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avana is believed to be one of the most powerful beings to have been born on earth.

Ravana (meaning"one of terrifying roar"), is often portrayed as the 'demon king of Lanka, a symbol of evil and who played the role of the primary antagonist in the Hindu mythology epic, Ramayana. Ravana's demise is celebrated all over India every year on Dussehra, a festival that symbolises the defeat of Ravana by Rama, a triumph of good over evil. But, the essence of Indian mythology is beyond the simple good vs evil trope. When we dig deeper into each character of these epics, we find that there's an interesting story at every step.

Something that's not well known among the most population is the many virtues that Ravana had. Ravana is believed to be one of the most powerful beings to have been born on earth. He was the grandson of the creator of the universe, Brahma. Born as the eldest son of sage Vishrava and Rakshasi Kaikeshi, He was half Brahmin and half Rakshasa. He was a learned scholar who embodied great knowledge; he was well-versed in the six shastras and the four Vedas. Ravana is considered to be the most revered devotee of Shiva. It is believed that under his rule in Lanka even the poor ate off of a golden plate.

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According to the legends, Ravana carried out intense Tapasya to appease Lord Shiva and that lasted hundreds of years. Pleased with Ravana's perseverance and austerity, Lord Shiva offered him a boon. He was granted the boon of invulnerability and supremacy over the gods, rakshas and animals. He possessed a huge amount of knowledge of divine weapons and magic. For which he is still hailed as a glorious king and worshipped in many parts of South India and Sri Lanka. Another notable fact is that even though Ravana abducted Sita to avenge his sister Surupnakha's mutilation, but he never touched Sita which implies that he respected her consent.

Ravana approaching Sita (Painting) Ravana never touched Sita which implies that he respected her consent.Wikimedia Commons

In one of the many versions of the Ramayana, it is said that once Rama's army needed to create the bridge to Lanka, for which they needed to get Shiva's blessing for which they set up a Yagya. To perform this Yagya they needed the most learned Brahman but the biggest devotee of Shiva in the entire region was Ravana, and since he was half-brahman, he was the best-qualified person to perform the Yagya. Despite being aware of the fact that Rama is bringing an army to wage war against Ravana, he displayed honour and showed up to perform the Yagya and gave Ram his blessing.

So how did this wise king who is hailed as a God in Sri Lanka, become the manifestation of evil in Hindu mythology? Ravana did not fall into the clear spectrum of black and white, instead like most humans, he lies in the grey areas as a mix of both good and evil. He had both good qualities as well as bad qualities that neutralized his virtues and knowledge. Despite being a scholar and faithful devotee to his God, Ravana was arrogant, greedy for materialistic things, and a highly egoistic being. And this insatiable, all-consuming ego became his Achilles' heel.

ALSO READ: Strange Rituals: Demon King Ravana is Worshipped on Dussehra

It was his greed and ego that consumed him. Despite possessing a superior body and superior mind, despite possessing the knowledge of the Vedas and being a worshipper Shiva he condoned everything that Shiva rejects. Thus he fell victim to his ego and senses, he arrogantly showed his knowledge of detachment but was not wise enough to practice detachment. Thus he was killed by Lord Rama for his evil deeds. Even as he laid dying lord Rama understood the greatness of his knowledge and knew all the knowledge Ravana possessed would turn to dust with his death, so he asked Ravana to enlighten Lakshman with his knowledge. Thus, as he laid dying Ravana imparted valuable knowledge to Lakshman.

Burning Ravana's effigy Dussehra's essence lies in us human's burning the Ravana within usWikimedia Commons

Dussehra is not a festival where we just celebrate Ravana's defeat, it is not just about burning the effigies of Ravana. Dussehra's essence lies in us human's burning the Ravana within us, we need to burn the ego, greed, anger, lust and jealousy that lies within us, that is when we truly understand the essence of Dussehra and celebrate it.

Keywords: Ravana, Dussehra, scholar, Shiva devotee, greed



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