Every great legend has broadly two primary teachings for mankind: what to do and what not to.So is the story of The Ramayana, where Lord Rama is the propagator of good while Ravana is the best explanation of how one is responsible for his/her own success and failures.
As opposed to what we see of Ravana as an evil, narcissistic demon who prefers the path of ‘Adharma’, we miss out some of the significant contributions he has made to art and various realms of knowledge. We cannot overlook the fact that his devotion to Lord Shiva is still an inspiration to many devotees. Let us find out his backstory mentioned in Ramayana –
Ravana was the first child of Kaikasi–second wife of Vishwashrava. His father was a Brahmin and mother belonged to the Asura or demon clan, hence he was a Brahmasura (half Brahmin and half Asura) by birth. His real name was Dashanan or Dashagriva which means a demon with 10 heads.
He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. To take the Lord’s blessings he once decided to visit Kailash, the residence of Lord Shiva according to Hindu texts. Nandi, Lord Shiva’s gatekeeper, did not let him in as his Lord was immersed in deep meditation. To prove his devotion, Ravana tried to lift the mountain of Kailash, this angered Lord Shiva and He set His toe on the mountain crushing Ravana’s hand. Ravana let out a painful scream. Enduring the pain yet completely devoted to his Lord, Ravana composed the Shiva Tandava Stotram, a hymn in praise of Lord Shiva which beautifully describes tandava dance. This hymn is chanted till date. It is a source of immense power, strength and beauty. Pleased by his devotion, Lord Shiva gave him the name ‘Ravana’ which is the Sanskrit word for ‘the one with a terrifying roar’ because his scream shook the entire world.
There are several tales that show Ravana’s true devotion to Lord Shiva. During a colossal penance, he had sacrificed all his heads. Pleased by this Lord Shiva restored all his 10 heads with immense knowledge. His heads indicated the 6 Shastras and 4 Vedas that he had imbibed.
Ravana’s contribution to literature and science was also great. He is credited as an author of the books Ravana Samhita, Arka Prakasham and book on Ayurvedic medicine and infant diseases, Kumar Tantraya. He was also the inventor of Arka Shastra.
Apart, he had also made contributions to music and art. He had created the instrument named ‘Ravana hasta veena’ now known as Ravanhatta. It is a beautiful instrument played using a fiddle.
What turned him into an immoral abductor? He soon developed various traits that finally led to his death. Blinded by power, Ravana’s 10 heads now became the representation of his 10 negative qualities: Amanavta (Cruelty), Kama Vasana (Lust), Ahankara (Ego), Krodha (Anger), Anyaaya (Injustice), Swartha (Selfishness), Lobha (Greed), Matsara (Jealousy) and Mada (Arrogance). Adoption of these traits was the turning point of his life and made him the paragon of evil.