Ever wondered why The Ramayana occurred ? Why was Lord Vishnu incarnated as Lord Rama ? And why did he have to go through untold miseries and suffering? The root cause of the occurrence of The Ramayana was to teach the whole mankind invaluable and timeless lessons and to follow the path of Dharma. But, there are several reasons why Ramayana exists in the form that is. There is an interesting spiral of boons and curses that led to the creation of this legend.
The Boon to Manu and Satrupa
Manu and his wife Satrupa, as per Hindu texts, were the first man and woman on Earth. Devoted to Lord Vishnu, they prayed to him for thousands of years. Pleased by their penance, Lord Vishnu granted them one boon. They wished to be Lord Vishnu’s parents for one life. God blessed them to be born as King Dasharatha and Queen Kaushalya, parents of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu.
The Curse on the Gatekeepers
Hindu texts mention that Jaya and Vijaya are the dwarpals (gatekeepers) of Lord Vishnu’s residence – Vaikuntha. They were cursed to be born as humans and suffer the vicious cycles of birth, death and rebirth by Lord Brahma’s sons as they refused entry to them, not knowing their real identity. When Lord Vishnu entered the scene, the gatekeepers pleaded for mercy from the curse. Lord Vishnu said that the curse could not be reversed but can be altered so that Jaya and Vijaya could choose their form of life as humans. He gave them two alternatives:
To be born 7 times as devotees of Lord Vishnu or to be born 3 times as enemies of Lord Vishnu. Jaya and Vijaya were truly devoted to their lord and could not live without him for long, hence they chose to be born as His enemies for 3 lives. In their first life they were born as Hiranyanksha and Hiranyakashipu, in their second as Ravana and Kumbhakarana, and in their third as Dantavakra and Shishupala. In all three lives they were killed by their deity Lord Vishnu.
Boons from Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva
Ravana was a Brahmasura – half Brahmin and half Asura (demon). His father Vishwashrava was a Brahmin and his mother Kaikasi belonged to a demon clan. However, Kuber, Ravana’s half brother was crowned as the king of Lanka, something that Ravana wanted for himself. Thus, he and Kumbhakarna sat on a penance and asked for miraculous powers from Lord Brahma, to which he agreed. Ravana used these powers to dethrone his brother Kubera and conquered the city of Lanka.
Ravana performed two more penances to please Lord Brahma. In one penance he asked for immortality. Lord Brahma refused to grant this, but he gave him an alternative of concentrating his life in his navel. Hence Lord Rama shot Ravana in his navel leading to his death.
In the next penance he beseeched that no God, demon, Kinnar or Gandharva could ever kill him. He did not mention human beings as he thought they were beneath his power. As a result Lord Vishnu took His seventh Avatar as a human, Lord Rama.
Ravana was also a devotee of Lord Shiva. He performed a colossal penance at the banks of river Narmada to please Lord Shiva. Ravana sacrificed his head 10 times during this penance. These 10 heads indicated the 4 Shastras and 6 Vedas that he had mastered. Lord Shiva was extremely pleased by this devotion. Lord Shiva returned all the heads and blessed him with immense power and divine weapons.
With these boons Ravana was drenched in power and caused devastating damage to all of mankind, thereby forcing Lord Vishnu to be incarnated as Lord Rama to kill his trepidation and relieve both humans and Gods from his terror.
Curses given to Ravana
After gaining extensive power and weaponry education, Ravana was infected by his own ego, which gained him 6 curses.
Curse of Anarnay : Ravana fought a fierce battle against the majestic King Anarnay. Before dying King Anarnay cursed him that he would be killed by a man born in Anarnay’s lineage – The Raghuvansha.
Curse of Nandi : After vanquishing Lanka, Ravana wanted to meet Lord Shiva, but he was stopped by Nandi the bull, Lord Shiva’s gatekeeper. Ravana mocked Nandi, and received a curse that his tyranny will be destroyed by an army of monkeys.
Curse of Rambha : Ravana, attracted by her flawless beauty, mistreated Rambha – Nalkubera’s (Kubera’s son) wife and wanted to take her back to his kingdom. Nalkubera cursed him that his head would explode into 100 pieces if he repeated this atrocious act again.
Curse of Shurpanakha : In his quest to conquer the whole world Ravana killed his sister Shurpanakha’s husband. Engaged by this, she cursed him that she would be a cause of his death.
Curse of Maya :Ravana laid a lustful eye on his sister-in- law, Maya. He tried to abduct her in the absence of her husband Shambhar. She cast a curse on him that he would die due to a similar sequence of events.
Curse of devotee of Lord Vishnu :While flying in his ‘Pushpak Viman’, Ravana tried to kidnap a beautiful woman who was worshipping Lord Vishnu. She burnt herself and cursed him that he would die because of a woman.
This intricate series of boons and curses finally led to one of the greatest epics of mankind, The Ramayana.
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.