Lanka was the famous city of the Rakshasa king Ravana. It was situated on the island of Lanka. It was originally made as a city for the devas, but was invaded by the Rakshasa.
Once, Vayu (wind god) and Vasuki, the king of snakes, got in a fight. They both claimed that they were more powerful than the other. Vasuki wrapped himself around the mountain Meru. He wrapped himself so tightly that even Vayu couldn’t squeeze himself in. Vayu was enraged and broke into a cyclone. The cyclone was so fierce that even Meru mountain began to shake, but Vasuki did not move. The devas went to Vishnu and told him about what was happening. Vishnu commanded Vayu and Vasuki to stop. When Vasuki unwound, a part of the mountain broke off. Vayu took this part of the mountain and carried it to an island near the southern tip of India. This mountain became known as Trikuta.
Indra wanted Vishwakarma to build a city for him. Vishwakarma built a city on the peak of the Trikuta mountain that had been placed by Vayu. This city became known as Lanka.
Once Brahma was reciting the Vedas and he became irritated. Out of his irritation were born Heti and Praheti. Heti was an evil Rakshasa and Praheti was a virtuous Yaksha. Heti married Bhaya, who gave birth to Vidyutkesa. Vidyutkesa married Salakantaka and their son Sukesa married Devavati and had three sons: Malyavana, Mali, and Sumali. They attained a boon from Brahma to become invincible and then conquered the city of Lanka from the devas.
Vishnu defeats the Rakshasas
Malyavana, Mali, and Sumali started harassing everyone in the three worlds. The devas, tired of being attacked, went to Lord Shiva for help. Shiva told them to go to Lord Vishnu. When Lord Vishnu was told about the Rakshasas, he went and attacked the Rakshasas, who came out eagerly to attack Vishnu. First, Vishnu killed Mali. This made all the Rakshasas retreat. Vishnu directed his Sudarshan Chakra to go to Lanka every day and kill a few Rakshasas. When this continued, Malyavana, Sumali, and the other remaining Rakshasas left Lanka and retreated to Rasatala in Patala Loka.
Kubera, the son of Vishravas and Ilavida and the god of wealth, decided to establish his kingdom at Lanka because nobody was over there. At Lanka, Kubera did penance to please Shiva for a hundred years. Kubera was granted lordship over the Yakshas by Shiva. Soon enough, the Yakshas who had been aimlessly wandering the world without a leader decided to settle down in Lanka under Kubera.
For many years, Kubera peacefully and prosperously ruled Lanka. Meanwhile, at Rasatala, Sumali and Malyavana wanted to take back Lanka. They now hated Vishnu for killing their brother. They decided to marry Sumali’s daughter Kaikesi to a powerful sage. Kaikesi eventually married Vishravas. Three sons named Ravana, Kumbhakarna, and Vibhishana and a daughter named Shurpankha were born to them. Later two other daughters of Sumali married Vishravas and more Rakshasa children were born.
When they grew up, Ravana and his brothers got boons from Brahma that made them very powerful. Brahma also gave Ravana the deva’s amrita and the Pinaka bow.
Second Rakshasa Invasion
Ravana went to Sumali. Sumali realized how much power Ravana now had, so he put the entire Rakshasa army under Ravana’s commander. With their new army, Ravana, his brothers, and half-brothers now set off to conquer Lanka. They invaded Lanka and mercilessly killed many. Ravana was about to kill Kubera when Vishravas appeared there.
“Kubera, just leave from Lanka. Ravana will kill you if you do not leave,” Vishravas said to Kubera. “I know you love Lanka, but you have to leave.”
Unwillingly, Kubera left with the Yakshas and Nairratas. Ravana, his brothers, and the Rakshasas rejoiced.
Ravana was a very skilled king. It is said that under his rule, even the poorest families in Lanka had gold vessels, meaning there was no poverty or starvation. But just the small island of Lanka wasn’t enough for Ravana. With his boons by his side, Ravana started conquering kingdom after kingdom. The kings of the kingdoms couldn’t even stand up to Ravana. Ravana killed the kings, took all their wealth, and captured the woman he liked. His empire soon stretched from the southernmost tip of India to Janasthana in present-day Maharashtra. But Ravana kept conquering more and more.
Ravana’s reign of Lanka was also very long. During his reign, great kingdoms of central and northern India came to power and then were destroyed. For example, Ravana was ruling at the time of the Haihaya empire, Kosala kingdom, and many others. Ravana’s son Meghanadha even succeeded in defeating Indra.
Rama was the son of Dasaratha, the king of Kosala, and his wife Kaushalya. But, Dasaratha’s second wife Kaikeyi forced Dasaratha to send Rama into a 14-year exile and crown her son Bharata the king. Rama, his wife Sita, and Lakshmana (the son of Dasaratha’s third wife Sumitra) were forced to go in exile.
Shurpanakha stumbled across the trio during their exile and fell in love with Rama. But her ears and nose were cut off by Lakshmana when she tried to seduce Rama and harass Sita. Shurpanakha went back to Lanka and told her brother what had happened. Ravana decided to capture the beautiful Sita. Having executed his plan, he grabbed Sita and took her to Lanka.
Lanka set on Fire
Rama had been told by Jatayu that Sita had been taken south to Lanka by Ravana. Rama and Lakshmana started traveling south. Soon, they met Hanuman, Sugriva, and all the other Vanaras. Hanuman was sent as a messenger to Ravana. Ravana was enraged by this. He tied up Hanuman and set his tail ablaze. But Hanuman decided to have some fun and shrunk in size. Hanuman slipped out of the rope and started setting the buildings of Lanka on fire. After doing so, Hanuman left Lanka. This fire was soon extinguished, but it left Ravana enraged.
Rama and his followers were able to construct a bridge across the sea and reached the island of Lanka. Vibhishana decided to side with Rama because he realized Rama was divine and righteous.
Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman, Sugriva, and their Vanara army besieged Lankapuri. The resulting war was a succession of sallies. One by one, Ravana sent his relatives. First, he sent his army, but it perished. He then sent his brothers, half-brothers, sons, and nephews one-by-one, but they were all killed. Soon, even his son Meghnadha, who had defeated Indra himself, died. Demoralized and lonely, Ravana mounted his chariot and prepared to attack Rama’s army.
Ravana got into the battlefield and immediately engaged in a duel with Lakshmana. This duel was short-lasting as Ravana’s arrows made Lakshmana unconscious. Finally, Ravana engaged Rama. Ravana looked frightening with his ten heads and twenty arms. Rama kept firing arrows at Ravana’s head, but after every shot they would grow back.
Rama started becoming anxious. He couldn’t think of a way to defeat Ravana. Indra, who had been watching the fight from Swarga, ordered his charioteer Matali to go assist Rama. Rama got into Matali’s flying chariot and kept firing weapons.
“Use the Brahmastra. It will certainly bring the end of Ravana,” Matali advised.
Rama invoked the Brahmastra, which was given to him by Agastya Rishi. Saying Parvati’s name, Rama fired the Brahmastra straight at Ravana’s heart and Ravana fell dead.
After the war, everyone rejoiced. Vibhishana was crowned the ruler of Lanka. Vibhishana, being a Chiranjeevi, ruled for a long time. During the Mahabharata, Sahadeva embarked on his southern military campaign for Yudhistira’s Rajasuya yagna. Sahadeva sent Ghatotgacha to take tribute from the kingdom of Lanka. Vibhishana happily gave Ghatotgacha tribute.