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Ravana is the king of the rakshasa and ruler of Lanka in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. He is the son of the sage Vishrava and princess Kaikesi. He had seven sons, the most powerful and well known being Indrajit. Ravana is a very intelligent but greedy and cruel rakshasa who is depicted with up to ten heads and twenty arms.
At an early age Vishrava noted that while Ravana was aggressive and arrogent, he was also an exceptional scholar, and under the tutelage of his father he mastered the Vedas, holy books and the arts. He was also an excellent veena player and had the sign of the veena stitched into his flag.
After his training, Ravana performed an intence penance to the god Brahma which lasted several years and Brahma was so impressed he offered him a boon. At first Ravana asked for immortality, but Brahma refused, so he asked for invulnerability and supremacy over the devas, other asura and wild beasts. However Ravana was contemptuous of mortal men and so he did not ask for protection from their kind. Brahma granted him these boons, and also granted him the knowledge of all divine weapons and spells. With these boons in hand, Ravana marched on his brother Kubera's city of Lanka and seized control.
Ravana was a cold and selfish man, but was none-the-less a benevolent and intelligent ruler. Lanka flourished like never before under Ravana's rule, and even the poorest houses ate and drank from golden vessels. It was said that hunger and poverty were unheard of in Lanka while under his rule.
It was a short while after Ravana's conquest of Lanka that he unknowingly encountered Shiva at his home on Mt. Kailash. Ravana decided to uproot and move the mountain which greatly annoyed Shiva, and so he pinned it to the ground with his little toe, Ravana still trapped under it. One Ravana realised who it was who he had crossed, Ravana became penitent, and wrote many songs praising Shiva. After several years Shiva was so impressed by his devotion that he released him from under the mountain, and granted him further power, including the Moonblade sword. From that point on, Ravana became a devote follower of Shiva.
Ravana then set out to conquer all of the Three Worlds. After he had conquered the lands of the humans, he went on to defeat the celestial beings and then the asuras, making him supreme ruler of Earth, Heaven, and the Netherworld.
It would ultimately be Ravanas lustful tastes for women that would lead to his defeat, as he would set his sights on the wife of Rama to be one of his consorts. Sita was one of the most beautiful women in India and Ravana's lustful greed lead to him abducting her. Rama would eventually track Ravana down to his home in Lanka, where a war between the two rivals would break out. As Rama was human (albeit Vishnu's avatar), and Ravana was not immune to his attacks, he was eventually slain.