Feeding on human blood and flesh…
By The Fairytale Traveler’s contributing author Smriti Middha
All of us have grown up listening to and reading tales and short stories. When you grow up in the Indian subcontinent, the stories are all from the Hindu mythology which has constant knocks between good evil. The tales are full of asuras or Rakshasa – man eating unrighteous spirits and tell of how the devas save the mankind from their terror.
Huge as a mountain, dark as soot, Rakshasas are believed to look ferocious with two large teeth protruding out. They have tremendous power and feed on human blood and flesh. One such Rakshasa to rule was Ravana, the king of Lanka. As the legend goes, Ravana was a very intelligent Rakshasa who had knowledge of all the vedas. He knew so much that he needed ten heads to contain his knowledge. A great scholar and capable ruler, Ravana was a devout follower of Lord Shiva. So devout that he sacrificed one of his 10 heads to convince Lord Shiva of his loyalty. It is said that Shiva blessed Ravana with nectar of immortality which stemmed from his naval.
Ravana, mortal enemy of Rama the main protagonist of the Hindu mythology (Ramayana), fell in love with Rama’s wife Sita and abducted her. Rama, with the help of Monkey warriors, vaanars, got Sita back by defeating Ravana. The defeat / death of the Rakshasa is celebrated as Dusshera all over India.
This celebration is marked by the burning of a huge effigy of the 10 headed Rakshasa in the town center. This precedes the famous festival of Light, Diwali, when Lord Rama arrives in Ayodhya with wife Sita after 14 years of exile.
Ravana had his capital in Ravana Kotte, which can be identified as part of the Southern Bases on the southeastern coast of India. It is said that here he had a strange fortress with battlements where he held Sita prisoner. Waves now cover this area, but part of the fortress can be seen from time to time.
Later he moved Sita to Asoka Aramaya, a pleasure garden. As Rama’s army was approaching, Ravana moved Sita to a dense forest. In Uva there are the Ravana Ella caves. This is the famous cave where Ravana hid Sita. The Ravana Ella falls nearby is one of the wildest looking water falls. When you visit Sri Lanka, there are still remnants of the bridge made by Rama’s army which one can see.
This Rakshasa can be found in many areas in the south East Asian region – China, Japan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Tibet, Iran, Korea and also parts of South America.