Lord Vishnu incarnated Seventh – Rama Avatar – The Rama Incarnation in Treta – Yug to get rid of the demon king Ravan and other rakshas who had troubled the mankind. But before we begin our actual story let’s take a peak into King Ravana’s life and how it all started.
INCARNATIONS OF JAYA AND VIJAYA – As stated earlier in Varaha Avatar Jaya and Viajaya were the doorkeepers of Vaikunth, Vishu’s abode. One day Lord Brahma’s four sons came to meet Lord Vishnu at his abode and since Lord Vishnu was resting at that time, Jaya and Vijaya stopped them from entering. This annoyed Brahmaji’s son and they cursed them to be born on earth. Jaya and Vijaya pleaded Lord Vishnu to show mercy and find solution as they didn’t wanted to be separated from Lord Vishnu.
Lord Vishnu gave them two options – either they could be born as his devotees for 7 life cycles or as his enemies for 3 life cycles. They chose the latter since they didn’t wanted to be separated from Lord Vishnu for a long period of time. They were first born as Hiranyaksh (Varaha Avatar) and Hiranyakashyap (Narshimha Avatar)- in Satyug. Second they were born as Ravan and Kumbakarn (Rama Avatar) -in Treta-yug and the third and final avatar was Kansa and Shishupal (Krishna Avatar) – in Dwapar-yug.
EARLY LIFE OF RAVAN– According to Hindu mythology Ravan was born to Vishrava and his wife, princess Kaikesi. His father Vishrava was a great sage and his mother Kaikesi was a rakshani (demon princess). Kaikesi wanted to marry someone from the mortal world so she rejected everyone from her clan and married Rishi Vishvara. Therefore Ravan was half rakshas and half brahmin.
Ravan was born as Dasagriva or Dasamukha (one with ten face and heads) and it is believed that his ten heads are said to be symbolic of his great knowledge. Under Vishrava’s training, Dasamukha mastered all the Vedas and learned the arts and ways of Kshatriyas (warriors). He had two brothers named Kumbhakarna and Vibhishan and a sister named Sroopnakha.
HOW RAVANA GOT HIS NAME – Ravan’s original name at birth was Dasamukha or Dashanan, meaning one who possesses ten heads and twenty arms. It is believed that it was Lord Shiva who gave Dashanan his name Ravan meaning “one who shakes three worlds with his roar”.
Dashanan was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. Once he tried to uproot Lord Shiva’s abode, Mount Kailash. This infuriated Lord Shiva and he merely pressed Dashanan with his toe and crushed Dashanan’s hand under the mountain. This made Dashanan scream in pain and his roar shook the three worlds. Dashanan howled and danced to please Lord Shiva and in his this unconditional devotion state he composed a beautiful hymn called Shiva tandava stotram for Lord Shiva.
This melted Lord Shiva and he named Dashanan Ravan meaning ‘of a terrifying roar’ (when the three worlds shook with the cry or pain of Ravan when he was pinned under the mountain). Pleased with his devotion Lord Shiva granted him with CHANDRAHAS (moon-blade).
PENANCE TO LORD BRAHMA– Ravan performed intense penance to Lord Brahma for hundred of years standing on one foot. Pleased with his devotion and penance Brahmaji offered him a boon. In return Ravan asked for immortality to which Brahmaji refused. He then asked Lord Brahma to grant him supremacy superior to devtas, other demons, serpents, heavenly spirits and wild beasts.
Thinking that human race was of no harm to him he didn’t ask for protection from them. Brahmaji granted him ‘AMRIT’ which Ravan placed inside his navel and additionally granted him divine weapons and knowledge of black magic (which he applied many times during his war with Shree Ram). This is what made him proud and sowed the seeds of arrogance and snobbishness.
ACQUIRING OF LANKA– The golden city Lanka was built by Vishwakarma (the lord of all craftsmen and architects). As believed when Lord Shiva married Parvati, he asked Vishwakarma (son of Lord Brahma) to build a beautiful place for them. Vishwakarma build a palace made of gold called Golden Lanka and presented to Lord Shiva but before entering the house, a house warming puja had to be done.
For that Ravan was called because at that time he was the most educated scholar. Ravan was mesmerized by the beauty of this palace and after the puja Ravan asked for ‘Dakshina’ (offering). He asked for Golden Lanka for himself and Shivji couldn’t refuse. This way Ravan became the mighty king of Sone ki Lanka – Golden Palace.
It is believed that under his rule Lanka flourished and every household was happy and at peace. Later Ravan married Mandodari who was the daughter of Mayasura, King of the rakshas (demons). Ravan had seven kids- 1. Indrajit / Megnath 2. Prahasta 3. Atikaya 4. Akshyakumra 5. Devantaka 6. Nrantaka 7. Trishira
LET’S BEGIN OUR STORY – SHREE RAM AVATAR- The story of Ramayan, is an exciting nail-biting story of the war raged by Ram against various evil elements of the world and in the end against Ravan. Ravan after receiving his boon had become evil and misused his powers. Devtas approached Lord Vishnu and requested him,
“Kindly save us from the terror of this arrogant demon.” Lord Vishnu after hearing their cry assured them that he will take birth on earth and relieve the three worlds from Ravan’s terror. Lord Vishnu in this avatar took birth as Ram, the eldest son of Dashratha, king of Ayodhya, to eradicate evil and free earth from all the demons ( rākṣas) and teach mankind the importance of duty over desire.
King Dashratha was the ruler of Ayodhya. He had three queens namely Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi but no kids. With the help of his gurus he performed a yagna with the desire to have a son for the welfare of the world. As yagya came to an end Agni came out of the yagnakund and handed a bowl of kheer.
King brought the bowl to the palace and gave it to Kaushalya and Kaikeyi. Both the queens further divided their shares and gave Sumitra half of their shares. As a result of which the three queens gave birth to 4 sons. Kaushalya gave birth to Ram. Sumitra gave birth to Lakshman and Shatrughn. Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharat. All four sons had great affection for one another.
Family guru Vashith taught them the science of arms. Sage Vishwamitra lived in a dense forest and while performing his daily yagna, demons( rākṣas) began to harass them. Vishwamitra was tired of this day to day disturbance. He visited King Dahratha and asked for help, he asked him to send their son Ram to defeat the demons ( rākṣas).
Dasharatha was not happy to hear this. He said, “Guruji Ram is still a kid, how can he kill such ferocious demons, I can come along with you.” Vishwamitra smiled and replied, ” Don’t worry Rajan, Ram is the supreme lord and he is capable of killing these creatures.” With a heavy heart King Dashratha departed Ram and Laxman with Vishwamitra. While walking through the dense forest, Rama asked politely, “Guruji, who is the one who disturbs rishis during their penance?”
Vishwamitra replied, “A female demon named Tadka lives here. She is the wife of demons (rākṣas) Sund and mother of demons (rākṣas) Maricha and Subahu. She is very powerful and assumes various forms and frightens people. She has immense strength equivalent to that of thousand elephants in her body. I have brought you here for the slaughter of Tadka and her two sons.” Hearing this Ram said, “Gurudev, with your blessings I can kill her for the welfare of people.” Saying that Ram made a “tankar” (loud sound of bow) by pulling the string of his bow up to the ear.
That ear piercing sound echoed thought the forest and scared the wild animals. Due to disturbance Tadka became very angry. Tadka appeared on the spot with a giant body, terrible face and long sharp nails. She said, “Rishi today you have brought me two young meals.” But when she saw Ram ready with his bow and arrow, she thought that this little boy wants to dominate my entire kingdom.
Suddenly Tadka attacked Ram by showering stones on him. Ram was ready for this terrible attack and with his gurus permission Ram aimed an arrow on her and soon she was killed. The mighty sons of Tadka learnt about her death and they attacked Ram and Lakshman but they were also defeated. Maricha was sent thousands of miles away on the sea shore by an arrow, other son Subahu was also killed with an arrow.
Finally forest was free from the terror and fear of the demons ( rākṣas) . Seeing his forest free from the demons Vishwamitra was very happy and blessed both the prince. In the meantime Vishwamitra received an invitation to attend the Swayamvara of Sita, daughter of King Janak.
Vishwamitra took Ram and Laxman along with him to Mithila. On their way they came across Rishi Gautam’s hermitage. Ram inquired, “Guru whose ashram is this, it looks like as if no one lives here.” Rishi replied, “Ram, this is the ashram of Rishi Gautam and his wife Ahilya. Because of Rishis curse she is still in the ashram in the form of a rock. Please go inside and relieve her of her misery.” Seeking his guru’s permission Ram entered the hermitage and touched the rock with his foot and it transformed into a beautiful lady. This way Ahilya was freed from the curse.
They soon reached Mithila and learned that King Janak had announced that he will marry his adopted daughter Sita (who was found while ploughing the fields) to the person who can successfully charge the bow (place the string on the bow) presented to him by Lord Shiva. Hearing the arrival of Muni Vishwamitra King Janak came to greet him and on seeing two beautiful boys accompanying him he inquired about him. Vishwamitra introduced them and King Janak was very pleased to learn that they were the brave prince of Ayodhya. He made proper arrangements for their comfortable stay and invited them for the Swayamvara.
Next morning Vishwamitra along with Ram and Lakshman reached the courts of King Janak. The hall was beautifully decorated and in the center; on a platform was placed Shiv Dhanush (also known as PINAKA) adorned with flowers. King Janak announced the ceremony to begin. Numerous kings tried their hand to string the bow but failed. Asked by Vishwamitra, Ram rose from his seat. He picked up the bow from the center and as he to tried to stretch and bend the bow to place the string on it, the old bow broke into two pieces, leaving all the persons in amazement. Everyone was speechless. King Janak was elated to see this and announced his daughter wedding with Rama.
Breaking of the Mahadev’s bow could be heard in all the three worlds. Everyone knew that Shiv Dhanush had been broken. This echo was heard by Parashurama too – this bow was gifted to him by Lord Shiva. Just when the wedding of Shree Ram and Sita was about to happen Parashurama came to King’s Janak court. He was very annoyed to see his broken bow.
Parashurama was angry because Ram broke the bow which he had later presented to king Janak. Lord Ram in his humble voice apologized to Parshurama and the deep respect and modesty in his voice took Parasurama completely by surprise. He looked at Ram and realized that Rama was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and that his duties were over. READ MORE ABOUT THIS PARSHURAMA AVATAR.
King Janak was happy and everyone from Ayodhya joined this divine celebration. Soon Ram and Sita were married. In the same mandap Lakshman was married to Sita’s younger sister Urmila, Bharat was married to Mandavi and Shatrughna was married to Shrutakirti. King Dashratha along with his 3 wives, four sons and their wives returned happily to his kingdom. Dashratha announced Shree Ram’s coronation. Hearing this everyone in the kingdom were overjoyed and excited.
All except Manthara, the maid servant of Kaikeyi, was jealous and unhappy and thought of talking to kaikeyi about this. “If Ram became the king, Bharat would be his subordinate. Manthara explained and poisoned the mind of Kaikeyi. Now is the time for you to ask for the two boons* which Dasharatha promised you in the battlefield – Bharat be coronated as the king and Ram be sent to the forest for fourteen years.” Kaikeyi was a very loving mother and she loved Ram more than Bharat but she was misguided by Manthara and she played a evil game.
When King Dasharatha came to her palace, he found her in a dark and sulky room called Kop bhavan. Dasharatha was scared at first but then asked his beloved queen about the matter. When Dasharatha tried to please her she got a chance to ask for those two boons. Dasharatha was shocked at this and he swooned. When Ram learnt about it he rushed to the spot and said to Kaikeyi, “Mother, I gladly accept the command of my father. Bharat will be the king and I’ll go live in the forest.”
Both Sita and Lakshman accompanied Ram to the forest. The people of Ayodhya saw them off with tears in their eyes. Dasharatha could not stand to the shock and he remembered the curse** of Shavarn kumar’s parents. (Continued in next post..)
*In a battle against Asuras Dasharatha was injuired and Kaikeyi acted as his charioteer. Kaikayi saved Dasaratha’s life during the battle. Dasaratha was so pleased with Kaikeyi that he asked her to ask for two boons, on which Kaikeyi replied that she would ask when she wished to avail them.
**Dasaratha was known for his ability to hunt blind and shoot arrows on hearing the sound only. Once during one of his hunting expeditions, Dasaratha heard a noise that resembled as if an elephant was drinking water from the nearby pond and he shot an arrow in that direction. But instead of an animal voice he heard a human voice and stunned Dasaratha rushed towards that voice. He noticed a young boy named Shravan Kumar injured from his arrow.
With tears in his eyes Dasaratha asked about his whereabouts and learned that Shravan Kumar was the only child of his blind parents and had came to this pond to fetch water for his thirsty parents. Since his blind parents were totally depended on him he carried his parents everywhere in two baskets like a Tarazu (weighing scale of balance which he supported on his shoulder). Saying this Shravan Kumar died.
King Dasaratha took the water to his parents. His parents inquired about their son and the king narrated the sad incident. Learning about their son’s death they refused to drink water from the hands of the king and said, “King you too will die from ‘Putra-shok'(longing for your son)”. Saying this the grief stricken parents died longing for their son.