Ravana, one of the popular characters in the entire hindu mythology, is well-known as the most ferocious demon-king of all time. He is the main antagonist in the epic Ramayana. In Hindu society, people know him best as the abductor of Sita, who was the wife of Lord Rama and one of the most beautiful women of her day.
Ravana is also remembered as the famous ten-headed demon who ruled the Lanka kingdom (or, modern day Sri Lanka) and the one who single-handedly defeated all the major devas and deities of heaven.
Despite being a demon, Ravana was also an adorned worshiper of Lord Shiva and made the famous stotram called “Shiva Tandava Stotram“. He earned the boon of being undefeatable from Lord Brahma by performing years of intense meditation (or, Samadhi). However, in the end, he lost a series of epic battles against Lord Rama (the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu), whom he assumed to be an ordinary human being.
Even though the world remembers him as the embodiment of all villainous powers, he was not a demon by birth. Actually, Ravana was born into a brahmin family as he was the eldest son of Vishrava, one of the great sages of the Vedic period. However, from childhood, he always identified himself as the descendant of a demon family because of his mother, Kaikesi (the daughter of Sumali and Thataka), who was of a Rakshasi (or, demon) race.
Now coming to Ravana’s family tree, he had six brothers and two sisters. They are Vaishravana (also known as Lord Kuber), Vibhishana, Kumbhakarna, Khara, Dushana, Ahiravan, Kumbhini, and Surpanakha, respectively.
Vaishravana (Lord Kuber)
Vaishravana is the eldest stepbrother of Ravana, who got the boon from Lord Brahma to become the guardian of wealth. That’s why most people know him best as Lord Kuber, the god of wealth. Actually, Vaishravana ruled Lanka for many years before Ravana threw him off the throne.
Although his original description can be found as the chief of evil spirits, he got his godly status right after he pleased and acquired the boon from Lord Brahma. It’s said that all the wealth and prosperity of Lanka that we know today only developed during his rule.
Vibhishana was the younger son of the Sage Vishrava and Kaisei (a rakshasi). He was the younger brother of Ravana, who ruled the kingdom of Lanka after the defeat of Ravana in the epic battle of Ramayana by Lord Rama. Despite being from a demon family, Vibhishana was very righteous and an adoring devotee of Lord Vishnu.
He knew about the impossible achievements of Prince Rama and was aware of his godly characteristics. That’s why he chose to take the side of Lord Rama and helped him fight against the evil Ravana. One of the interesting facts about Vibhishana is that he’s also said to be one of the seven chiranjeevis (immortal beings) of Hindu mythology, who will be alive till the end of the current Kali Yuga.
Kumbhakarna is one of the brothers of Ravana and has some of the most interesting characteristics in the epic Ramayana. Unlike Ravana, Kumbhakarna was exceptionally intelligent and righteous. Although he eventually fought on the side of Ravana, he repeatedly advised him to return Devi Sita back to Lord Rama. People know him best as the giant who used to eat and sleep for six consecutive months.
When he entered the epic battle of Ramayana after being asleep for six months, the monkey army was terrified of his monstrous body. If compared to other warriors of Ravana, it’s actually Kumbhkarna who did the greatest damage to the army of Lord Rama. However, in the end, he was defeated by Rama himself.
Khara & Dushana
In the epic Ramayana, Khara and Dushana were mentioned as the cousin brothers of the evil Ravana. They used to share the same kinds of demonic traits as Ravana, like killing and eating humans or terrifying the rishis and sages living in the forest. Once, on the command of Ravana, they attacked the innocent rishis, killing them and destroying their yajans to prevent their maha-yajna (vedic sacrifice).
According to the original Valmiki Ramayana, Khara and Dushana were twin demon brothers who ruled the forest of Dandaka. Dandaka (also known as Danda) is one of those regions that is featured many times in hindu mythology. Actually, it was one of the colonial states of Lanka under the reign of Ravana. The forest was the home of several Rakshana tribes of the time.
The original Valmiki Ramayana has no mention of Ahiravana, but there are some regional versions of the epic Ramayana where his mentions are found. However, there is no consistency regarding the relationship Ahiravana had with the Lanka king, Ravana.
In some versions, he’s mentioned as the son of Mahiravana, whereas in others, he’s mentioned as the cousin brother of Ravana. According to some versions of folk stories, he once kidnapped Rama and Lakshmana, and took them to Patala (the netherworld) with the intention of offering them as a sacrifice to Goddess Kamda Devi. However, Hanuman rescued them and killed Abhiravana during their fight.
Surpanakha & Kumbhini
Although the article was about Ravana’s brothers, we thought it would be even nicer to include Ravana’s two sisters as well. They are Surpanakha and Kumbhini. Surpanakha was the half-sister of Kumbhini and was known as “Minakshi” (the fish-eyed one).
According to the legends, Surpanakha was married to Vidyutjihva, the prince of the Kalakeya Danava Clan. Ravana, on the other hand, accidentally killed Vidyutjihva during a battle.
This incident secretly inspired Surpanakha to seek vengeance for her husband’s death and plan the entire Ramayana battle. It is said that after Lord Rama and Ravana’s battle, she and her half-sister Kumbhini stayed with Vibhishana in Lanka.