Ravana & Bali

In Part III of our series we learn how mighty Ravana was done in by sheer arrogance, deciet, and moral deprivation

 K.K. Shanmukhan

Ravana, the ten-headed demon King, was the son of Sage Vishravas and Kaikasi. Apart from his two legendary brothers, Kumbhkarna and Vibhishana, Ravana also had a ‘beautiful’ demon sister, Surpanakha, who unwittingly had desired to marry Rama when she had fell in love with in the dense forest, for which she ended up paying dearly by having her nose chopped off by Ram, which, as we all know had started it all - the war with Rama in the Ramayana. Apart from his many legendary exploits one of which was to kidnap Sita, Lord Ram’s wife, Ravana had many virtues to boast of.
In fact, he was a very devout bakht of Lord Shiva. He was very well-versed in all kinds of sastras. He was very witty and knowledgeable. He became a mighty King of Lanka, as he was blessed by Lord Brahma himself to have invincible power. In fact, he did tapas for nearly ten thousand years. The legend goes that Kaikasi grew exceedingly jealous of Kubera, Ravana’s cousin brother, who was then lord of the North and all the wealth of the world. She chided Ravana and told him off to go out to the Gokharna Hills and do a stringent tapas unto Brahma so that he can attain immense yogic power to get rid of Kubera and ursurp his immense wealth along with his opulent kingdom. So Ravana went off to the Gokharna Hills to do tapas on Brahma, standing in the middle of a raging panchagni. A thousand years passed. The Lord never appeared. An enraged Ravana drew his sword and chopped off one of his heads and threw it into the raging fire. Even then, nothing happened. Thus he spent nine thousand years doing stringent tapas without the Lord manifesting himself in front of him. By the time, Ravana had cut off all his heads and consigned them to flames, except his tenth and last head left on his poor shoulders. Even then Brahma did not appear. A defiant Ravana didn’t hesitate. He drew his sword and was about to chop off his last head. Just then, immensely pleased, the Lord appeared in front of him and said, “Ravana, ask me any boon you may desire. And I will grant you!”
Ravana asked of the Lord that he may never ever be defeated by anyone under the sun other than lowly humans or animals, whom he was arrogant enough to think that he would ‘handle it’.
But poor Ravana never thought he would meet his nemesis in the form of Bali or Ram. Having been blessed with his boon bestowed on him by Lord Brahma, he came back to Sri Lanka and challenged his cousin brother Kubera for a fight. He simply kicked him out of his opulent palace before usurping all his wealth. He also took away Kubera’s Pushpak Viman for himself, which he used to kidnap Sita.
Now, let us take a look at one more of his flaw in his character.
Through Narada, he came to know of Bali, the legendary Monkey King who ruled Kishkindha. Bali was an invincible and mighty King. He knew very well that he could not defeat Bali through fair means, as Bali was blessed by the Lord himself to be an invincible warrior King. Whoever fights Bali face to face, he will lose the fight. So the devious Ravana planned to kill him through deceit. So his plan was to creep up on him from behind, grab him by the tail and smash him into the ground to kill.
So he came to Kishkindha and waited for an opportune time to kill Bali by hook or by crook. Bali’s minister warned him against fighting Bali as he is bound to lose the fight. So he told him to run for his dear life. But an arrogant Ravana would have none of it.
As he patiently waited for Bali, Ravana noticed Bali sitting down at the seashore to do his Sandhya Vandana early in the morning. So when Bali closed his eyes to chant his hymns, Ravana crept up and crouched close behind him, waiting for Bali to extend his tail a bit more.
Bali knew very well what stupid Ravana was up to behind him! He pretended not to notice him, even as he slowly stretched his tail to Ravana. As Ravana jumped on his tail, he got him all tangled up in an inextricable bundle of knots. Bali lifted himself high up in the air and flitted around, dangling Ravana from his tail while his head was stuck under his arm pit. Tormented by him, Ravana spent twelve long years in Bali’s inextricable knot.
Moral of the story is: Never be arrogant or dishonest.