In Hindu mythology, there are few villains that get as much bad press as Ravan, the chief antagonist in Ramayan. The man’s death at the end of a protracted war has been turned into a metaphor for the victory of Good over Evil, and celebrated annually by a majority of Hindus in one of the biggest festivals of the year.
Photo by J I G I S H A a.k.a Nitin Badhwar
But, all good mythology is never black and white. Ravan, as many of you might know, is also supposed to have been an able ruler, a great veena player, and an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. He was also a noted scholar, authoring at least two treatises: Ravana Samhita, on Hindu astrology, and Arka Prakasham, on Siddha medicine and treatment.
So, while Ravan is reviled widely, a man of such talents is justified in having won over a few devotees too. And we are not talking about alternate versions of the Ramayan in Buddhism and Jainism, or in some other Asian countries like Thailand or Sri Lanka. These, and this may be surprising for many, groups of Ravan-worshippers are spread across India. So, if you are interested in some subversion of Hindu mythology, or want to see how there is hope for even the most scorned of men, make time to visit one (or all) of these Ravan temples we have found for you.
Photos by Nishant Sharma
1. Bisrakh, Uttar Pradesh – Derived from the name of Ravan’s father Vishravas, this small village in Gautam Budh Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh, about 30 km from New Delhi, is believed to be the birthplace of Ravan. The center of attraction here is the Swayambhu (self-manifested) shivaling, which was unearthed about 100 years ago, and is supposed to be the same one that Vishravas, and his son Ravan, worshipped at. Local beliefs forbid the celebration of Dussehra or Ramlila in the village; instead, yajnas are held during navratra to honor Shiva and Ravan.
2. Kanpur, UP – Located in the Shivala area of Kanpur, the 125-year old Dashanan temple (aka Kailash temple) opens its doors to devotees only once every year, interestingly on the day of Dussehra, as if it wants to openly challenge the many followers of Ram. Devotees chanting ‘Ravan Baba Namah’ and visitors eager for a look at this oddity mix in equal numbers, creating a queue that can run for kilometers.
Photo Courtesy Hindustan Times
3. Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh – The people of this historic town, located about 60 km from Bhopal, believe that Ravan’s wife Mandodari belonged to their town. While the celebration of Dussehra in the form of Ravan worship is a relatively new occurrence in the village of Ravangram in Vidisha, the 10 ft reclining idol of the demon king has been regularly visited on weddings and other important occasions for blessings for a long time by the local Kanyakubj Brahmin sect.
4. Mandsaur, MP – About 180 km from Udaipur and 200 km from Indore, this town located on the MP – Rajasthan border is worth visiting for its many other historical and religious sites too. Ravan is believed to have wed Mandodari here, and the people still consider Ravan a son-in-law. A 35 ft high, ten-headed idol of Ravan at an elaborate temple in the Khanpur area of the town attracts many devotees, particularly from the Namdeo Vaishnav Samaj. Not far from here, there’s another temple dedicated to Ravan and his son Meghnad at Bhadkedi village in the Shajapur district.
5. Mandor, Rajasthan – Giving competition to the people of Mandsaur are the Dave and Maudgil Brahmins of Mandor, located about 9 km from Jodhpur, who also consider Ravan their son-in-law. This town was once the capital of the Rathores, who moved to Jodhpur in 1459 CE, and the recently constructed Ravan temple is just one of many tourist sites here.
6. Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh – Located on the Kakinada Beach Road, the temple complex includes a 30 ft idol of Ravan and a huge shivaling, the latter believed to have been installed by Ravan himself. This city is known for its beautiful beach, which adds to the temple’s magnificence.
Photo by Rakeshkdogra
7. Baijanath, Himachal Pradesh – The famous Baijanath temple in Kangra district, about 50 km from Dharamsala, is not exactly a Ravan temple. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, but the mythology behind the origin of this temple makes Ravan a revered figure here, and the traditional effigy burning during Dussehra is not held here as a mark of respect. Local legend says that Ravan, while carrying a shivaling from Mount Kailash to Lanka, had to (or was made to) stop here and the shivaling got installed at the spot, turning it into a holy spot. The town has many other important shrines and also offers splendid views of the Dhauladhar range.
Interestingly, at least two other well known Shiva temples in India have a similar origin story – the Koteshwar Mahadev temple, which is about 215 km from Bhuj, in Kutch, Gujarat; and Murdeshwar, known for the world’s second-tallest Shiva statue, located about 160 km north of Mangalore on the Karnataka coast.
Almost each one of these locations offers not just an interesting aspect of religion and mythology, but is also surrounded by other delightful sites. So, go visit the King of Lanka, and come back sated with a healthy dose of history and natural beauty.
Featured Photo: Ravan Idol at Mandsaur, MP. Photo Courtesy DainikBhaskar.com