According to Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, Lanka is the island fortress capital that a great asura king Ravana ruled. They also called Lanka Ravana Lanka because Ravana was an efficient ruler, a great scholar. Historians believe that having 10 heads meant he was a very knowledgeable man and a great king who had expert knowledge about administration. The island kingdom was on a plateau between three mountain peaks known as the Trikuta Mountains. The capital city of Lanka is Lankapura. This magnificent city of Lankapura is said to be burnt down by Hanuman. They crowned Vibhishana as the King of Lanka after King Ravana being killed by Lord Rama.
How did Ravana become king of Lanka?
There are two versions for story of how Ravana acquired the Lanka kingdom. The Lanka was literally made of gold and so was known as ‘the ‘Golden City of Lanka’. According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that the golden city of Lanka was built by Lord Vishwakarma- the “Principle Architect of the universe” , when Lord Shiva asked Vishwakarma to build a beautiful place for him and Goddess Parvati to reside after their marriage. Lord Vishwakarma designed a beautiful palace made of gold. After its construction, a priest was invited to conduct the housewarming ritual or ‘Gruha Pravesh’ of the city.
The priest was none other than the learned Ravana himself. The wise Brahmin Ravana was a master scholar before becoming the Demon king. When he saw Lanka, he was overwhelmed by the beauty of it. He asked the palace as his Dakshina or reward and Lord Shiva granted him with the palace. Then he went on to become the king of Lanka. Another version is Lanka which is also called Ravana Lanka, was originally ruled by a rakshasha named Sumali. Later, Kubera took over the control of Lanka and established the Yaksha Kingdom and rakshasas protected its capital. His half-brother Ravana, son of the sage Vishravaya and Sumali’s daughter Kaikashi, fought with Kubera and seized control of Lanka from him.
Later, Lanka turned into Rakshasa Kingdom. According to Hindu epic Ramayana, Lanka referred to as Ravana’s Lanka, is considered to be a large island kingdom is situated in the Indian Ocean. Ramayana clearly indicates that Ravana’s Lanka was situated 100 Yojanas (roughly 1213 km or 753.72 miles) away from mainland of India. The original version of all the existing versions is Valmiki’s Ramayana. It also suggested that the location of Ravana’s Lanka is in the western Indian Ocean. There is a reference of Lanka in Mahabharata also. One of the Pandavas, Sahadeva visited the Lanka kingdom during his southern military campaign for the rajasuya yagna of Yudhishthira.
Where is Ravana Lanka now?
There are many speculations about the location of Ravana Lanka. Many theories and logics were given to explain the location of this Island kingdom. Some people believe that present Sri Lanka is Ravana Lanka. Some scholars emphasized that it is Sri Lanka because there are references in the 5th century Sri Lankan text ‘Mahavamsa’. Many people believe that Sigriya, a city in Matale district in the central province of the Sri Lanka, is a place where the demon king Ravana lived. It is believed that the Sigriya’s Lion Rock was the site of Ravana’s huge palace which is made up of solid gold and crafted by Kubera,the God of Wealth.
But studies states that Sigiriya was King Kasyapa’s capital and the palace was built by him in 5th century. Before that, it was a Buddhist monastery. The distance between present day India and Sri Lanka is less than 100 km. But, According to Valmiki Ramayana it clearly says that the distance of Ravana Lanka from Bharat is 100 yojanas which is approx. 1250kms across the ocean. There are some more arguments. According to Surya Siddhartha, Lanka might be 500 kms from present day Sri Lanka because Surya Siddhartha explicitly states that the prime meridian passes through both Avanthi(Ujjain) and Ravana Lanka.
In Siddhanta, Lanka is taken to be a place with no latitude and longitude. No longitude because it is on prime meridian and no latitude because it is on the equator. But Ceylon is about 7 degrees north of the equator. Another reason is Sri Lanka is not an Island but was a part of Indian landmass. So this reasons definitely rules out Sri Lanka is not the Ravana Lanka. Some it has submerged in the Indian Ocean due to geographical changes. Some says different countries to be Ravana Lanka. There are many other explanations on the present location of Ravana Lanka.
To conclude, the main question remains: Did such a city really exist? If exists, where is the present location? While most of the people continue to believe that the modern day Sri Lanka to be Ravana’s Lanka, there is a lot of debate on the matter. While nothing is known for sure, the name itself is perhaps a confirmation of the belief.
-Naga Sai Deepak