Learning from Ravana

Ravana lay on the ground, breathing heavily, waiting for death to come. ”˜Quickly,’ said Ram to Lakshman, ”˜go to him and seek out his knowledge. He knew a lot.’

So Lakshman went to Ravana and towering over him said, ”˜I am Lakshman, brother of Ram, who has punished you for your crime of abducting his wife. As victor, he has a right to all what you possess, your knowledge included. If you have any honour, pass it on to him before you die.’

Ravana simply turned his face away, angering Lakshman, who reported the scene to Ram.

Ram said, ”˜Here is a man who grabbed his brother’s house and another man’s wife and you expected him to just give you what you so rudely and authoritatively demanded as your right. You clearly never saw Ravana.’

Ram then discarded his weapons, walked up to Ravana, sat at his feet, joined his palms and spoke to Ravana in a gentle voice, ”˜Noble one, son of Visharva and Kaikesi, devotee of Shiva, brother of Surupnakha, Vibhishana and Kumbhkarana, father of Indrajit, uncle of Taranisen, friend of Mahiravana, husband of Madodari, I salute you. I am Ram, who was responsible for mutilating your sister’s body, for which I have been duly punished. I am Ram, whose wife you abducted, for which you have been duly punished. We owe each other no debts. But I seek from you knowledge that you wish to leave behind as your legacy.’

Like a dying lamp restored to life with fresh offering of oil, Ravana’s eyes lit up. ”˜I realize I never saw you, Ram. I just saw the man who my sister hated, my brothers respected, my queens admired and Sita loved. In seeking knowledge from me, you are hoping that I will finally expand my mind and discover the essence of the Vedas, which has eluded me, even though I know all the hymns and all the rituals. Brahma tells us that to receive we have to give but most of us, like Indra, seek to receive without giving. Shiva seeks nothing, so he does not bother with the accounts of giving or receiving, but only Ram, who is Vishnu, receives by simply giving. That is why Sita follows him, not me.’

Ravana then breathed his last.

The Thousand-headed Demon

Just as Sita took her place beside Ram, a roar was heard from the horizon and a creature with a thousand heads rose from beyond the hills. ”˜That is Ravana’s twin, who lives in the Pushkara Island,’ said Vibhishana, quivering with fear. ”˜Even Ravana feared him.’

Before Ram could reach his bow, everyone saw an incredible sight. Sita suddenly transformed. Her eyes widened, her skin turned red, her hair came unbound, and she sprouted many arms with which she grabbed the sticks and stones of the Vanaras and the swords and spears of the rakshasas. Thus armed, she leapt on to a lion that appeared out of nowhere and rushed to do battle with the demon. It was a fierce battle, the Goddess with her many arms pounding the demon who dare interrupt her union with her husband. She ripped out his entrails, chopped away his limbs, crushed his heads, broke his knees and drank his blood. Thus satiated, she returned to sit beside Ram as the demure Sita, a gentle smile on her lips.

No words were spoken. Everyone stunned by the realization that Sita was Gauri who was also Kali. She had allowed herself to be abducted. She had allowed herself to be rescued. She was the independent Goddess who had made Ram the dependable God.


  • Excerpt from ‘Sita – An illustrated retelling of the Ramayana’ By Devdutt Pattnaik

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