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The Legend of Ravana-the King of Lanka Who Abducted Sita the Wife of God Rama

MG is a senior air warrior who is an alumnus of the Staff College and a notable writer on military history.



Ravana is a name that is part of Hindu folklore. His name is permanently associated with Lord Rama. He is one of the principal characters of The Ramayana, the sacred book of the Hindus. The Ramayana along with the Mahabharata is one of the oldest pieces of literature in the world and some date it to between 4000 and 5000 BC.

Ravana was the king of Lanka. His father was the great sage Vishrava (or Vesamuni). As per mythology, he was the product of an act between the sage and the princess Kaikesi.


In Indian folklore, he abducted Sita the wife of Lord Rama, and took her to Lanka (Ceylon). As per the Ramayana, Lord Rama gathered an army led by his general Hanuman and traveled all the way from the jungles of Central India to Dhanuskodi in Tamil Nadu and crossed the Palk strait. This is a narrow strip of ocean that joins the Indian Ocean with the Bay of Bengal and separates Lanka from India.

Rama and his army crossed the Palk Strait and proceeded to the Central Highlands of Lanka where Rama had kept Sita. An epic battle ensued which is graphically described in the Ramayana. Shorn of mythical references the fact is that in the battle against the forces of Lord Rama and his general Hanuman who is also referred to as the monkey god Ravana was defeated and killed. Sita was rescued from the palace of Ravana. This tale is related in the Ramayana. Ravana as per students of history and archeology may have ruled Lanka during the period 2554-2517 BC.

Nothing can be predicted with certainty but generally, it is confirmed Ravana had his capital at Polonnaruwa which is located in North Central Sri Lanka. The palace is identified though it is in ruins and Sinhalese historians are sure that he ruled from this place.

A worshipper of Lord Shiva

Hindu texts paint a picture of Ravana as a highly educated man who ruled the three worlds. He was an ardent worshipper of Lord Shiva, the foremost deity in Hinduism, and had reportedly been blessed by him. He had worshiped at the Baijnath temple in Himachal Pradesh. The legend says that it was here Ravana worshipped Lord Shiva and pleased him with his penance. As per mythology, he was administered the juice of immortality by Lord Shiva but with a rider. Shiva had granted him immortality during the night and day but left out the period of twilight and this was the chink in the armor of the Lanka King.

Ravana in Hindu Folklore

Hindu scriptures acknowledge the wisdom of Rama who had mastered the Vedas. He is credited with having 10 heads and was reportedly invincible. The ten heads need not be taken literally but denote that he was a man of great wisdom. Ravana was also a great warrior but his one act of passion and indiscretion in which he abducted Sita proved his undoing. Rama exploited the chink in his armor and killed him with the approach of twilight.

Ravana has now generated a lot of interest as the Ramanaya credits him with a lot of inventions. There is a mention that Ravana invented the pushpaka vimana or the airplane. He is supposed to have carried away Sita in one such contraption. In addition, he is held in high regard as a physician. 7 medical books are credited to Ravana which was originally written in Sinhala and later translated to Sanskrit. Ravana's medical books are Nadi Pariksha, Arka Prakashata, Uddisa Chiktsaya, Oddiya Chikitsa, Kumara Tantraya, and Vatina Prakaranaya. Sinhala historians point to these works as proof that he was a man of great wisdom.

Modern historians credit Ravana as a man of great knowledge and wisdom and also a great warrior. Some Sinhala historians have opined that Ravana was keen to take part in the swayamvara of Sita. He had heard of her beauty and coveted her, but it appears he failed to reach on time and Rama won Sita. The reason given as to why Ravana could not attend the swayamvara of Sita was that he received false information that his sister was kidnapped forcing him to have a detour.

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The Ramayana is very old and there is every chance that some additions and interpolations have been made to the book over the passage of almost 3000 years. The core story is however true.

All the texts acknowledge that Ravana was a great warrior and follower of Lord Shiva. He was supposed to be invincible, but Rama was able to discern a chink in his invincibility and kill him. One proof is the Ram Setu a string of rocks that can be seen from space which marks the small bridge over the Palk Strait that the army of Rama used to cross over to Lanka.

This tale from ancient Indian history is exciting and is the theme of one of the great books of the world. Ravana has his followers also and in India, many tribes and sects worship him as a god.

Last word

Ravana is remembered in India and among all Hindus but in a negative way. On Dussehra, the festival that marks the victory of Ram over Ravana there is a great celebration. In this festival effigies of Ravana and his brothers are burnt. It's followed by the festival of lights Diwali when Ram returned to Ayodhya along with Sita.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 15, 2021:

Tom, thanks for commenting, yes I have been to Bali, it's named after Bali (Vali) who ruled the kingdom of Kishkindha. Politicians have politicized simple folklore and that is bad.

tom on June 14, 2021:

learn correct lessons fro mythology,indonesian version of ramayana,bali island named after a character,today mythology politicised.ram temple,priests benefit from relegion.dalits reject hindu mythology,some say dravidians are asuras

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 24, 2019:

Lt Col,

Ravana is indeed a fascinating character. There is so much folklore about him. It's a good idea that a scientific study be conducted of Ravana. He was not what is made out in the scriptures.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 24, 2019:

R Mehra,

Thank you for your comment. Agood insight. its possible Ravana willed his death

Lt Col Parduman Singh on August 24, 2019:

We must study the warlike characteristics of Ravana. To my mind, he was a fascinating character and had the wisdom of 10 men. A great intellectual and warrior. Nice article and reminds that Hinduism has a rich repository of such characters that makes the religion so fascinating.

R Mehra on August 24, 2019:

Great post on an ancient character. Ravana was as religious and powerful as Rama but his good is glossed over. Perhaps he willed it to die at the hands of Rama to attain nirvana. Anybody thought about it?

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