The name of Ravana or King Ravana is known almost by everyone in India and some other countries. Mostly the epic Ramayana has been heard, read or seen on television as a series by Indians. Ravana was the King of Lanka, which is said to be the present-day country of Sri Lanka. He was the son of a great Sage of that time Sage Vishrava and His mother was the demon princess, Kakashi. So Ravana was half Brahman and half-demon or Asura. Ravana is said to be the great-grandson of Lord Brahma who had blessed Ravana with the power of invincibility.
Valmiki’s Ramayana, the famous Indian epic n Sanskrit, narrates in the story of Lord Ram (Lord Vishnu’s avatar) and has different parts to it which have different phases of Lord Ram’s life story starting from His birth onward. The ‘Sundara Kanda’ of Ramayana is one of the turning points of the Ramayana, which is about the kidnapping of Lord Ram’s wife Sitajee by King Ravana of Lanka, who took Sitajee to his kingdom of Lanka. The subsequent war between Lord Ram and Ravana and finally Lord Ram’s triumph over Ravana and Sitajee coming back to Her husband. In all this, Ravana is the villain or the anti-hero and from ancient times people, especially most Hindus have been taught to hate Ravana as the biggest villain of all times.
However, it will be a surprise to know that there are many qualities, skills, talents, attainments that Ravana had which are applaudable and may change the perspective of many people.
Ravana was exceptionally good at certain things which are mentioned in the epic but perhaps have been ignored because of the larger- than- life portrayal of Ravana as ‘the villain’.
Amazing skills of Ravana
1) Ravana was an extremely learned person, a scholar of the highest order. He had a thorough knowledge of the four Vedas, the six Shastras of the Hindus, which more or less cover knowledge in almost every subject like Mathematics, Yoga, Law, Aeronautics, Architecture, Astrology, Alchemy, Astronomy etc. Ravana had ten heads and was also called Dashānana and his heads represented the mastery he had over so many subjects. So it can be said that Ravana had all-round knowledge. He was known at that time for his knowledge and wisdom. A story narrates that Lord Shiva, Himself had invited Ravana to perform the ‘Griha Pravesha’ puja ritual for His and Goddess Parvati’s new palace. This shows that the supreme Lord Shiva acknowledged Ravana to be a scholar or pandit of the highest rank, therefore it leaves no place for doubt regarding Ravana’s skill as a great scholar or a Maha pandit. The Ramayana (in one of its versions) mentions that before Lord Ram could start the final war movement and go to Lanka, He wanted to perform a Yajna to get the blessings of Lord Shiva. Ravana was the most qualified Brahman and a Shiv devotee himself of that place, in that time. So it is said that Ravana kept the honour of Lord Ram and performed the Yajna for Him and also believed to have blessed Lord Ram to win in the war.
2) Ravana was extremely good in Ayurveda medicines. He had deep knowledge in it and it is believed he discovered a process of making Ayurvedic medicines through a innovative process of distillation called ‘arka’ to make powerful drops of herbs which could heal people quickly. He can be called the first Pediatrician as it is said that he made Ayurvedic medicines and treatments specifically for the children and also expectant mothers. The Arka Prakasham /Prakasa or Arka Shastra is a book which is said to be written by Ravana on the request of his wife Mandodari. The book is a dialogue between Ravana and Mandodary, with Ravana explaining about the ‘arka’ technique of making ayurvedic medicines and could heal many illnesses, even syphilis. He has contributed by writing other books of Siddha medicines too.
3) Ravana was learned in the field of Music as well and had a keen interest in music and musical instruments. He used to play the Veena (a string musical instrument) like a maestro. His flag is said to have had the image of a Veena too depicting his passion for the instrument. The Ravanahatha (literal meaning- the hand of Ravana) is another ancient bowed musical instrument that Ravana is said to have played as per the Ramayana and other texts on Ravana.
4) Ravana was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and it is a well-known fact. It is said that Ravana had chopped one of his head to offer to Lord Shiva. Another very commendable accomplishment of Ravana is the Shiv Tandav Stotram or Shiva Tandava Stotram which Ravana had spontaneously composed in a continuous single flow. The Shiv Tandav Stotram is a devotional hymn or Stuti in Sanskrit language in praise of the beauty of Lord Shiva and the stunning Tandava dance of Lord Shiva. The eloquently written Shiv Tandav Stotram lyrics are commendable and till date are praised by scholars. The Shiv Tandav Stotram lyrics have 1008 verses. It is said that the rendition of the Shiv Tandav Stotram by Ravana was so good that Lord Shiva was completely mesmerised by it. Lord Shiva was so pleased with Ravana’s Shiv Tandav Stotram that He bestowed several boons to His exemplary devotee, one of which is said to be the Aatma Ling (the soul of Shiva). The Shiv Tandav Stotram is not only a classic hymn but also very powerful and till date fetches many magical outcomes if recited properly with pure intension.
5) Ravana was an excellent ruler and a very capable one at that. It is believed that in his rule there was no discrimination between male and female.
6) Ravana is said to have been an ace Astrologer and master of Vedic Astrology. It is said that He had the power to even control the alignment of planets. Ravana Samhita, is said to be written by Ravana which has chapters of astrology too, which are said to be told to Ravana by Lord Shiva.
7) Ravana was also practiced Tantra Sadhana and skills which were similar to Black Magic, creating illusions which he deftly used in wars.
It is apparent that Ravana was multi-talented and he knew how to use his knowledge and wisdom well.