Ravan, the king of Lanka was a demon. Though an embodiment of all evils, he was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva as well. With his unflinching devotion (Bhakti) he could win the goodwill of the Lord and earn many invaluable gifts from Him.
It was Lord Shiva who conferred on him the name ‘Ravan’ as he was continually crying making intolerable and incessant sound. Rava means sound. Otherwise he was known as Dasamukha, Dasakanta, Panktikanta etc. having born with ten heads.
Sage Pulasthya, one of the seven great saints and son of Lord Bhrahma had a son named Visravas. He wedded saint Bharadwaja’s daughter Vedavarnini. They had a virtuous son named Vaisravana.
He meditated on Lord Brahma earnestly for long and the highly pleased Lord blessed him with long life and offered him the position of Dikpala’ of the North (Guard of the North), which was equal to that of Lord Shiva and God Indra. Brahma also blessed him with the lordship of wealth (he was also known as Kubera – the richest) and the Pushpaka plane, the first in its kind. Vaisravana’s great success made Visravas very happy.
One day, Vaisravana asked of his father: “Thatha, where shall I settle down. Tell me a place where I can live peacefully”.“You may dwell at Lanka, beyond the Mount Trikootadri on the shore of the ocean,” suggested the father. “Maya, the chief architect of the Asuras built this golden city that has been a fascination to all because of its serene scenic beauty and prosperity. Earlier all the Rakshasas were dwelling there. Lord Vishnu killed most of them in the terrible war, because of their unethical living and tortures meted out to the Devas, Sadhus and the pious people. The rest of the Rakshasa that escaped Vishnu’s wrath fled away and are in the nether worlds. Now Lanka, the incredibly attractive land is totally deserted. You may, therefore, live there with your own people. May you have perennial success and opulence,” thus blessing his son, Visravas sent his son off.
Visravas had also married Sumali’s daughter Kaikasi. In her, he had three sons and a daughter. The first son was a horrible figure with ten heads, twenty hands and a huge body. He was Dasamukha. Visravas’ second son was Kumbhakarna an enormous giant and a man of reasonable wisdom. The third son was Vibhishana, a saintly person with unflinching devotion to Lord Vishnu. He was an Asura of justice and reason. They had a sister Surpanakha also. There was a genuine cause for the inappropriate qualities in the characters of some of his sons and daughter.
Kaikasi with lust for sex approached Visravas on an evening as he was taking his ablutions for the evening puja. Visravas appeased her and advised that it was the most inauspicious time to beget a progeny and therefore she had to wait. Kaikasi did not yield to his wise counsel. Since she was very petulant and stubborn, the husband had to satisfy her, though unwillingly. The son thus born was Dasamukha. Kaikasi again compelled the husband twice in the unholy hours to give progeny. The children thus born were Kumbhakarna and Surpanakha.
After their birth, Kaikasi told him: “How can that be? If the sons or daughter of a great personality of an illustrious lineage like yours are all of weird characters, the world will blame us. Give me hence a pious son with whose nobility and fame your lineage becomes prominent and respectable.”“For such a son you have to wait for an auspicious moment to come.”“I shall”, said Kaikasi. The son so born was Vibhishana.
Hearing an uncommon sound Kaikasi looked up. A strange object seemed to aviate through the sky. It was the Pushpaka plane piloted by Vaisravana. Kaikasi pointed it to her children and said:“Look there”, said she: “That is your cousin Vaisravana. You are the sons of the same father. Look how resplendently he moves through the air. And where are you moving about? He is the Lord of Wealth and the guard of the north. What are you?” “I shall become greater in valour, fame and wealth than him. I shall, along with my brothers, perform the hardest penance and receive better boons from Pithamaha.” Replied Ravan to his mother and along with his brothers Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana he set out to undertake penance . Ravan and his brothers reached Gokarna Hills and started penance unto Lord Brahma.
( To be concluded )