The Book of the North
When Rama was crowned king, rsis from the four quarters led by Agastya, came to bless him. While conversing in Rama’s ancient court, one of the wise rsis inquired about the triumph at Lanka and stated he was shocked by Laksmana’s ability to slay the supposedly invincible Indrajit. Intrigued by this new information, Rama admitted to his guests, that he knew little about his enemy and perhaps they could enlighten him. To that, Agastya proceeded to tell the tale of Ravana and his ancestors.
Long ago in the krta yuga, Muni Pulastya was born the son of Brahma. Blessed by the gods, he went to an asrama on a mountain that belonged to King Trnabindu. Not wanting to be disrupted, Pulastya set a curse that any women who disturbed him would become pregnant. The king’s daughter did not hear about the curse and encountered the son of Brahma and immediately became pregnant. She gave birth to Visravas, who was exceptionally devoted to the Vedas and lived with Pulastya for many years. Visravas went on to marry Devavarnini and had a son who resembled his father so much that the rsis named him Vaisravana. Visravas’ son went into tapasya for a thousand years, which pleased Brahma so much that he was given a magic vehicle, called puspaka vimana. He lived in a great city on an island called Lanka, for many, many years.
After hearing this, Rama was confused. He was sure that Lanka had always been home to the raksasa race. He asked Agastya how the demons came to claim Lanka as their home. Then Agastya began his tale of the mighty demons, which were created by Prajapati.
Once there were two mighty raksasa brothers called Heti and Praheti. Praheti was a righteous raksasa and chose to spend his time in tapasya, while his brother Heti wanted a wife. Heti married Yama’s sister Bhaya and they had a son named Vidyutkesa. Vidyutkesa married Salakatankata and they were so in love that when Salakatankata gave birth, she abandoned the child so she could return to her husband. The deserted baby boy named Sukesa and was found by Parvati and Siva. They were so touched by the raksasas love for each other, that they blessed the race with immediate birth following conception. Then to Sukesa, they granted immortality, lavish wealth, and a flying city. Sukesa eventually married Devavati and sired three sons, Malyavan, Sumali and Mali. These brothers, arrogant because of their father’s immortality, began a terrifying tapasya and were granted boons to live long and be invincible. They were also given a home on Lanka, where they were free to roam.
They eventually married Narmada’s three daughters and began to conquer and torture all the worlds.
One day Visnu was convinced by the gods to fight these demon brothers in battle with the hope of humbling them. The battle was magnificent and had many casualties on both sides. Finally, Visnu murdered Mali, frightening the demon race so that they fled to the underworld to hide from Visnu.
Eventually Sumali grew tired of living in fear of Visnu. He came up with a plan for his daughter Kaikasi to marry the righteous Visravas. In doing so, she would surely have a righteous child and clear the family name. Therefore, he sent his daughter off to pursue Visravas. Unfortunately, Visravas happened to be in a foul mood when Kaikasi found him and he cursed her with having bad raksasa sons with the exception of the last one who would be noble. Kaikasi gave birth to four children. The first was a ten headed demon child named Dasagriva. The second, Kumbhakarna was the biggest baby ever born. Next, Kaikasi had a daughter named Surpanakha who was atrocious and perfectly evil. Then finally, a child named Vibhisana was born and his mother knew this was the dharmic son she had wished for. The boys grew up in the forest and had various interests. Dasagriva and Kumbhakarna were lustful and searched the earth to satisfy their appetites, while Vibhisana was devoted to the Vedas. They all decided to go into tapasya that would last an entire age. Dasagriva decided to sacrifice one head every thousand years. After the nine thousandth year passed and he was about to offer his tenth head Brahma appeared. Brahma granted Dasagriva a boon of immunity from all beings except humans, restoration of all his nine heads, and the power to assume any form. Vibhisana was granted a truly dharmic life because of his penance. Then Brahma came before Kumbhakarna, who all the worlds feared because of his monstrous size and hefty appetite. To save the earth from this monster, Brahma tricked Kumbhakarna into asking for a boon to make him sleep for thousands of years.
Sumali, delighted for his grandchildren and their boons, no longer lived in fear of Visnu and wanted to return to Lanka. He convinced Dasagriva to take back Lanka from his stepbrother Vaisravana. So Dasagriva sent a message to his stepbrother to give back Lanka to the rightful owners. After Vaisravana consulted his father, he saw no other way to maintain peace and gave Lanka to Dasagriva.
Once Dasagriva was crowned king of the raksasas on Lanka, he felt compelled to marry. First, he gave his sister Surpanakha away to Vidhujjiva who was as hideous a match for his sister. Next, he had his brother Kumbhakarna marry Vajra and Vibhisana, marry Sarma. Then for himself, he chose Mandodari, daughter to asura maya and devi Hema, who was the most beautiful women on earth. In time, Mandodari gave birth to Meghanada and Dasagriva was more than pleased with his son.
After sometime, Kumbhakarna’s boon came into affect and he fell asleep for a thousand years. Dasagriva missed his brother terribly and grew angry with Brahma for the nasty trick. He flew into a state of destruction and decided to take over the three worlds. To avenge his sleeping brother, he started with devaloka and desecrated the land. After hearing that Dasagriva had caused so much destruction, Vaisravana, his stepbrother, sent him a warning. It stated that Dasagriva’s actions were appalling and would surely lead to no good. Taking Vaisravana warning as a threat, Dasagriva challenged his stepbrother to battle. They had a bloody combat, ending with Dasagriva vanquishing Vaisravana and acquiring his renowned puspaka vimana.
Riding home on the puspaka vimana Dasagriva ran into Nandi the mount of Siva, who was guarding the hill while his master indulged with Uma. Dasagriva, high from his victory, attempted to prove just how great he was by uprooting the mountain on which Siva resided. Little did he know, Siva found this amusing and trapped him under the mountain. Humbled by Siva, Dasagriva began to worship him for a thousand years. Pleased by the raksasa’s worship, Siva changed Dasagriva’s name to Ravana, due to his treacherous howl and granted him with the Chandrahasa, a powerful sword.
Ravana continued his reign of terror. He passed a beautiful jungle and caught sight of a stunning women dressed like a hermit. Her name was Vedavati and she worshiped Visnu in hopes of one day marrying him. Ravana had little regard for her dream and forced himself on her. Violated and with her life’s purpose ruined, she entered a funeral pyre and cursed him that she would be reborn again for the purpose of his demise.
Later in Ravana’s reign, he came across Narada Muni, who convinced him that the living world was a waste of time and he should focus on conquering the netherworld. So Ravana flew down to the netherworld and engaged Yama in a deadly battle. Just when Yama was about to kill Ravana with the staff of death, Brahma intervened. He begged Yama not to kill Ravana because this would make Brahma a liar and the three worlds would perish. In seeing that Ravana’s death was not meant to happen then, Yama vanished from the battlefield. Ravana, thinking he was triumphant in vanquishing the master of death, continued on to conquer the rest of the underworld. Once he was confident that the entire underworld bowed to him, he returned to Lanka.
When he reached Lanka he found his sister Surpanakha most distraught, for Ravana in his purging of the underworld had killed her husband in battle. Ravana swore that he didn’t intend to kill her husband and that Vidhujjiva was merely a causality of war. He decided that sending her away to mourn in Dandaka vana wilderness with their cousin Khara would be best. Ravana saw his son Meghanada, who was performing six great yajnas and was acquiring many dark mystical powers. After Ravana blessed his son, Meghanada finished his worship and return to Lanka. The pair was truly a force to be feared.
After a while in Lanka, Ravana decided it was time to return to the devaloka and take on the mighty Indra. While camping on the foot of Indra’s kingdom, he came across Rambha, who was queen of the nymphs of heaven and extraordinarily beautiful. Even though she told Ravana that they were practically kin, he forced himself on her anyway. Rambha, violated and distraught ran to her husband, who cursed Ravana saying, “If you ever force yourself on another woman your ten heads will explode.”
At last, the time came for the battle in devaloka. The battle was very fierce, with many causalities, most notably Sumali Ravana’s grandfather was killed. When it came time for Indra to fight, he proved to be a worthy adversary for Ravana and his son. This didn’t last long, for Meghanada, with his dark powers and maya was obviously supreme. When he saw his father begin to wane on the field, he captured Indra, winning the battle and saving his father’s reputation.
When Brahma heard of Indra’s failure at battle, he went down to Lanka to negotiate the release of the king of devaloka. Brahma changed Meghanada’s name to Indrajit and offered him any boon in exchange for Indra’s release. So, Indrajit released Indra and in turn asked for invincibility to all, after completion of special worship to Agni god of fire.
After Agastya completed of the tale of Ravana and Indrajit, Rama was curious as to why the ksatriya class never bothered to stand up to the mighty raksasas. Agastya explained that this wasn’t exactly the case and proceeded to tell the story of the ksatriya Arjuna. After many years of Ravana’s rule, he learned of the great ksatriya and engaged him in battle. Arjuna proved very quickly to Ravana that he was not like any of the other ksatriyas Ravana had ever fought. He had one thousand arms and could deal deadly blows and deflect Ravana’s attacks continuously. Ultimately, the ksatriya prevailed and captured Ravana, by grasping the raksasa in his arms. Victorious, Arjuna brought Ravana home and held him prisoner in his kingdom. When Ravana’s grandfather Pulastya Muni heard of Ravana’s capture, he came to the mighty ksatriya’s palace. Pulastya proclaimed that Arjuna that there was no equal to him, he asked the mighty ksatriya to set his grandson free. Arjuna gladly released the now humbled Ravana and they swore a friendship. Ravana returned home, once again satisfied that because of his friendship with the mightiest of humans, no one would question his rule of all the three worlds.
When Agastya completed the tale, Rama felt a great sense of pride for his twice born class. Afterwards, Rama asked if Ravana had ever attempted to conquer the vanara species. Agastya smiled at Sugriva and began the story of Ravana versus Sugriva’s powerful brother Vali.
Ravana heard one day of a mighty species of monkey called the vanara, who lived in the jungle and decided to the challenge their king, Vali. He found Vali, in the midst of worship and crept up to him. The vanara sensed Ravana’s presence and was ready and turned to clutch Ravana in his armpit. Vali being the pious monkey he was, completed his entire worship with Ravana held in the crook of his arm. Once he was finished, he released the raksasa king. Ravana was amazed by this great monkey and begged for him to swear a friendship witnessed by Agni. Vali agreed and invited Ravana to live in his kingdom for as long as he liked.
Since they were on the topic of vanaras Rama turned his attention to his dear friend Hanuman. He inquired of Agastya as to why Hanuman seemed so humble and unaware of his remarkable powers. Agastya smiled knowingly and proceeded to tell the story of the great monkey.
Hanuman was born from Anjana and Vayu, and from birth, everyone knew that he was a most notable child. He had the amazing ability to fly like no other and a curiosity to match. He was granted many boons from the gods which included being unaffected by most weapons, great knowledge of the scriptures, inability to drown, no death or illness from Yama, everlasting energy in battle, ability to change form, ability to fly to any part of the world and lastly, this monkey would partake in the demise of Ravana of Lanka. Unfortunately, through time, due to his great boons, Hanuman became arrogant and tormented many of the rsis. The rsis decided to curse Hanuman to forget all his powers. They said he would only remember them again to aid the avatara of Visnu.