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Ravana British Museum.jpg
Statue of Ravana from 18th century CE
Other names Ravanasura Dashamukha Dashanana(Ten-headed)
Predecessor Kubera
Successor Vibhishana
Personal information

Ravana (IAST: Rāvaṇa; /ˈrɑːvənə/;[1] Tamil: இராவணன், Telugu: రావణ, Sanskrit: रावण, Malayalam: രാവണൻ),Sinhala: මහා රාවණා), is the primary antagonist in the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana where he is depicted as a Rakshasa, the Great king of Lanka.[a][2][3] Ravana is the son of Visravas Muni and Kaikesi and grandson of Pulastya Muni.

Ravana, a devotee of Siva,an Asura king of ancient Sri Lanka is depicted and described as a great scholar, a Brahmin, a capable ruler and a maestro of the veena (plucked stringed instrument). He is also described as extremely powerful king and has ten heads. His paramount ambition was to overpower and dominate the devas. His ten heads represent his knowledge of the six shastras and the four Vedas. In the Ramayana, Ravana abducted Rama's wife Sita to exact vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the ears and nose of his sister Shurpanakha.[4]

Ravana is worshipped by Sinhalese, Tamils and Hindus in some parts of India, Sri Lanka and Bali (in Indonesia.)[5][6][7] He is considered to be the most revered devotee of Shiva. Images of Ravana are seen associated with Siva at some places.


Statue of Ravana at Koneswaram Temple, Sri Lanka.

The word Rāvaṇa means roaring opposite of Vaiśravaṇa meaning "hear distinctly" (passive).[8] Both Ravana and Vaiśravaṇa, who is popularly known as Kubera, are considered to be patronymics derived as sons of Vishrava.[9]

According to F. E. Pargiter, the word may originally have been a Sanskritisation of Iraivan, the Tamil name for a lord or king.[10][11]


Ravana was capable of ten separate skills. This is portrayed by depicting him as a ten-headed king in his statue and friezes. But Ravana is also depicted as having nine heads, as he has sacrificed a head to convince Shiva. However, in some stories in Java told every year, Ravana cuts one of his heads every year and presents it to Siva as representative of his devotion. Each head reflected his desire. By cutting it and presenting it, he was sacrificing one of his many desires to appease Siva. He kept doing it every year until the last one. It turned out that the last head was considered as the true head of Ravana and Shiva considered his devoutness is a worthy one and his sacrifices were accepted.[citation needed] 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 of 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.[12][page needed]

Depiction in the Ramayana[edit]

Ravana fights Jatayu as he carries off the kidnapped Sita. Painting by Raja Ravi Varma.

Ravana was born to a great sage, Vishrava (or Vesamuni) and his wife, the daitya princess Kaikesi. People of Bisrakh village in Uttar Pradesh claim that their village was named after Vishrava and that Ravana was born there.[13]

Ravana in Sanskrit drama of Kerala, India- Kutiyattam. Artist: Guru Nātyāchārya Māni Mādhava Chākyār[14]


According to Uttara Kaanda section of Ramayana, the Rakshasa (also known as Raksha) clan were the inhabitants of Lanka. The Raksha vanish from history after their mention in the Ramayana, except in Sri Lankan folk stories. [15]

Temples related to Ravana[edit]

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

There are some Shiva temples where Ravana is worshipped.[16][17][18]

Koneswaram temple, Dhen-Dakshina Kailasam is a classical-medieval Hindu temple complex in Trincomalee, a Hindu religious pilgrimage centre in Eastern Province, Sri Lanka. These temples are associated with Ravana and his mother. They had worshiped Shiva at the shrine.[citation needed]

Kanniya Hot water spring in Sri Lanka has the history from King Ravana era. It says that King Ravana stuck the earth with his sword in several spots for his mother's funeral event and several fountains were started on those places. The water was hot and it is now a tourist attraction in Sri Lanka.[citation needed]

The Sachora Brahmins of Gujarat claim descent from Ravana and sometimes have Ravan as their surname.[19]

There is also reference to the Ravani lineage of Upadhyaya Yasastrata II, who was of Gautama gotra and was a son of Acharya Vasudatta, and described as born of Ravani.[20][full citation needed]

Alternate legends[edit]

Sri Lankan Version[edit]

Lankapura Alias Malendura was the capital city of the country during the period that King Ravana ruled this country. It was believed that this place was covered by three mountains. According to the inscriptions, the extent of this Kingdom was larger than the present Sri Lanka’s land area. However, in terms of some legends, it was stated that part of present Sri Lanka was ruled by this kingdom.[citation needed]

The Battle at Lanka, Ramayana by Sahibdin. It depicts monkey army of the protagonist Rama(top left, blue figure) fighting Ravana—the asura-king of Lanka—to save Rama's kidnapped wife Sita. The painting depicts multiple events in the battle against the three-headed asura general Trishira, in bottom left. Trishira is beheaded by Hanuman, monkey-companion of Rama.

Thai versions[edit]

In the Thai text Ramakien, an epic influenced by the Ramayana, Ravana is a yaksa or a rakshasa.[21][need quotation to verify]. In the same text sometimes Ravana is also considered an asura. The Thai names for Ravana, among others, are Rapanasur ("the Asura Ravana", Sanskrit: Ravanasura), Totsapak ("one with ten faces", Sanskrit: Dashamukha) or, more popularly, Totsakan ("one with ten necks", Sanskrit: Dashakantha).

Burmese version[edit]

Yawana or Datha-giri, in the Burmese unofficial national epic Yama Zatdaw.

Jain version[edit]

Jain accounts vary from the traditional Hindu accounts of Ramayana. The incidents are placed at the time of the 20th Tirthankara, Munisuvrata. According to the Jain version, both Rama and Ravana were devout Jains.[22] Ravana was a Vidyadhara King having magical powers.[23] Also, as per the Jain accounts, Ravana was killed by Lakshmana and not Rama.[24]

Buddhist texts[edit]

Ravana, as a practitioner of Buddhism, is a major character in Buddhist texts such as the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra and the Gathering of Intentions, a text of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.[25]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ Identified by many with modern-day Sri Lanka


  1. ^ "Ravana" or Ravanan. Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic Encyclopaedia: A Comprehensive Dictionary With Special Reference to the Epic and Puranic Literature. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 354. ISBN 0-8426-0822-2. 
  3. ^ Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster. 1999. p. 909. ISBN 978-0-87779-044-0. 
  4. ^ Rao, Desiraju Hanumanta. "Valmiki Ramayana – Aranya Kanda – Sarga 18, Verse: 3-18-22". Retrieved 2016-10-27. 
  5. ^ "Only the elderly come to mourn Ravana in 'birthplace' Bisrakh". The Indian Express. 2014-10-04. Retrieved 2016-06-14. 
  6. ^ "Ravana in Noida: A book on Greater Noida". 2014-03-15. Retrieved 2016-06-14. 
  7. ^ "Bisrakh seeks funds for Ravan temple – Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2016-06-14. 
  8. ^ Aiyangar Narayan (1909) "Essays On Indo-Aryan Mythology-Vol.", p.413
  9. ^ MW Sanskrit Digital Dictionary p. 1026
  10. ^ Roy, Janmajit (2002-01-01). Theory of Avatāra and Divinity of Chaitanya. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. ISBN 9788126901692. 
  11. ^ "Early Tamils of Ilangai". Scribd. Retrieved 2016-09-05. 
  12. ^ Ramayana By Valmiki; Ramcharitmas by Tulsidasa (Lanka Kanda Vibhishana & Rama Samvaad)
  13. ^ "?". IBN Live. Archived from the original on 12 September 2014. 
  14. ^ Māni Mādhava Chākyār (1996). Nātyakalpadrumam. Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi. p.6
  15. ^ H. Parker (1909). Ancient Ceylon. New Dehli: Asian Educational Services. 7.
  16. ^ Ravana has his temples, too. The Sunday Tribune – Spectrum. 21 October 2007.
  17. ^ Vachaspati.S, Ravana Brahma [in English], 2005, Rudrakavi Sahitya Peetham, Gandhi Nagar, Tenali, India.
  18. ^ Kamalesh Kumar Dave, Dashanan [in Hindi], 2008, Akshaya Jyotish Anusandan Kendra, Quila Road, Jodhpur, India.
  19. ^ People of India: A – G., Volume 4. Oxford Univ. Press. p. 3061. 
  20. ^ Indian Culture: Journal of the Indian Research Institute, Volume 15 By I.B. Corporation
  21. ^ Vyas, Lallan Prasad. Prachi Darshan. p. 98. 
  22. ^ Sharma, S.R. (1940), Jainism and Karnataka Culture, Dharwar: Karnatak Historical Research Society, p. 76 
  23. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010), Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide, India: Penguin Books, p. 338, ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6 
  24. ^ Ramanujan, A.K. (1991). "Three hundred Rāmāyaṇas: Five examples and Three thoughts on Translation". In Paula Richman. Many Rāmāyaṇas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia. University of California Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-520-07589-4. 
  25. ^ Jacob P. Dalton (2016). The Gathering of Intentions: A History of a Tibetan Tantra. Columbia University Press. pp. 20–21. ISBN 978-0-231-54117-6. 


Preceded by
Emperor of Lanka Succeeded by


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