Asura: Tale of the Vanquished

AsuraRavana starts off this one with a punch:
“For thousands of years, I have been vilified and my death is celebrated year after year in every corner of India. Why? Was it because I challenged the Gods for the sake of my daughter? Was it because I freed a race from the yoke of caste-based Deva rule? You have heard the victor’s tale, the Ramayana. Now hear the Ravanayana, for I am Ravana, the Asura, and my story is the tale of the vanquished.”

If this wasn’t enough, there is this second lead called Bhadra who says:
“I am a non-entity-invisible, powerless and negligible. No epics will ever be written about me. I have suffered both Ravana and Rama – the hero and the villain or the villain and the hero. When the stories of great men are told, my voice maybe too feeble to be heard. Yet, spare me a moment and hear my story, for I am Bhadra, the Asura, and my life is the tale of the loser.”

In modern India, the Sanskrit word “Asura” is misinterpreted as “Demon”. However, after reading, I feel that the word is wrongly described. This book can be described as Ravanayana i.e. Epic from the point of view of Ravana. We all know Ramayana is the story of Rama’s victory over Ravana. It is also an mythological epic that describes victory of good or evil. However, this book is an interpretation of Ramayana from Ravana’s point of view.

Plot:
There are two narrators of this story.. One is Ravana himself and other is Bhadra. Both of them have suffered a lot at the hands of Devas. Both of them belong to a very poor background. Both of them share a common goal.. Revenge from Devas.. Both of them, somehow, come together to plot against the Devas whom they consider the reason for their sufferings.

The story begins with Ravana lying half dead on the battleground. He already has lost everything against Rama. He is discovered by Bhadra, a fellow Asura who has been a part of his journey from rags to riches to rags to riches again and so on. Bhadra pledges to Ravana that he shall extract revenge from Rama for Ravana, himself and their blighted race. Ravana then narrates his story to the reader.

He lived with his poor Asura mother and three siblings Kumbakarna, Vibhishana and Soorpanakha. His father Kaikesi, a Brahmin is the most hated figure of the children because he gave out everything to Ravana’s step-brother Kubera, the wealthiest man on earth.

The book then delves into the chronicles of Ravana’s journey towards conquering Lanka from Kubera with the help of his comrades Prahastha, Mareecha, Sumali, Jambumali, Rudraka, Dhumraksha, Vajradhamstra and finally his two brothers Kumbakarna and Vibhishana. It also details the training that he gets from Mahabali the greatest Asura king. The plot further describes the formation of Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Bhadra somehow plays an important role in helping Ravana towards his motive.

Once he becomes the king of Lanka, he then craves to conquer the lands of India which are under the rule of Devas. He manages to make Varuna, the pirate king as his ally. Ravana describes his relationship with Mandorari while Bhadra gets into a sexual relationship with a prostitute Mala. He later realizes that he is in love with Mala who in turn has affections for Vidyutjihva a great orator who wishes to usurp throne of Ravana. Vidyutjihva conspires by provoking people against Ravana and his rule. He also slyly gets into a physical relationship with Princess Soorpanakha. Ravana, after much drama, agrees for their marriage.

Mandodari gives birth to a girl and as per an oracle she would be bringing down Ravana and the whole Asura empire. He sets out along with his warriors along with his nameless daughter towards India where he takes over small Deva kingdoms like Alakhpuri. Ravana takes his daughter alongwith him as he fears for her life. He kills King Anarnya of Ayodhya who curses that his descendants will kill Ravana. Meanwhile he falls in love with a Deva widow Vedavathi who curses her that she shall bring his downfall. The baby girl supposedly killed in Ravana’s absence is then found alive by King Janaka of Mithila, who names her Sita.

Meanwhile Vidyutjihva usurps Lanka throne and declares himself as the King. He drugs Kumbakarna to avoid any problem in his rule by giving him to his guru Yama. Ravana allies with Vanara King Bali as Mareecha sweet talks Bhadra urging him to kill Vidyutjihva. Soorpanakha hurls choicest of abuses to Ravana and leaves Lanka with her mother. Frustrated by the turn of events and denial by his wife, he rapes a palace maid who turns out to be Mala. She bears him an illegitimate chill Athikaya.

Years pass as Ravana’s family increases in the form of his sons Meghanada as well as kids of his brothers. Due to a chain of events,  Bhadra accepts Athikaya as his own child who in turn becomes a close aide of Meghanada after fighting against Angada, son of Bali. Ravana and Mareecha secretly witness his daughter Sita’s swayamwar and hopes that the winner Rama keeps her happy forever.

The story then moves forward when Ravana is almost old. He talks about the changes that have developed in Lanka and Rama’s fourteen year old exile in the forest far away from Ayodhya. He hates the fact that his daughter Sita has to suffer a lot because of her Deva husband Rama. So he plots to bring his daughter to Lanka where she can live with peace…”

Rest of the story is history.. But the story doesnt end at the death of Ravana. It actually ends at the death of Rama.

My Verdict:
The book contains a lot of facts that have been hidden from the scriptures. According to my point of view, Ravana wasn’t evil. He was merely a fool blinded by his pride, ego and his other negative traits. If you are a mythological and a fantasy fan then grab a copy soon.

Peace, Poetry and Power
Bhavin Shah
http://www.bhavinshah.in

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