"Rudravan" | Tale of Ravan that screams to be told and heard
It is a tale of cosmic powers that decide the fate of universes with their actions, writes Anil Bhat.
Why and how did the tradition about burning Ravan, the descendant of Lord Brahma, a great devotee of Shiva and blessed by both, evolve?
Rahul Rajan, son of an Army officer, who joined the merchant navy, left it to later do MBA in marketing, now working with Philips India and who has an active interest in mythology, fantasy and science fiction, has researched into the mind-boggling realm of Hindu religious texts and mythology, weaving together a plethora of seemingly unrelated tales in our mythology to create a new story that will compel the reader to wonder if this tale might not have been the true version after all. What the author presents in Rudravan (Shiva’s Ravan) is a tale we think we are familiar with, but are actually not. It is a tale of cosmic powers that decide the fate of universes with their actions. And in that process, he presents a brand new tale, culled from our own legends, of a Ravan you have never known before.
The fact that there are many sites on the internet which mention a version from the hills of Rishikesh and the Rameshwaram temple at least, of how Ram atoned for the sin of killing Ravan, means that curiosity about the Ramayan has risen. Why should God atone for killing a villain? Like most Hindu writings, the Ramayan is not as simplistic and pedestrian an epic as some are eager to believe. Ravan was a Brahmin, the son of Rishi Vaishrava, grandson of Pulatsya. Ram, though God incarnate, was born in a family of Kshatriyas. In the caste hierarchy, Ram was of lower rank. As a Brahmin, Ravan was custodian of Brahma-gyan (the knowledge of God). Killing him meant Brahma-hatya-paap, the sin of Brahminicide, that Ram had to wash away through penance and prayer. Another reason why this atonement was important was because Ravan was Ram’s guru.
The story goes that after releasing the fatal arrow on the battlefield of Lanka, Ram told his brother, Lakshman, “Go to Ravan quickly before he dies and request him to share whatever knowledge he can. A brute he may be, but he is also a great scholar.” Lakshman rushes to obey and unsuccessful, returns back to Ram saying, “He is as arrogant as he always was, too proud to share anything.” Then Ram goes and kneeling at Ravan’s feet, with extreme humility, says, “Lord of Lanka, you abducted my wife, a terrible crime for which I have been forced to punish you. Now, you are no more my enemy. I bow to you and request you to share your wisdom with me. Please do that for if you die without doing so, all your wisdom will be lost forever to the world.” To Lakshman’s surprise, Ravan opened his eyes and raised his arms to salute Ram, “If only I had more time as your teacher than as your enemy. Standing at my feet as a student should, unlike your rude younger brother, you are a worthy recipient of my knowledge. I have very little time so I cannot share much but let me tell you one important lesson I have learnt in my life. Things that are bad for you seduce you easily; you run towards them impatiently. But things that are actually good for you, fail to attract you; you shun them creatively, finding powerful excuses to justify your procrastination. That is why I was impatient to abduct Sita but avoided meeting you. This is the wisdom of my life”, and finally, dies.
Rajan’s book is completely entrenched in the mythological fantasy genre and so, is very different from the ‘realistic’ takes on mythology.
His version of the final battle is indeed fascinating. The army of Ram arrives upon the shores of Lanka and the Great War begins. Relishing this opportunity, Ravan defeats Ram in a hard fought duel, but is distracted by Hanuman and Lakshman. As he turns his attention to them, he is badly injured by a recovered Räm, and taken back to Lanka. In the days that follow, the mightiest of the warriors of Lankä are killed, while Ravan lies recovering. Left all alone, Ravan still rides into battle undaunted, and defeats Räm for the second time. But before he can deal the killing blow, he is challenged by Lakshman. In the ensuing battle, he fatally injures Lakshman. But once again he is thwarted, as Hanuman manages to fetch the divine herbs that can cure any injury. The battle begins again, and Ravan confronts Ram once more, and a furious battle is fought. And Ravan is surprised to find himself stalemated by Ram. He realises that something more than the spirit of ParashuRam is augmenting the prince of Ayodhya, making him more powerful than ever before. He discovers that the prayers of Sita are fuelling the strength of her husband, and realizes that Vishnu had tricked him into abducting Sita, creating a haven of Light within the Dark of Lanka. Enraged beyond measure, Ravan strikes against Sita with all his power, seemingly annihilating her. And then, believing Ram to be deprived of the source of his strength, he plans to kill the avatar of Vishnu and achieve the impossible. But at that very moment, something utters the name of “Ram”, and the mortal avatar of Vishnu attains complete Godhood. Even as Ravan watches in horror, he sees Ram unleash the ultimate weapon, the Brahmaastra at him. Instantly, Ravan realizes that this is the end. Somehow, Vishnu has managed to defeat every boon. And Ravan is unwilling to die without knowing how.
As the arrow comes screaming towards him, he screams to Vishnu for answers. And then, time itself stops, and Vishnu appears in front of him. It is revealed to Ravan that Ram has ascended to Godhood through the absolute surrender of the soul of Hanuman, who in reality is an avatar of Shiva, his truth hidden from Ravan. The use of Sita was simply to distract Ravan from the truth of Ram’s power, and trick him into attacking an innocent girl. An act of cold blooded murder, it proved to Shiva that his devotee had surrendered completely to the Dark, thus convincing Shiva to surrender his avatar to Vishnu’s, making Ram, a human, greater than even the greatest of Gods, and thus defeating the boons of both Brahma and Shiva. Vishnu further tells him contrary to what he believes, it is no longer Ravan that wields the Dark, but the Dark that now wields him. And to prevent the Dark from using the power of Ravan to overrun this earth, he needed to die.