Sunday 13 October 2013

The Flaw in the Plan

“Do you see, Harry? Do you see the flaw in my brilliant plan now? I had fallen into the trap I had 
foreseen, that I had told myself I could avoid, that I must avoid. I cared about you too much,” said Dumbledore simply.

-The Last Prophecy, Chapter 37, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix

“Is Draco alive? Is he in the castle?”
The whisper was barely audible; her lips were an inch from his ear, her head bent so low that her long hair shielded his face from the onlookers.
“Yes,” Harry breathed back.
He felt the hand on his chest contract; her nails pierced him. Then it was withdrawn. She had sat up.
“He is dead!” Narcissa Malfoy called to the watchers.

-The Flaw in the Plan, Chapter 36, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Rama needed a bridge to be built across the ocean to reach Lanka, in order to defeat Ravana. The night before they started their preparations, he decided to conduct a Yagna to worship Shiva at Rameshwaram. As he was going to fight one of his most powerful adversaries, he needed the most scholarly priest to conduct the Yagna for him. He was informed that Ravana himself is the most learned scholar of all times. An invitation was sent to Ravana, who accepted it, arrived at Rameshwaram and conducted a Yagna with all holy rites.
Interestingly, the Yagna could be considered successfully completed only when Rama would sit with his wife Sita in the ceremony, who was held captive by Ravana in Lanka. Ravana not only brought Sita to the Yagna, he presided over the proper arrangements and completion of the Yagna.
After the Yagna got over, Rama sought Ravana's blessings in defeating him, to which Ravana replied, Tathastu.

The great Shiva devotee that Ravana was, he wanted Shiva to move his abode from Kailash to Lanka. When Shiva didnt oblige, he even attempted to lift the entire Kailash mountain with his hands. This was one distinct attribute of Ravana, the arrogance.
When Shiva pressed his toe on Kailash, Ravana's fingers got stuck beneath the mountains, and he sang an entire Stotram, Shiva-Tandava-Strotram to appease him. This was a contrasting, yet another distinct attribute of the same person, his knowledge, his wisdom. On Shiva's insistence, he had even mastered all the Vedas and their knowledge.

From the face of it, Ravana was all set to become one of the greatest and divine figures of Indian mythology. Inspite of his arrogance and ego, his knowledge and wisdom could eventually have placed him as one of the most revered names of Hindu mythology. And though, he is still worshipped at a number of places in India for the same reason, he never did really reach a position and stature that he deserved.
Why a wise man like Ravana was doomed to meet such a fate in the hands of Rama. What was the flaw in the plan?

Illusion of Immortality: Ravana performed one of the most difficult penances of all times to Brahma standing on one feet for hundreds of years, and after the penance got successful, Brahma granted him Amrut which he placed in his navel. He had asked Brahma to be superior to devas,other Rakshasas, serpents, beasts, celestial beings, as he disrespected  mortals .
This illusion of immortality sowed the first seeds of arrogance in Ravana

The Return of the King: Lanka was built by Vishwakarma and was acquired by Kubera, Ravana's half brother. When Ravana returned from his penance, he won the complete control over Lanka from Kuber and the kingdom flourished under his rule. It is believed that even the poorest of houses had vessels made up of gold and hunger vanished from the country. The rise of Lanka speaks volumes about him being a wise and a just ruler.

The Absolute Devotee: After being granted Amrut by Brahma, Ravana started a penance to Shiva where he sacrificed his head 10 times, Shiva each time replacing his head. After the penance, Shiva blessed Ravana with 10 heads, after which he was known as Dashanan.
On a separate note, the 10 heads of Ravana represented the 4 Vedas and 6 Shastras which he had mastered, the heads symbolically representing his knowledge in all the 10 directions.

By now, Ravana had become so powerful, that he defeated all the deities of heaven, and gained control over the setting and rising of sun

The multi-faceted Ravana: Nadi Shastra talk about Ravana being an expert in Ayurvedic texts. He also attended medical conferences held in those days.
Ravana was a great musician. As per legends, when he started playing his Veena, even Gods would appear to listen to his music. He was an equally fierce warrior and a great administrator. While he was moments away from his inevitable death, Rama had asked Laxman to pay respect to Ravana and learn the methods of proper governance and administration, when Ravana eventually obliges Laxman with his knowledge.

Tirthankar: As per Jains, a Tirthankars are human beings who achieve enlightenment and show the world the right path. Some souls are never released from the cycle of birth and death, and in repetitions, these 24 Tirthankars are born as humans and show the world the path to liberation.
Ravana, as per Jainism, is one of the 24 Tirthankars, a list which includes Krishna and Mahaveer themselves. Jains, however, do not worship Ravana, because before he could have realized his destiny and given up on war, he was killed. They believe that in the next cycle of Tirthnankaras, Ravana will be born and lead humans this time.
Had Ravana not been killed by Rama, maybe he could have realized his evils and shown the path or liberation to the world.

The Divine Figure: In many places in South India and South-east Asia, Ravana is still worshipped in temples, and devotees flock in large numbers to pay homage to him. Kailash Temple in Kanpur opens its gates only for one day of the year, i.e. Dusshehra, and is worshipped on the day. Apart from this, Ravana is also worshipped in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh; Alwar, Rajasthan among other places.

In spite of him being a bona-fide villain in Hindu mythology, his effigies being burnt in almost every part of India on Dusshehra, his name being equivalent to evil, the divinity and respect he still enjoys, albeit concentrated to a few specific places and sects, is worth mentioning.

The chink in the armour: Be it his son, his wife, his brothers or his sister, Ravana loved his family the most in the world. Though he placed his duties as a Brahmin and a king above his family, when Kumbhkarna was tricked by Brahma in receiving an eternal sleep as boon, Ravana performed some further penance and pleaded Brahma to amend the boon, which he then changed to 6 months of continuous sleep.
He loved and respected his wife Mandodari and also used to take her advises on matters of high importance.  And though, people may claim he didnt love Vibhishana as much, he loved him until he asked Ravana to give up war against Rama, when Ravana considered his kingdom the greatest of all.

It was his love for Surpanakha, that caused his inevitable downfall. Though he had previously murdered her husband as well, when he had tried to overthrow Ravana in greed for power, he loved and adored his sister. Add to that his arrogance, which forced him to seek some revenge against the men had who insulted his sister, formed the ingredients of his fall.

What would have happened had Surpanakha not proposed to Laxman, or had Laxman not cut her nose? Had Ravana not reacted strongly and had decided to negotiate with Rama and Laxman? Had Ravana accepted the peace proposals sent by Rama in the form of Angad, Hanuman? Had Ravana listened to Mandodari like he always did, when she asked him to let Sita go back to Rama? The epic would have been written differently, or we would have had another divine figure in the Hindu mythology to look up to.

Born in the lineage of one of the most learned and wise sages of all times, Rishi Pulatsya, Ravana had all the bearings which could make him a legend. That said, Ravana had his own share of sins that he committed, and before he could have had realized his sins(maybe he would have never had), he met his inevitable death when Rama's arrow pierced his navel. Not exactly a hero which he could have been, he definitely had the knowledge to be one. But, his ego, his illusion of immortality, and the belief that he would never be punished for his sins made him fall in the battle of Ramayana. Certainly an interesting character, where on one hand he stopped any kind of animal sacrifice in his kingdom and was pious and ascetic, on the other hand he had a long list of curses received from many celestial figures including Nandi

Ending the post with an interesting trivia: Do you know that the famous "Laxman Rekha" finds no reference in the Ramayana? Ramayana does not mention any Laxman Rekha when Sita is abducted or later on. Laxman Rekha finds its mention only in Ramncharit Manas by Tulsidas

Coming up with a book based on Indian history/mythology.
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I would like to end the post as of now, and would like to know what you thought about it. If you are on Facebook and are interested in such topics, please click on the link below and like the page which comes up.
Khoj-In Search of Lost Signs


  1. You are a rock star man...amazing post

  2. i recently found that jain version of ramayana says that sita was daughter of ravana which he threw away fearing destruction to lanka ( as per akashvani similar to kans-krishna story) and he could not see sita staying in jungle so she tried getting her back to lanka . This other side of the story somehow looks more convincing to me somehow. just thought of mentioning here :)

    1. Namaste Sir,
      Yes I too read the post on Speaking Tree TOI.
      Maybe the story keeps on growing because Jains believe Ravana was a Tirthankar and Jain gurus would have supported and acknowledged the story...and may be it all was true.
      Though Sita being daughter of Ravana(and thus he kidnapped her out of fatherly love and not revenge for Surpanakha) seems a bit far fetched

  3. I though you should cover story of Vedavati - Ravana, the emperor of Lanka and the rakshasa race found Vedavati sitting in meditation and is captivated by her incredible beauty. He propositions her and is rejected. Ravana mocks her austerities and her devotion to Vishnu; finding himself firmly rejected at every turn, he grabbed her hair. This greatly incensed her, and she forthwith cut off her hair, and said she would enter into the fire before his eyes, adding, "Since I have been insulted in the forest by thee who art wicked-hearted, I shall be born again for thy destruction." So she entered the blazing fire, and celestial flowers fell all around. It was she who was born again as Sita, and was the moving cause of Ravana's death, though Rama was the agent

    1. Namaste Sandeep,
      I will definitely make it a point o read the story of Vedavati. Some more food for blog ;)

  4. Very well written Sapan. Appreciate your efforts . As said earlier people like me need a source and you are providing me one . Until I read your blog, image of Ravana to me was, as it was portrayed on TV. A monster or a wicked man who kidnapped Devi Sita and lost the battle to Lord Rama :). But today I got to know through your blog a multi-faceted Ravana, who lost everything for his ego and illusions . Well done. keep writing and keep sharing.

    1. Namaste Shruti,
      I think at least we should keep Ravana separate from other villains. If not, why dont we see that many temples of Kans or Hiranyakashyap or Andhak? What was so special about Ravana.
      There must have been something definitely

  5. Great to read about Ravana in different light. Thank you so much Sapan Saxena. I enjoy reading every word.

    1. Namaste Kiran
      Thanks a lot for the appreciation. Do keep reading the blogs.
      Your comments are always appreciated

  6. Very well described... Thanks for portraying different image of ravana.

    1. Namaste Sagar,
      Glas you liked it. Thanks