carry an image of Ravana riding on an elephant in a procession [37]


There are a number of temples in India for Ravana

Influence on culture and art

Ravana with Hanuman in tholu bommalata, the shadow puppet tradition of Andhra Pradesh, India Hanuman and Ravana in Tholu Bommalata, the shadow puppet tradition of Andhra Pradesh, India.JPG
Ravana with Hanuman in tholu bommalata , the shadow puppet tradition of Andhra Pradesh, India
Ravana was born to great sage Vishrava (or Vesamuni), and his wife, the daitya princess Kaikeshi in the Treta Yuga. People of Bisrakh village in Uttar Pradesh claim that Bisrakh was named after Vishrava, and that Ravana was born there. But according to Hela historical sources and folklore, Ravana was born in Lanka, where he later became king. Ravana Carnival.jpg
Ravana was born to great sage Vishrava (or Vesamuni), and his wife, the daitya princess Kaikeshi in the Treta Yuga. People of Bisrakh village in Uttar Pradesh claim that Bisrakh was named after Vishrava, and that Ravana was born there. But according to Hela historical sources and folklore, Ravana was born in Lanka, where he later became king.

A Ramleela actor wears the traditional attire of Ravana. One of the most important literary works of ancient India, the Ramayana has had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. [40]

Ravana-Dahan (burning effigy of Ravana)

An effigy of Ravana with burning sparklers on Dusshera. Dashehra Diwali Mela in Manchester, England, 2006. Ravana fizzles.jpg
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. It is said that this symbolizes Rama's triumph over evil (i.e., Ravana). [41]


The ancient instrument is known as a ravanahatha is said to have belonged to a sovereign in present-day India around 5000 BC. It replicates the ancient instrument called the Ravan hatta which is found even today in Rajasthan. Mythology credits this creation to Ravana. [42]

Texts attributed to Ravana


There are also texts attributed to Ravana. The Ravan Samhita is an astrological text or scripture narrated by Shiva and written by Ravana.


The Ravanakumara Tantra is a part of the tantric rituals of the Kriyakalagunottara Tantra, [43] and it is an 11th-century Sanskrit work for the treatment of children's diseases.[ citation needed ] It is also known as the Ravanaproktabalacikitsasutra ("Sutra Spoken by Ravana on the Curing of Children's Diseases").

Ravana appears as the composer of the 16th century C.E. text, Arka Prakasa, which is a dialogue between the king of Lanka and his wife Mandodhari about which herbs and chemicals can be used in a mixture to cure illnesses, such as syphilis.

Ravana is also the composer of the 16th century C.E. scriptures Nadi Pariksa and Nadi Vijnana on knowledge about the veins.


Ravana is the composer of the Ravanabhet, a Vedic text on the phonetics of the Sanskrit language.

Ravana is also the composer of the Ravaniya, also known as Ravanabaith, a text on the phonetics of the Telugu language.

The Prakrta-Kamadhenu grammatical text on the Prakrit language is attributed to "Ravana Lankesvara".


The Samkhya scripture known as the Ravana-bhasya, also known as Ravanabhasya, is believed to be written by Ravana.

The Vaisesika scripture Katandi (a commentary on the Vaisesika Sutra ) is attributed to Ravana.

Ravana is also the name used by a commentator of the Shaiva Rudrapurascharana.

"Ravanacharya" is the scholar who wrote the Padaratna, a commentary on the Rig Veda.

Ravana is the composer of the Shavite scripture Shiva Tandava Stotram.

In other religions

Buddhist versions

Rama is always the protagonist. In Rin-spuns-pa Tibetan Ramayana, it is prophesied that "Ravana" will return as the Buddha incarnation of Vishnu in the Kali Yuga.[ citation needed ]

The Tai Khamti Ramayana (Phra Chow Lamang) of Arunachal Pradesh as well describes Rama as a Bodhisattva incarnated to get tortured by Ravana.

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.

In the Cambodian Buddhist text Preah Ream , Buddha is an incarnation of Rama and Ravana. He is a rakshasa.

In the Thai Buddhist text Ramakien , Rāvana is a rakshasa. [44] There, he is instead known as "Thotsakan" (ทศกัณฐ์, from Sanskrit दशकण्ठ, Daśakaṇṭha, "ten necks"), and he is depicted with green skin.

In the Lankavatara Sutra , Gautama Buddha pays a visit to Lanka, and in the scripture he is addressed as a Rakshasa. He is normally identified as a demon.

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

Jain version

Jain accounts vary from the traditional Hindu accounts of Ramayana. The incidents are placed at the time of the 20th Tirthankara, Munisuvrata. According to Jain version, both Rama as well as Ravana were devout Jains. [45] Ravana was a Vidyadhara King who had magical powers. [46] Also, as per the Jain accounts, Ravana was killed by Lakshmana and not Rama in the end. [47]

In Ayyavazhi version

In the Ayyavazhi version, Ravana is considered an Asura, not a Rakshasa.[ citation needed ]

Dravidian movement

Pulavar Kuzhanthai’s Ravana Kaaviyam, is a panegyric on Ravana. The book is made of 3100 poetic stanzas in which Ravana is the hero. The book was released in 1946. The book was banned by the then Congress state government. The ban was lifted only in 1971. [48] [49]

Films and Television


FilmsPlayed by
Rambaan Chandra Mohan
Sampoorna Ramayanam (1958 film) T. K. Bhagavathi
Sampoorna Ramayana B. M. Vyas
Seeta Rama Kalyanam N. T. Rama Rao
Indrajeet (Sati Sulochana) S. V. Ranga Rao
Sita Kalyanam (1976 film) Kaikala Satyanarayana
Bajrangbali (film) Prem Nath
Sri Rama Pattabhishekam N. T. Rama Rao
Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama Amrish Puri (voice)
Ramayanam (1996 film) Swathi Baalineni
Raavanan Vikram (Based on Ravana's character)
Ramayana: The Epic Ashutosh Rana (voice)


TV SeriesPlayed byChannelCountry
Ramayan (1987 TV series) Arvind Trivedi [51] DD National India
Bharat Ek Khoj Om Puri [52] DD National
Jai Hanuman (1997 TV series) Anil Yadav DD Metro
Vishnu Puran Nimai Bali Zee TV
DD National
Ramayan (2002 TV series) Surendra Pal Zee TV
Raavan (2006) [53] Narendra Jha Zee TV
Ramayan (2008 TV series) Akhilendra Mishra [54] NDTV Imagine
Jai Jai Jai Bajrang Bali Nimai Bali Sahara One
Devon Ke Dev...Mahadev Tarun Khanna [55] Life OK
Ramayan (2012 TV series) Sachin TyagiZee TV
Ramleela – Ajay Devgn Ke Saath Aman Verma Life OK
Siya Ke Ram Karthik Jayaram [55] Star Plus
Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman Aarya Babbar
/Saurav Gurjar
Sony Entertainment Television
Vighnaharta Ganesha Paras Chhabra [54] Sony Entertainment Television
Ram Siya Ke Luv Kush Shalin Bhanot Colors TV
RavanaJanuka Rajapaksha TV Derana Sri Lanka

See also

Related Research Articles

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    Preceded by
    Emperor of LankaSucceeded by