Legends & Mythology of India: Ravanna’s Stupidity

Here is another tale from Myths & Legends of India

This tale is related to a god, Ravana. Ravana is a legendary king, found in the legend Ramayana. Here is a snip-bit from wikipedia:

Ravana (IAST: Rāvaṇa; /ˈrɑːvənə/;[1] Sanskrit: रावण, Tamil: இராவணன்), 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 was capable of ten separate skills. This is portrayed by depicting him as a ten-headed king 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 that every year, Ravana cuts one of his heads every year and presents it to Shiva 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 Shiva. 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.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravana


Source: indiaart.com

And the tale, enjoy! It’s a good one.

Ravana’s Stupidity

Pg. 57 – 60

Many stories are told of battles between the gods and Ravana, the Rakshasa king whose immense armies (fourteen thousand soldiers per legion) numbered all manner of demons, some appallingly fat, some wafer-thin, some dwarfish, some gigantic, most of them grotesque and misshapen but some of them grand and beautiful. But in the following story – as in many – Ravana’s enourmous strength was undermined in the end by his stupidity.

Ravana’s mother was an ardent devotee of Siva, and worshipped a Sivalingam. One day the lingam was stolen by Indra, and the old demoness was so upset that she embarked on a relentless fast. Alarmed by the possible consequences of this, Ravana promised to bring her the atmalingam – the original lingam of Siva – if she would stop fasting.

Ravana journeyed to Mount Kailasa, and decided to tackle Siva not by violence (which would have distressed his pious mother) but by ascetic austerity. Five blacing fires were lit, and he stood on his head in the middle of them for ten thousand years. At the end of each thousand years he cut off one of his ten heads and threw it into the flames. He was about to chop off his last head when Siva gave in: such unprecedented self-mortification – by a Rakshasa to boot – would threaten even his own ascetic power. So he appeared before Ravana, acknowledged the immensity of his feats, and asked him what boons he required.

Ravana asked for three boons. ‘Firstly,’ he said, ‘make me immortal, like you are. Secondly, give me the atmalingam, so that I can take it back to Lanka and give it to my mother to worship. As you know, her devotion to you knows no bounds, and when Indra stole the lingam that she worshipped she threatened to fast herself to death. Thirdly, I want a wife as beautiful as your own wife, Uma. After all, after ten thousand years of self-denial, I deserve some pleasure!”

“Siva was willing to grant the first two boons, though he stipulated that should Ravana ever do anything to harm him, the gift of immortality would immediately be cancelled. ‘But your third boon,’ he said, ‘is impossible for me to grant, for no woman or goddess in the three worlds is as beautiful as Uma.’

‘Then give me Uma herself,’ said Ravana.

This suggestion naturally shocked Siva to the core, and he did his utmost to refuse. But Ravana threatened to embark on austerities even more atrocious than those he had already performed, and in the end, Sivea gave in to this threat too. He surrendered his own, adorable wife to Ravana, who set off back to Lanka with her and the other two boons, whooping with triumph and blazing with lust.

He had not got far, however, before the heavenly philosopher Narada appeared before him, and persuaded him by the subtle fource of his logci that immortalitly was not something that even Siva could grant to a Rakshasa, and that Ravana had been fooled. So incensed was Ravana at this, that he hurtled back to Kailasa and tore the whole mountain up by the roots while Siva was meditating, and threw it away like a pebble. This was against Siva’s express stipulation that Ravana should not do anything to harm him, and the boon of immortality therefore became null and void.

Uma, however, was still with him, trembling with terror, and he hauled her on his shoulder. Gripping the atmalingam firmly in his hand, he proceeded towards Lanka, much to the consternation of the entire pantheon of gods.

Uma wept and writhered and prayed to Visnu – god of preservation – to save her. The great god took notice of her prayers, and ppeared before Ravana in the form of a decrepit old Brahmin.

‘A thousand obeisances to you, great king of all demons,’ said the old man in a quavery voice, bowing as low as his stiff old body would permit him. ‘May I ask you a question? Why are you carrying that dreadful old hag on your shoulders? I thought that normally you were interested in only the most beautiful females!’

‘Old hag?’ roared Ravana. ‘You must be blind as well as old, or otherwise you would yourself be slobbering at the sight of Uma, wife of Siva, the most beautiful of all goddesses, and wishing you still had the potency to enjoy her as much I shall soon!’

‘You should look at her yourself before you do,’ said the Brahmin, ‘for I suspect you would not be so excited if you did, nor so insultingly dismissive of my truthful words.’

Ravana let Uma slither from his shoulders so that he could look at her properly, and saw to his horror that she had indeed been transformed into a hideous old hag. (She had worked this transformation herself, as soon as she heard the Brahmin’s unflattering description of her.)

Disgusted and repelled, Ravana shoved her roughly to the side of the path. ‘Sit there where you belong, and beg, you repulsive old crone,’ he roared. And muttering to himself that at least he had the atmalingam to give to his mother, he continued on his way.

Sive had also made a stipulation about the lingam, which at the time Ravana had not heeded, because he didn’t see how it oculd matter. ‘On no account let my lingam touch the ground,’ said Siva. ‘If you do, it will sink into the earth and stay there.’

Ravana had the lingam firmly in his hand, and had no thought of putting it on the ground. But suddenly – it was about time, after ten thousand years – he felt a violent urge to answer a call of nature. How could he keep the lingam in his hand while doing so, with all the danger of so sacred an object being befouled and polluted?

There was a herd-boy in a field nearby, and Ravana asked him if he would hold the lingam while Ravan went behind a bush. ‘Don’t on any account lay it on the ground,’ he said. A real herd-boy would have been so terrified at the sight of Ravana, he would have run away at top speed, before agreeing to any such request. But this herd-boy was actually the god Ganesa, and he cunningly told the Rakshasa king that he would hold the lingam for him, but not for more than an hour. After that, he would let it drop.

This seemed reasonable enough. Why should Ravana need more than an hour to answer a simple call of nature? But he had not been for ten thousand years, and the business took longer than he expected. When he finally emerged from behind the bush, the herd-boy had vanished, and the lingam was lying on the ground.

Ravana rushed to retrieve it, but it was already sinking heavily into the earth, and the more Ravana tugged the deeper it sank. Soon he realized that it was alingam no more, and that instead he was tugging at the ears of a cow.

Not even the king of all Rakshasas can pull a cow up by the ears when the rest of it is buried deep in the mud! Ravana was forced to give up the attempt, and return to Lanka empty-handed.

What his mother said about this, whether she resumed her fast, or was already dead from natural causes by the time he returned, is not recorded. But she would not have been surprised at her son’s failure. For though all mothers may appear to idolize their sons, they usually have no illusions about their stupidities: and this particular stupidity of Ravana was but one among many.

As for the ears of the cow sticking up out of the earth, they became the site of a famous temple called Gokarnam (‘cow’s ear’); and pilgrims journey there to this day, to worship Siva’s atmalingam.

One thought on “Legends & Mythology of India: Ravanna’s Stupidity

  1. Pingback: Year 4: Life, Reflections, Myths, Psyche | Inside A Soul

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