We have this ritual that I started when the kids were small. I would take them to the Ram Lila grounds early in the day where they could see huge Ravans being constructed. They would get under the effigies, peer into the hollow bodies and then watch the fireworks being stuffed inside. They had fun, and I could avoid the evening visit and the risk of getting trampled by the crowds. Lots of people came in the morning, did Ravan poojan and there would be a priest over there who distributed prasad to the devotees. This was new to me and I started asking questions.
Apparently Ravan, the antagonist in Ramayana was truly neither God or demon. Ravana’s great-grandfather was Brahma, a deity. His grandmother was a demon. Ravana’s father was a sage and his mother was a rakshasa – a type of demon. So, he had both bloodlines, but was fully neither. When I asked devotees at the Ramlila Grounds, they said that they came to pay their respects to a learned person, a power infatuated human who was a great scholar but lost his way somewhere along the line. He was a worshipper of Lord Shiva not a god himself. He is called a demon because of his acts….. or rather his pride in his learning and power became too much and led to his downfall.
You know what I think? I think he got bad press. Here is a man or superman or whatever … he loved this lady (so what if she was married) and tried his darnedest to win her over, staked his entire kingdom and life to do so and lost. Of course it was shocking lapse of judgement on his part to abduct the lady, but he was angry at the mutilation of his own sister. I don’t think there are any blacks and whites in this tale – there were too many grey areas glossed over.
I have heard of another book called the Ravayana which tells the story from the other side. I wonder if any one has read it?
Do you know Ravan is a DC Comics villian? Check it out.