Dussehra 2019 – Let’s Dive Deeper

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Also known as Vijaydashmi, Dussehra is one of the most major celebrations of the Indic heartland, observed on the 10th day of Ashwin month each year. Festivals are convergence points – they are occasions which bring people together to partake of a common whole of happiness. They are also instances where the present meets the past – the vast, ancient past full of legends and stories which were written with the express motive of leaving behind a legacy of ideals for human beings to emulate and learn from.

Dussehra itself is an occasion which rests on the precipice of good-and-evil. It draws a line between all that is virtuous and worthy of being followed, as well that which must be disregarded. The antagonist of the battle of Ramayana, Raavana, was a man (Rakshasa) with many qualities, but it was his ego, or aham, or arrogance, which became the fatal flaw and dragged him down. Yet, there are several reasons Ravana is remembered and even worshipped in several parts of the country as a protective deity.

The great epics of India, both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, are taken to be allegorical texts, which represent symbolically far more than meets the eye. There are so many versions of these frame-tales, that it is difficult to sift the right from the wrong, the correct from the false and the guiding from the misleading. The traditions of Bharatavarsha are vast and strong enough, however, to have subsumed all kinds of contradictory narratives into one grand tradition, with each region proudly holding onto its own. Here are some lesser known facts about the antagonist of the epic, Ravana, also called Ravula in southern India, which often get buried under the dust of the battle at Lanka.

  1. Ravana was the son of the sage Vishrava/Vishravas, who was the son of Pulastya – one of the Prajapatis (or mind-born sons of Brahma). This makes Ravana the great grandson of Brahma, and a Brahmin himself!
  2. His Rakshasa lineage comes from his mother’s side. His mother was Kaikesi, the daughter of Rakshasa Sumali.
  3. Ravana had six brothers and two sisters (though, beware, for different versions will give you different numbers). His brothers are – Vibhishana, Kumbhakarna, Kubera, Khar, Dushana, Ahiravan. His sisters are – Surpanakha and Kumbhini.
  4. Ravana was a great devotee of Shiva and is credited with the creation of Shiva Tandava Stotra.
  5. Ravana was regarded to be skilled practitioner of astrology, and is said of have written the Ravana Samhita – an entire treatise on astrology.
  6. Ravana was also interested in the field of medicine, especially Siddha medicine and pediatrics. Ravanaproktabalachikitsasutra is supposed to be a book written by Ravana on curing illnesses among children. Arka Prakashan is one more text on medicine credited to Ravana.
  7. Another feather in Ravana’s cap was music. He is thought to be the creator of Ravanahatha, a Veena like instrument. Some traditional iconography also shows Ravana holding this instrument.
  8. Ravana was also a clever linguist, and is regarded to be the composer of Ravanabhet, a text on the phonetics of Sanskrit language.

And despite this glowing biodata, Ravana met his end in a gruesome manner, after losing his entire family in the battle of Lanka, all because of the fatal flaw of arrogance, or the thought that he was invincible.

Within stories hide important lessons which our children must be taught to discover and imbibe. Extramarks wishes you a great Dussehra, and hopes we are all able to defeat the demon within!

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