Good and evil bring their own rewards | Sunday Observer

Good and evil bring their own rewards

People are still wondering whether Ravana was an  antagonist or anti-hero
People are still wondering whether Ravana was an antagonist or anti-hero

There has been a renewed interest in King Ravana who is supposed to have ruled Lanka 5,000 years ago. Newspapers are full of articles about Ravana and television channels are competing with one another to give us the latest findings about the legendary ruler. Sometimes people ask whether Ravana was a mythical figure while there is a plethora of evidence to prove his existence.

One purpose of my recent visit to India was to find more information about Ravana because he is a prominent figure in Ramayana originally written in Sanskrit. The epic gives a vivid account of the birth and adventures of Sri Rama, his consort Sita and Ravana. In an interview with Nagalingam Kumarakuruparan (NK), an Indologist based in Hyderabad, India, I gathered that even Indians are curious to know the details about Rama’s triumphal passage from Ayodhya in India to the distant island of Lanka.

In fact, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Board has a Ramayana Trail Project showcasing the Ramayana sites in Sri Lanka. Tourists from distant places visit these places in their thousands. According to Prof. Max Muller, a world renowned German Indologist, the ancient Aryans of India were the most wonderful people who inhabited the Earth. Valmiki’s Ramayana gives us a glimpse of these remarkable people.

Ramayana has swayed the hearts and minds of millions of people, especially, those who lived in South Asia and South East Asia. The epic has inspired their thinking and behaviour. Referring to the epic, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “I do not know any book anywhere which has exercised such a continuous and pervasive influence on the mass mind as Ramayana.” According to him, Ramayana has surpassed other epics of Homer in Greece, Virgil in Italy, William Shakespeare or John Milton in England.

Marvellous epic

What is remarkable for Sri Lankans is that Ravana plays a major role in Ramayana, apart from Rama and Sita. In fact, Ramayana is incomplete without Ravana. People are still wondering whether Ravana was an antagonist or anti-hero in this marvelous epic. The jury is still deliberating on the issue but there is unanimous agreement that Ravana was a noble ruler.

Tracing the lineage of Ravana, NK said he was the grandson of Rishi Pulasti whose image carved in stone still exists in Polonnaruwa. Ravana’s parents were Rishi Visravaku and Raksha Princess Kaikesi. Thus Ravana was a Raksha king. Rakshas were people with extraordinary powers and strengths. Ravana had mastered the four Vedas, thousands of scriptures, medicine, aviation, and music. He was an expert in playing the Veena, a string instrument. He was a pious devotee of Lord Shiva who had bestowed on him the title ‘Lankeswara’ (Lord of Lanka).

Fall from grace

Valmiki says in a moment of weakness Ravana had forsaken the path of Dharma (Righteousness). He had erred as king and paid the price for it. However, people question why a king of such learning committed such a mistake. The answer seems to be that his rage had blinded his intellect. At that moment he failed to realize that both good and evil actions bring their own rewards. Wealth or valour could not reverse the decrees of destiny. In other words, destiny is shaped by your own actions.

Great lineage

According to Valmiki, Ravana went against the advice of his ministers who reminded him of his great lineage and fame. They were against his decision to abduct Sita. Ravana even ignored the advice offered by his uncle Maricha. He wanted to avenge the humiliation of his sister Surpanakha at the hands of Rama and Luxman. Ravana told Maricha, “I’ve asked for your help, not your advice.”

Ravana failed to inquire into the incident and blindly accepted Surpanakha’s version of what transpired between her and Rama. Ravana thought abduction of Sita was the only way to punish the audacious Rama who was responsible for the disfigurement of Surpanakha. However, Ravana only wanted to take revenge for the humiliation inflicted on his sister.

Though Sita was in captivity in Lanka, she was kept in a hermitage according to her wishes. Ravana never violated her modesty. Although Sita was a prisoner, she was treated with due respect.

However, Ravana was unaware that Sita was no ordinary woman. Her tears of chastity did not fall in vain. They paved the way for Ravana’s downfall.

According to Ramayana, Rama was an Avatar (a divine incarnation) who was born as a human to establish Dharma (righteousness) in the world. Avatars usually appear in the world to set an example to mankind. Rama’s life was full of tragedies. After losing his kingdom, he was banished to the forest along with his wife Sita and Luxman.

Later he had to leave his wife due to political reasons. He also had to wage war against his two sons without knowing who they were. Yet he was steadfast in his right conduct. In contrast, Ravana erred when it came to right conduct.

Establishing Dharma

NK said there are many instances in the epic that bring out the greatness of Ravana and his consort Mandodari. When Hanuman came to Lanka in search of Sita, he was struck by the glory of Ravana shining like the sun among his ministers. Hanumman said, “What a dazzling personality Ravana has! If only he did not pursue the path of unrighteousness he would be fit not only to be the ruler of the three worlds, but also to take the place of Indra, the Lord of the Celestials.”

On seeing Mandodari, Hanuman thought she was Sita herself! However, a little reflection made him realize his mistake. When Rama saw Ravana in the battlefield for the first time, he was struck by his charisma. “This is the man who subdued Devas. He shines like Lord Shiva. He is blazing like thousand suns. He is an epitome of valour” Rama said. When Ravana saw Rama standing on the battleground he asked Indra to give his chariot to him so that they could face each other on equal terms.

When Rama’s arrow pierced Ravana’s heart, Mandodari could not believe her eyes. She wondered whether a mere mortal could kill someone who was the terror of gods. Rama saw Mandodari for the first time and mistook her to be a goddess.

Rama reminded Vibishana that all enmities should end with life and asked him to perform the funeral rites. Ramayana expounds lofty ideas and sublime philosophy in a masterly way. Good and evil finally bring their own rewards.

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