Even after having been cursed by Anaraṇya, Rāvaṇa continued to torment the worlds. Devarṣi Nārada warned him against it, but the rākṣasa paid no heed to the muni’s words. Learning of Rāvaṇa’s intentions to conquer Yama-loka, Nārada rushed to Yama’s abode and alerted him of the danger of the rākṣasa. Even as Nārada was speaking to Yama, Rāvaṇa started attacking the place mounted on his puṣpaka-vimāna. Yama’s men subdued the rākṣasas and grievously wounded them. Yama, wielding a pāśa and mudgara, mounted his chariot and attacked the rākṣasa. His kāla-daṇḍa in its embodied form was right next to him in his chariot. While the rest of the rākṣasas fled looking at Death approaching them in its human form, Rāvaṇa stood his ground. They battled for many days and there seemed to be no end to their battle. When Yama was about to release his kāla-daṇḍa upon the rākṣasa, Brahmā appeared before him and said, “O great-armed Vaivasvata! Please don’t strike this lord of rākṣasas with your daṇḍa, for I have granted him a vara because of which he is going to be invincible at the hands of the devas. Please do not falsify my words. And it was I, who created this kāla-daṇḍa in the past and it is to be unfailing in the destruction of all creatures.” It was inevitable for Yama to obey Brahmā. Unable to decide how to defeat Rāvaṇa, Yama vanished from the spot. Daśagrīva announced his own name as a sign of victory over Yama and departed from there in his puṣpaka-vimāna. Rāvaṇa attacked Varuṇa’s abode when the latter was away to attend a gāndharva – musical recital in Brahma-loka. He defeated Varuṇa’s men and ministers and announced his victory over Varuṇa-loka as well. Rāvaṇa befriended the Nivātakavacas and slew four hundred Kālakeyas.
On his return journey to Laṅkā, Rāvaṇa abducted the daughters of kings, seers, devas, daityas, rākṣasas, nāgas, humans, and gandharvas. After killing her kinsmen, the rākṣasa forced every beautiful woman he saw, married or unmarried to enter his vimāna. All those women were overwhelmed with grief. They shed copious tears out of fear and sorrow. Each thought, ‘Is he going to kill me?’ ‘Alas! What will my son do without me? How will my mother and brother survive, drowned in a sea of grief? What shall I do without my husband? My husband is my god! What evil deed have I performed to suffer this kind of agony!’ ‘This evil rākṣasa is merciless and molests women. May he meet his death on account of a woman!’ Thus cursed by such pativratās, Rāvaṇa was drained of his blazing energy and radiance.
Rāvaṇa entered his city of Laṅkā amidst pomp and celebration. However, his sister, Śūrpaṇakhā came to him weeping uncontrollably. She said, “I am ruined! You have made me a widow. While you were slaying the Kālakeyas, you killed my beloved husband as well! You have slaughtered your own brother-in-law, who is like your son-in-law! Don’t you feel any shame, my lord?” Rāvaṇa told her that he was intoxicated by the battle and slew everyone, without discriminating between friends and enemies. He asked her to stay with Khara, their cousin born to their mother’s sister. He assured her that fourteen thousand powerful rākṣasas led by Dūṣaṇa were under Khara’s command and they would fulfil all her wishes. As per Rāvaṇa’s command, Khara, Dūṣaṇa, and Śūrpaṇakhā happily lived in the Daṇḍakāraṇya.
Rāvaṇa headed to the woodland named Nikumbhilā and saw that his son Meghanāda was performing special yajñas. He approached his son, embraced him, and asked him what was going on. His guru Uśanas answered him, “O king! Your son has completed seven extremely elaborate yajñas. He has performed agniṣṭoma, avamedha, bahu-suvarṇaka, rāja-sūya, go-medha, and vaiṣṇava. Upon completing the māheśvara-yajña, Paśupati granted him three boons – an indestructible chariot that moves at the owner’s will, a magical skill called tāmasī that creates darkness, and two inexhaustible quivers as well as an invincible bow. In addition to this, he was also blessed with divine mantras to invoke various powers.” Rāvaṇa was slightly displeased that his son had worshipped his enemies such as Indra and others.
Vibhīṣaṇa advised Rāvaṇa to free the women he had abducted. He said, “When you were carrying off these beautiful women, Madhu transgressed your rule and carried off Kumbhīnasī. Our mother’s father’s elder is Mālyavān and his daughter’s daughter is Kumbhīnasī. When I was dwelling underwater and your son, Meghanāda was performing his rituals, Madhu carried her off. Thus, while you were busy performing misdeeds, a lady from your own antaḥpura has been abducted!” Rāvaṇa was enraged. Along with his brother Kumbhakarṇa and a large army, he marched forth to conquer Madhu. As he arrived there, Kumbhīnasī requested her brother Rāvaṇa not to harm her husband Madhu. The rākṣasa Madhu became a supporter of Rāvaṇa and went with him to attack Kubera’s realm.
In the vicinity of Mount Kailāsa, Rāvaṇa spotted the beautiful apsara Rambhā. He was at once infatuated with her and seized her hand. The terrified damsel said, “I am as good as your daughter-in-law and it is not right for you to desire me lustfully. My husband Nalakūbara is the son of Kubera, your brother. You should not tread the path of adharma!” Even as she was speaking so, the powerful rākṣasa seized her forcibly and raped her. Then once she was released, with her garlands and ornaments broken, Rambhā was dishevelled like a river, churned up by the sport of a tusker. In immense pain, Rambhā rushed to her husband and reported to him in agony everything that had taken place. Nalakūbara then pronounced a curse on Rāvaṇa, “Since you forcibly assaulted this divine woman, you shall never force yourself upon any other unwilling woman. If you should assault an unwilling woman, your head will burst into seven pieces!” As soon as he declared so, divine musical instruments were heard and there was a shower of blossoms. When Rāvaṇa heard the horripilating curse, he lost his desire to make love to unwilling women.
Rāvaṇa along with his ministers and large army attacked Indra-loka. His grandfather Sumālī also joined him in battle. Indra begged Viṣṇu for help and the latter assured him that he would slay the rākṣasa when at an appropriate time. The eighth among the Vasus named Sāvitra killed Sumālī in the battle. As the rākṣasas fled in terror, Meghanāda came forward to fight the devas. He defeated Indra’s son Jayanta in battle. The Rudras, Ādityas, Maruts, and all other divine beings valorously vanquished many rākṣasas. With the slain and stupefied rākṣasas scattered around the battlefield, the entire scene looked like a painting. Rāvaṇa and Meghanāda attacked Indra. With his power of illusion, Meghanāda captured Indra and led him towards his own army. Extremely pleased with his son’s might, Rāvaṇa instructed him to take the captured Indra to his city of Laṅkā.
The devas led by Prajāpati – Brahmā arrived at Laṅkā. Hovering in the sky, Prajāpati spoke conciliatory words to the lord of rākṣasas. He said, “Rāvaṇa, my child, I am impressed with your son’s feats in battle. He is your equal or even superior. He will be renowned around the world as Indrajit, hereafter. Please release Indra and let us know what the devas should offer to you in return.” Indrajit asked for immortality as the boon from Brahmā. But when Brahmā said that it was impossible for any being to be immortal, Indrajit said, “My long-cherished desire is that whenever I strive to conquer my enemies, I should enter battle only after having worshipped Agni. Let my death occur in battle if I happen to fight before completing the ritual. While every being strives for immortality through tapas, I will attain it through my valour!” Brahmā granted the boon and Indrajit released Indra.
Looking at Indra who seemed to be dull and brooding, even upon being released by the rākṣasas, Brahmā said, “In the past, I had created the most beautiful woman named Ahalyā. Though she was married to Sage Gautama, you raped her. The sage had then cursed you, ‘Indra, you shall fall into the hands of your enemies in battle. Your position will not be permanent because of your violation of dharma. A person can only temporarily become the lord of the devas!’ He then reviled his wife and said, ‘Unchaste woman! You will no longer be the only beautiful woman in the world. Your beauty will belong to all people. Become invisible in my āśrama!’ Thus, Indra, understand that you fell into your enemy's hands because of your past act. Perform the vaiṣṇava-yāga and you will get back your position in svarga!”
Rāvaṇa proceeded to Māhiṣmatī which was ruled by Arjuna of the Haihaya lineage. Upon reaching the city, Rāvaṇa challenged its king to battle only to learn that he was sporting in water with his women in the River Narmadā. Enraged, Rāvaṇa headed to the vicinity of the river along the Vindhya mountains. Enchanted by the beautiful river, Rāvaṇa and his men took a dip in its waters. His rākṣasas carried a liṅga made of jāmbūnada gold wherever he went. Rāvaṇa installed it on a vedi made of sand and worshipped it with flowers and fragrances. Having pleased Hara, the rākṣasa sang and danced stretching out his long arms.
While Rāvaṇa was performing his ritual, Arjuna, in order to discover the ultimate strength of his thousand arms, obstructed the Narmadā’s current with them. When the water reached the dam made by Kārtavīrya’s arms, it flowed upstream, crumbling its riverbanks. As if directed by Kārtavīrya, the river swept away Rāvaṇa’s floral offerings. Rāvaṇa was stunned and angry. With a mere gesture of his finger and a brief word, Rāvaṇa directed the brothers Śuka and Sāraṇa to discover the cause of the perturbation. In no time, the brothers reported the sport of Arjuna in the company of innumerable women. Rāvaṇa invited Arjuna for a battle and the two fiercely fought each other. The mighty hero Arjuna seized Rāvaṇa and bound him to chains.
Rāvaṇa’s grandfather, Sage Pulastya was overcome with compassion for his grandson. He rushed to Kārtavīryārjuna’s kingdom and requested him to release Rāvaṇa. Reverentially saluting the great sage, Arjuna released Rāvaṇa without a second word. With Agni as the witness, he forged a treaty of non-aggression with the lord of rākṣasas. Though humiliated, Rāvaṇa continued to roam the worlds harassing all kinds of beings.
One day, he came to the city of Kiṣkindhā and challenged Vālī to battle. Tāra, who was one of the ministers of Vālī said, “Vālī, who is as strong as you, has gone to perform sandhyāvandana in the four oceans. Look at these heaps of bones here – they are the remains of those who challenged Vālī to combat. Wait for a moment till he is back. On the other hand, if you are eager to die, you may head to the Southern Ocean and encounter Vālī there!” Reviling Tāra, Rāvaṇa flew to the Southern Ocean in his puṣpaka-vimāna. Vālī, who resembled the golden mountain and possessed a face like the rising Sun was performing sandhyopāsana; Rāvaṇa, who was like a mass of black collyrium advanced towards him with silent footsteps in order to seize him. Vālī, who spotted Rāvaṇa, by chance, got to know his intentions and decided to subdue his pride. He pretended to continue chanting vedic mantras. As Rāvaṇa stealthily crept closer, Vālī seized him just as Garuḍa would catch a serpent. The mighty vānara leapt into the sky with the rākṣasa dangling around his armpits. Though Rāvaṇa’s ministers chased after Vālī, they could not catch up with him. Vālī travelled to all four oceans and performed his sandhyāvandana even as Rāvaṇa was dangling to his side. He finally landed with Rāvaṇa in a garden in Kiṣkindhā. Rāvaṇa, whose might was thus humbled by the vānara, sought a treaty of alliance with him. He said, “Having witnessed your might, I desire an enduring and affectionate alliance with you. We shall share our wives, sons, cities, kingdoms, possessions, and garments, O vānara!” Vālī, who was happy with the proposal pledged friendship with the lord of rākṣasas with Agni as the witness. Rāvaṇa dwelt in pleasure Kiṣkindhā for a month and then returned to his own kingdom.