Many ṛṣis from around the world came to congratulate and bless Rāma for his victory against the rākṣasas. The ṛṣis specifically extolled Rāma’s victory over Indrajit. When Rāma asked them what was so special about Indrajit, Agastya started narrating the story of Rāvaṇa’s lineage.
“A brahmarṣi named Pulastya, the son of Brahmā lived in the Kṛta-yuga. He performed tapas by restraining his senses in the āśrama of Tṛṇabindu on the slopes of Mount Meru. However, he got distracted by young maidens who had come to the āśrama during the course of their play. Furious, he declared that any young girl who caught his sight would turn pregnant. While most girls were scared of the brāhmaṇa’s curse, Tṛṇabindu’s daughter, who wasn’t aware of this, wandered around him freely. As soon as she spotted him, she grew pallid and displayed clear signs of pregnancy. When she innocently asked her father what had caused the change in her, Tṛṇabindu realised the reality. He requested Pulastya to marry his daughter. The brahmarṣi accepted her as his wife and the lady soon gave birth to a pious son named Viśravas.
Viśravas was devoted to dharma and was always honest. Bharadvāja, who was pleased with his conduct, gave his daughter Devavarṇinī in marriage to him. The couple gave birth to a son named Vaiśravaṇa, who was endowed with the best of qualities. Vaiśravaṇa performed tapas for thousands of years. Brahmā, who was pleased with his tapas, made him the guardian of the directions along with Yama, Indra, and Varuṇa; he granted him the lordship of wealth and also gifted him the puṣpaka-vimāna. Upon his request, Vaiśravaṇa’s father Viśravas asked him to occupy the city of Laṅkā, which was the domain of the rākṣasas in the past; the rākṣasas had fled to Rasātala out of fear for Viṣṇu. Vaiśravaṇa settled there and commanded the rākṣasas to occupy the city once again. He ruled them well and lived a happy life. He often flew in his puṣpaka-vimāna to meet his parents.”
Rāma was surprised to know that there were powerful rākṣasas even before the times of Rāvaṇa, and Kumbhakarṇa. When he expressed his curiosity in knowing the background of the rākṣasas, Agastya continued his narration.
“In the past, Prajāpati-brahmā, who was born out of the waters, created the waters and then created beings to protect them. One set of beings promised rakṣāmaḥ – ‘we will protect’ and they became the rākṣasas; another set of beings declared yakṣāmaḥ – ‘we shall eat’ and they became the yakṣas. Three rākṣasas named Mālyavān, Sumālī, and Mālī were born to the rākṣasa Sukeśa and the gandharva maiden Devavatī. The three brothers became immensely powerful through a boon they secured from Brahmā; with their immense might, they tormented the three worlds. They requested Viśvakarmā to build a great mansion for their dwelling and the divine architect built the city of Laṅkā on Mount Trikūṭa. Mālyavān, Sumālī, and Mālī lived happily there and got married in the due course. The ministers of Vibhīṣaṇa, namely Anala, Anila, Hara, and Saṃpāti were born to Mālī and his gandharva wife Vasudā. The three brothers along with their sons and companions wreaked havoc in the three worlds. Unable to bear their torture, the devas pleaded with Maheśvara for help. As per his advice, they approached Viṣṇu, who drove away the three rākṣasas with his might. The rākṣasas thus abandoned Laṅkā and went to live in the underworld named Pātāla.
One day, Sumālī spotted Kubera flying in his puṣpaka-vimāna and wanted to possess it. He came up with an idea. With a desire to get his daughter Kaikasī married, he asked her to approach Viśravas-Paulastya and instructed her to request him to marry her. Paulastya predicted that she would give birth to rākṣasas who would perform cruel deeds and assured that her youngest son would be righteous and worthy of his lineage. Thus, the ten-headed Rāvaṇa, Kumbhakarṇa, and the kind Vibhīṣaṇa were born.
Once, Kubera came to see his father Paulastya. Kaikasī, who was impressed by his power and wealth told her son Rāvaṇa that he must quickly become like Kubera. Upon hearing his mother’s words, Rāvaṇa was overcome with intolerable envy and he then made a vow that he would soon be equal or superior to his half-brother Kubera. He then proceeded to Gokarṇa with his younger brothers to perform tapas in order to accomplish his purpose. Kumbhakarṇa performed tapas for ten thousand years amidst five fires; Vibhīṣaṇa stood on one foot and gazed at the Sun for thousands of years. Rāvaṇa performed tapas for ten thousand years; at the end of every thousand years, he offered one of his heads as āhuti to Agni. When he was about to sever his tenth head, Brahmā appeared before them. Rāvaṇa requested Brahmā invulnerability from birds, serpents, yakṣas, daityas, dānavas, and the devas; he said humans would be as trivial as blades of grass before him. Brahmā granted him a boon accordingly and got him back his heads. Pleased with Vibhīṣaṇa, Brahmā blessed him with dhārmic conduct and immortality. The devas now dreaded the boon Kumbhakarṇa would request for. They asked Brahmā to befuddle him under the pretext of a boon. Sarasvatī appeared there and upon Brahmā’s request she made Kumbhakarṇa say, “I desire to sleep for many years.” Brahmā granted the boon and vanished from the place. But Kumbhakarṇa wondered what made him utter those words that particular day.
Pleased that his grandsons had procured boons from Brahmā, Sumālī asked them to lay siege on Laṅkā and get the city back from Kubera. Accordingly, Rāvaṇa sent his minister Prahasta to engage with a conciliatory conversation with Kubera and to make him give up his kingdom. Kubera informed his father Viśravas about Rāvaṇa’s demands. Viśravas advised him to abandon Laṅkā and not to antagonize Rāvaṇa. He asked him to go to Mount Kailāsa and establish a city in which he could dwell. Thus, Kubera moved out of Laṅkā and the rākṣasas along with Rāvaṇa occupied the place.
Once Rāvaṇa established himself as the lord of rākṣasas in Laṅkā, he got his sister Śūrpaṇakhā married to the dānava named Vidyujjihva. He married Mandodarī, the daughter of the rākṣasa Maya and his apsarā wife Hemā. Mandodarī’s brothers were Māyāvī and Dundubhi. Kumbhakarṇa married Vairocana’s grand-daughter Vajrajvālā and Vibhīṣaṇa took as his wife Saramā, the daughter of the gandharva king Śailūṣa. Rāvaṇa built a huge mansion for Kumbhakarṇa, where the rākṣasa went into a deep slumber. Mandodarī gave birth to a child named Meghanāda, who got his name because he roared like a cloud as soon as he was born. He was famously known as Indrajit.
Rāvaṇa assaulted the devas and even destroyed the Nandana-vana. Seeing that his half-brother had turned unruly, Kubera sent him a messenger to convey his wise advice. However, Rāvaṇa got enraged listening to Kubera’s message and killed the messenger with his sword and offered him to the evil rākṣasas to eat. Rāvaṇa attacked Kubera, subdued him with his might, and seized his puṣpaka-vimāna.
Rāvaṇa proceeded in his vimāna to Śaravaṇa, the birthplace of Skanda-mahāsena. As he gazed upon the place, he spied another lovely grove, where the puṣpaka-vimāna was brought to a halt. He wondered why the vimāna, which could fly as per the owner’s will had suddenly stopped. As he was wondering, Nandīśvara approached him and instructed him to go back. He said, “Turn back, Daśagrīva! Śaṅkara is dallying on this mountain. Therefore, this place is forbidden to all living beings.” Enraged, Rāvaṇa roared, “Who is this Śaṅkara?” He glared at Nandīśvara, who was like a second Śaṅkara. Seeing that he had a monkey’s face, the rākṣasa looked at him with contempt. In his folly, he roared with laughter looking at Nandīśvara. Infuriated, Nandī cursed him, “Out of your arrogance, you were contemptuous when you saw my face which resembles that of a vānara. Mark my words! Vānaras bearing my form and endowed with my blazing might will be born for the destruction of your race. Though I can kill you right away, I won’t do so, for you have already been slain by your own actions.” However, paying no heed to Nandī’s words, Rāvaṇa said, “I shall tear this mountain by its roots, lord of cattle! It has become an obstacle to my puṣpaka-vimāna as I was travelling. By what authority does Bhava dally here, as if he were a king? You do not realize the danger you have subjected yourselves to!” Having this spoken, Rāvaṇa thrust his arms under the mountain and lifted it along with its resident animals and trees. And then, Mahādeva smiled at Rāvaṇa’s foolishness and pressed down the mountain with his big toe. The mountain came crashing down upon the rākṣasa’s arms and his ministers stood shocked.” The ten-headed rākṣasa shrieked and his cries reverberated around the three worlds. Terrified by that sound, people thought the world was going to end. Mahādeva was pleased with the rākṣasa’s strength, appeared before him and said, “I am pleased with your might and boldness, O rākṣasa! Since you terrified the worlds with your howl, you will be known as Rāvaṇa, hereafter!” Thus given his name by Mahādeva, Rāvaṇa mounted his vimāna and roamed around the earth. He oppressed mighty kṣatriyas wherever he went.
Once, when he was wandering the earth, Rāvaṇa came across Vedavatī, the daughter of a brahmarṣi named Kuśadhvaja. She was clad in black antelope skin and wore matted locks. Enamoured by her beauty, Rāvaṇa approached her. Vedavatī explained to him, “My father wanted to give me in marriage to Bhagavān Viṣṇu and no one else. Upon learning that, a daitya named Śambhu killed my father when he was asleep. My mother, desolate upon her husband’s death, embraced my father’s body and entered the fire with him. I want to make my father’s dream come true and thus perform austerities.” However, the rākṣasa, who wanted to possess her caught her by her long tresses even as she struggled to escape. Vedavatī cut off her hair with her hand. She decided to end her life, kindled a fire and said, “As I have been violated by you, ignoble wretch, I will end my life. I will be born again for your destruction. If I were to unleash a curse upon you, it would exhaust the merit of my tapas. My good deeds will get me born as the daughter of a righteous man, and not from a human womb!” With these words, she entered fire. There was a shower of flowers from the svarga. Vedavatī, who lived long ago in the Kṛta-yuga has appeared in the Tretā-yuga to destroy the rākṣasas. Since she was born from a furrow, she is called Sītā.
Rāvaṇa continued to roam the earth in his puṣpaka-vimāna. He once arrived at the province of Uśīrabīja, where he saw King Marutta performing a yāga along with the devas. When the devas saw the rākṣasa, they took up the form of different beings, terrified that he would attack them. Indra became a peacock, Yama a crow, Kubera a lizard, and Varuṇa a swan. Rāvaṇa threatened Marutta and made him surrender to him. Once the wicked rākṣasa was gone, the devas, who were pleased with the beings who hosted them gave them boons. Indra granted to the peacock that his thousand eyes would appear on its feathers; thereafter, the peacock feathers which were all originally blue became colourful. Yama, out of gratitude, granted immortality to the crows and said that when crows are fed, the food would reach those who reside in yama-loka. Varuṇa blessed swans with pure white colour and Kubera granted the lizard to be golden in colour.
Rāvaṇa accosted many kings and made them surrender to his will. The vanquished kings included Duṣyanta, Suratha, Gādhi, Gaya, and Purūravas. He attacked Ayodhyā that was ruled by Anaraṇya, who challenged him in one-on-one combat. Anaraṇya fought valiantly, but Rāvaṇa with a slap of his hand on the king’s head made him collapse from his chariot. As he was drawing his last breath, Anaraṇya declared that a prince born in his lineage would rob Rāvaṇa of his life. As soon as he pronounced his curse, the sound of the divine dundubhis was heard and there was a shower of flowers.