Ravanothbhavam, meaning the “Rise of Ravana”, is written by an 18th Century Malayalam scholar, Kallekkulangara Raghava Pisharody, a poetic adornment of Veera Kerala Varma, Ruler of Cochin Principality. The play has been noted for its literary values as well as stage-worthiness. Ravanothbhavam is said to have been staged first in the year 1776, under the command of Valiya Ittiri Panicker, a performer in Kaplingadan Schoold of Kathakali. Later, the sequence of enactment was disseminated to Cheriya Ittiri Panicker of Kalladikkodan School of Kathakali and this is recorded as the first union of the two schools of performance.
The Rakshasa (Demon) clan is supposed to have been originated from two brothers Hethi and Prahethi. Hethi, through Daya begot Vidyutkeshan, who in the companionship of Salakatankata begot, with the blessing of Sree Parvati, the partner of Lord Shiva, Mali, Sumali and Malyavan. These Rakshasas became all powerful and resorted to acts detrimental to all the worlds. On the request of the Lord of Heaven, Indra, and his compatriots, Lord Vishnu kills Mali in a battle. The rest of the clan flee to Pathalam, Under World, in the fear of an absolute defeat.
While in Pathalam, with a view to finding a way to get relief from the miseries, Sumali prompts her daughter, Kaikasi, to approach Rishi Vishravas. Heeding to her request, Visharavas begets her four off springs – Ravana, Kumbhakarna, Vibheeshana and Shoorpanakha.
While still residing in the premses of Rishi’s abode, one day while Ravana was napping on the laps of Kaikasi, she happens to see Vaishravana, another son of Rishi Vishravas through Idaavida, approaching proudly on his aircraft called Pushpaka. Vaishravana visits his father, pays homage and withdraws. Kaikasi is disgusted comparing the fate of her own sons as compared to their step brother. Her teardrops, having fallen on Ravana, awaken the son. Surprised, Ravana insists on revealing the reasons for her sorrow and she narrates what took place. Ravana gets excited and decides to do whatever needed to gain strength to surpass Vaishravana
He decides to proceed on a penance in meditation along with his brothers, not only to find an immediate solution to the miseries of Rakshasas but to conquer all the worlds. They reach Gokarnam and perform meditation. Ravana, especially, transcendentally brings the Lord of Creation, Brahma to his mind. Not dithered by the Brahma’s non-appearance to bless him, he progressively intensifies the penance culminating in beheading himself. He deprives himself of his nine of the ten heads and when he was about to do away with the last, Brahma presents Himself and immediately restores the chopped heads. Subsequently, on Ravana’s demand Brahma blesses him to have his wishes. Satisfied, he approaches the other two brothers who revealed they have attained boons but not commensurate with the welfare of Rakshasas. Deciding that he alone would suffice to conquer the worlds, they return. Later, they together conduct the marriage of their only sister, Shoorpanakaha with Vidyujihwan.
The play is famous especially for the Act ofPenance by Ravana, called Thapassattam. In the original play there is a scene bringing out practically the particular performance, Brahma’s appearance, delivering the boons etc. However, farsighted connnossiers depicted this act as reminiscence of Ravana. What wil be presented here is this particular scene wherein Ravana recalls the circumstances behind his Thapas, how he performed it and and how he acquired the boons, followed by his subsequent dialogue with his brothers inter-alia knowing what they got.
Translated by Thiranottam Dubai