Ravana's Tapasya

"Dear Diary,

Today is the first day of my tapasya to Lord Brahma. I wish to obtain a gift just as my half-brother Vaishravana did. I want to be more powerful than he. Every time I close my eyes I imagine myself in a later time, having all of the gold in the world. I imagine every being bending down to kiss my feet- to fulfill every wish that I have. BUT I don’t have that. I have NOTHING like that. No matter what I do, I do not seem to satisfy Brahma. What more do I have to do? I fulfill all of my duties. I respect my parents and my wife; I do everything that Dharma would want from me.

I am worn out. I am mentally and physically exhausted. I have cut off nine out of my ten heads already as a sacrifice to Lord Brahma, but to no avail. My half-brother Vaishravan did not have go to such extents to obtain a gift from Brahma! All he had to do was prance around! 'He was a sweet and energetic child,' people say. Hmmph….a CHILD- a careless stupid child who knows nothing of the world. Without doing anything he received a boon of becoming the Lord of Treasures and Riches from Lord Brahma! Not only that but he got the beautiful aerial chariot Pushpaka made by Viswakarman, the architect of the heavens.

What does he have that I don’t? Why does he get all of the boons while I sit here, upholding all the practices of Dharma? I have done everything in my power to please Lord Brahma but it seems like my tapasya to him is not enough. Is it my fault that I am born from the blood of the Rakhshasas? Is it my fault I’m not a 'cute child' but rather a ten-headed, dark-complexioned adult? Is it not more commendable to serve and sacrifice at a time in life when a rakhshasa has worries of the world- such as a providing for the family and being respected in the society?

My wife Mandodari…my sweet sweet wife. She brings a smile to my face. Every time I come back dismayed from sacrificing one of my heads, she bandages my wounds and comforts me by saying that I am more worthy of receiving a gift from Brahma than Vaishravana ever was or ever would be. However, I do not ever feel like that. My ten thousand years of tapasya has done nothing. Lord Brahma does not seem to listen to my pleas and understand the great turmoil in my heart.

Enough is enough. My time is now up. It is the day where I sacrifice my last head as I had vowed. Either Brahma truly listens to me, or this will be my end. I do not wish to live a life where my half-brother mocks me with his power and wealth. Time has always been in his favor. However, I hope for once this time it is in my favor. I know exactly what I will ask as a boon from Brahma. I will ask him to make me unslayable- to make me undefeated even by the gods themselves. Then Vaishravan will know who is who. He will know my power and salute me like the rest of the world. "

Ravi put the book down. He could not believe what he had just read! He had just delved into one of the most personal thoughts of the greatest demon to ever roam this planet. He stood up, wiped the sweat off of his forehead, and walked home in a daze. He had to tell the world about this!

Author's note: I tried to express that the main reason behind Ravana's tapasya was his true desire to be better than his half-brother Vaishravan whom he was jealous of. Although Ravana lived his life according to Dharma and performed sacrifices for purely selfish reasons (mentioned by Indrajit on page 318 of Buck's Ramayana), he did so with very human feelings of hurt and of feeling lesser than someone as a result of them being more powerful. The epic downfall of Ravana was a result of two different characteristics he possessed that are deemed to be the root of all evil: jealousy and arrogance. In spite of this, I believe somewhere deep down in Ravana's heart, good resides. This goodness is shown through his appreciation of Mandodari and her love for him. Ravana struggles to achieve happiness and peace by trying to do his tapasya to Lord Brahma, but is upset as a result of injustice he suffered. Although I believe the tests that Brahma put him through were correct by all means, I also believe that it is what led Ravana himself to not believe in justice. If Brahma had somehow conveyed the message of patience and virtue or consequences of actions while giving Ravana his gift, then maybe Ravana would have turned out to have been a completely different character than what we know today. 


Buck, William (1976). Ramayana. University of California Press, Berkeley: 1976.
Narayan, R.K. Ramayana. Penguin Books, New York: 1972.

Image Information (top): Ravana's last beheading
Image Source (top): Ravana