Ravana; a Bad Guy or Just the Bad Guy?

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5) Ravana was regarded in the Ramayana as an evil king. He kidnapped Sita and attempted to kill Rama, but was instead killed himself. He is described as a merciless ruler who is greedy and  it is said that he was "ruthless and harsh, [and that] Ravana wished ill for all beings and the entire universe was terrified of him."

However was Valmiki biased in his tellings of the story? Or rather was the story itself biased towards Rama? For the purposes of this analysis, we will dismiss the descriptions Valmiki gives of Rama and only take the story itself into account. The descriptions are blatantly skewed to make Ravana appear evil because he is the antagonist of the story. Ravana kidnapped Sita because he lusted for her and sought to kill Rama because he was manipulated by Surpanakha to both be jealous and afraid of Rama and also to take revenge for the death of his people and the mutilation of his sister.

Rama, on the other hand, had killed Vali, who he had no fight with, and who was also in a duel with another monkey. He did not choose to challenge Vali to a duel, but with no reason to be a threat, he shot him from behind a tree instead. He stated his reason for killing Vali as Vali not being fit to be king. If Rama had felt this way, he could have challenged Vali to a duel, and if he had really been the greatest fighter, he could have defeated Vali anyway. Valmiki's writing quickly accepts this as the morally right action and the story moves on. If he truly believes this was the right thing, does he do so because he believes that the action was right, or because Rama had carried out this action?

Both Ravana and Rama act very strongly with their feelings in these situations while both committing to actions that are seen as wrong. However, Ravana's actions are viewed as evil while Rama's are good.

The question I pose is whether we view Ravana as evil and Rama as righteous because Valmiki chooses to have us perceive it this way. Also, just with the battle between Rama and Ravana and that between Sugriva and Vali, will we always see the winner's perspective and reasoning as the right one?

 

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