Asura, Tale of the Vanquished, The story of Ravana and His People by: Anand Neelakantan

Asura tale of the vanquished

Ravana, is popularly known as the demon or villain in the epic, Ramayana. When I saw “Asura” book in India, I immediately bought it because I was curious what made him become who he was in the Ramayana.

Poignant was the over-all feel of the story. It was depressing yet, at the same time, interesting because it was culturally-rich. I got to experience India’s earlier civilization. I felt like I was witnessing it personally. It satisfied my need of information and color.

Aside from culture, it also showed a lot of different leadership styles and types. It exhibited variety of viewpoints about the notable events in the Ramayana. I then realized that Ravana, was not at all evil, as it was portrayed in the famous epic.

Some personal thoughts;

  • Something new: Sita was Ravana’s daughter? ;
  • Didn’t know that Rama was a supporter of caste system.
  • Perception of good and evil is relative, depending on what your culture is. Like, the caste system. I find it oppressive. Rama instilled that. Ravana, on the other hand, was against it. He wanted equality (even to men and women) among the people of his kingdom. I think, Ravana’s leadership style is more “popular” and accepted now a days than Rama’s style.
  • Rama, followed rules, in my honest opinion, blindly? He killed a kid, his brother, and shamed his beloved wife Sita 2x because of the rules.

    2 Views: He was a good leader because, he showed no personal attachment to people and things. He was objective and concrete in terms of leading. Some countries now a days, may benefit from this kind of leadership. However, he was too selfless to the point that I think, he already became unkind to himself.

  • Everybody’s a victim:

    -Ravana was a victim of his own humane tendencies. He was emotional and he acted as human. Even, I would act the same way, I think.

    – Rama was a victim of his own attachment to rules. He wasn’t happy and to think, he would only live once.

    – Bhadra was a victim of his own obession to get approval from the higher authorities and also, poverty.

    – Sita was a victim of her own unconditional love to her husband, that he she failed to see the love of her own father.

I guess, this book portrayed every character as a victim of something.

  • Rama tested Sita’s purity 2 times. Ravana accepted his wife back without hesitation after being abused by the monkey men ,despite being ridiculed by his people for this decision.
  • I think, as a leader, Ravana, as well as the rest of the Asuras were not as evil as I enitially thought they were. The way they were treated after the war was so depressing. Nothing good can really come out of a war.
  • I was also thinking about the caste system and it’s possible advantages: well, I came up with one. With this system, people will become more content, hence more accepting, resilient, humble and most of all, less greedy.

My favorite character in this book was Bhadra. He made Ravana a king without him knowing. He sacrificed a lot for the king, but got nothing good in return. Life was hard on him, but he continued on being resilient and he just kept on seeing the brighter side of everything. He, also, exude my most favorite virtue, humility.

In the entire book, he was the only character who continuedly subject himself to events that would make him exhibit humility. He owned less, he needed less, he loved, and was human. He was immuned to life’s atrocities, hence, nothing could break him. I am glad that he was the only one who survived with still neutral sense of self in this story.

I loved the book. It made me remember that we shouldn’t really judge others because there are always 2 sides (or more) of any story..

Here are my favorite lines and thoughts from the book;

Pg 20 : On Gods

It is strange how Kings of antiquity suddenly became Gods. How they metamorphosed into specialty Gods is even more amusing. I am not Atheist. I strongly believe in God and am always willing to pray for my material and spritual progress. But for me, God is a very personal thing and prayers need to be spoken silently in my heart.” – Yes. Agree.

Pg 35- 36 : On mind control and mastering the senses

Anger is the lowest emotion. It clouds the intellect and can make you do foolish things….Uproot this evil from your system….

The next base emotion is pride. Arrogance stems from pride and kills clear thinking and vision. Pride makes you underestimate your foes and overestimate yourself…..

Jealousy is a vile emotion, and mastering it is one of the most challenging tasks a human being has. Jealousy makes you pine for other man’s kingdom, wealth, wife, and fame. This emotion has lead to many wars, bloodshed and tears since time immemorial…..

Happiness and Sadness are just two eternal truths like day and night. A man of superior intellect is never affected by these emotions. Thay are not base emotions at all bu a reflection of out thoughts, a reaction to our perspective on things we see, hear or do.

Fear is not an emotion, it is a DISEASE.It spreads from the leader to his followers and vise versa. Nothing has killed more men in the war than fear…..

Nothing is more condemnable than selfishness. A man who thinks of himself alone is the most unlucky person of all….

Love is a chain that ties tou to the milestone of make-belief. ….Love makes you weak. Love has unseen bondages that take you into the abyss of failure at that crucial moment when victory and failure get balanced. Beware of love…

Finally, control your ambition…..Ai for things and strive to achieve them, but always keep your feet solidly on the ground. Think, think and think, before you act.

The only thing that is worth preserving is your mind.Every living minute you have to strive to feed your mind with fresh and positive inputs…..”

Pg 63

Why was I so concerned about whether they respect me or not?” – Same question.

Pg 122

I felt so small, uncultured, unaccomplished. I knew I was a good warrior, but so were the 300 soldiers trained under Rudraka…..Mandodari started singing. It was a melodious song, glorifying the rule of Mahabali, and she sung it very well. Her voice was rich and her rythm perfect, rising and ebbing at the correct places. It was flawless but lacked soul. It was too perfect to have soul. There was no passion. Mandodari did not mean what she was singing, it was just to exercise, mechanical, emotionless, passionlessbut perfectly rendered. No maestro could have faulted her singing but somewhere it jarred.”

Pg 155 : On life

Ah, Ravana, you are just a tiny speck in the universe and it doesn’t matter a bit if you die or win today. Your death is less valuable than a worm’s death. A worm becomes food for a bird or manure for the soil. If you die, your body will be burned, adding only empty fumes to the atmosphere. As far as nature is concerned, your struggles and trials, your triumphs, your very birth and death, are all irrelevant incidents. They are small stones crushed under the wheels of time. If you live, you will just be one day closer to the inevitable end. If you die, then the universe will remain the same. Ravana, what a fool are you….”

Pg 266

But I saw that Bhadra did not weep from weakness but for his survival. It took courage to to lose you pride and still survive. It took will power to suppress one’s screaming ego and grovel before another man. It took determination to keep one’s head down and act humble, when you are seething inside. Ultimately, the victories do not matter, nor pride or glory, only survival matters- one’s life and successors, the clan, race, and language.Other things are useless…”

Pg 291

Men cheat, betray, love, strive, struggle, fail, get up, and repeat the process to die and vanish forever or be reborn. But the earth remains aloof, distant and unchangeable. I was just a speck floating in the mighty universe. Tomorrow, or perhaps the next minute, I would be gone. Would it matter to anyone? A few perhapswould be sad and others happy for it, but it will only be relevant for a while. Over time, my achievments, my birth and death, would be irrelevant. So the size of my empire was irrelevant and there was no need for any more bloodshed. Life was too short for fighting wars and too sweet to throw away on silly things like ambition. I wanted to believe that I was not afraid to die. But then, how could I ever leave this beautiful life? Wind whistled past my ears and I took a deep breath of the cool morning air. I breathed life.”

Pg 306 : Ravana’s love for his daughter

….’You could kill Rama and his brother and bring Sita after telling her the truth about her birth’. He said. But I did not want to kill Rama. My daughter was devoted to him and I did not want to cause her any sorrow. I only planned to keep Sita in Lanka till Rama’s voluntary exile was over. She could then join him when he assumed kingship of his petty kingdom. Secretly, I hoped that once I brought her to Lanka and she had seen her father’s dazzling home, she would persuade her husband to stay with us. It wasn’t that I had suddenly developed a liking for that man, but I was willing to accept him. I was even ready to give Rama a portion of my northern empire.”

Pg 380

This country will never change. Grab everything whenever you can – that’s the mantra. Greed was the basis of this rotten country.”

Loved the book so much!

About Miss_Pia

Neurotic Health-care Professional who enjoys sleeping, running, reading, introspecting, pole art and exploring new things and sometimes, places!
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