The Protector

Ravan was a Gond king

Ushakiran Atram Illustration By Osheen Siva
31 October, 2021

BEFORE THE ARYANS arrived, according to Gond folklore, this land was ruled by many great kings. Beginning with Andiperiyol and Sukmaperi, there were 88 samboo—those who ruled the earth—a lineage that includes Banasur, Kaliyanag, Jatasur, Raven, Ahiraven, Mahiraven and Vishravya, as well as princesses such as Maula, Girija, Gaura, Mandodari, Tadaka, Surpanakha and Trijata.

In the religious texts of the Aryans, you will only find malicious and vile representations of Adivasis and Ravan, who belonged to the divine lineage of the samboo. They stoop very low to portray him as evil, despicable, unworthy, arrogant and proud—as not human at all but a demon. He is portrayed as if he did not have a shred of human kindness, love, estrangement, thought, wisdom or goodwill.

In fact, he was just as human as any other, with two hands, two legs, two eyes and one head. He was the son of the extremely beautiful king Vishravya, also known as Kuber Virendra. Vishravya, in turn, was the son of Pulastya and Trunbindu. Ravan was actually known as Raven, the Gondi name for a blue-throated bird. This bird is considered the totem of the clan he belonged to; in those times, people were often referred to by their clan symbols. By identifying him as Ravan in historical and religious texts, the Aryans obfuscated his clan identity and directly linked him to their lineage.

Ravan’s original identity has been erased by creating fictional narratives about him. In some texts, Pulastya is called Manasputra and portrayed as having been born from Brahma’s mind. Brahma was an Aryan, an enemy who came from outside—how could a non-Aryan like Vishravya come from a child of Brahma? The Aryans have not just appropriated Ravan but also portrayed him as a Brahmin. If he was in fact a Brahmin, why do they burn his effigy?

Ushakiran Atram is a poet, writer and activist based in Kachargarh, Maharashtra. She is the author of several books in Gondi, Marathi and Hindi, including MorkiKatha Sangrah and Gondwana ki Veeranganayein. She is also the director of Adivasi Bhasha Shodh Sansthan, Dhanegaon.

Osheen Siva is a multidisciplinary artist from Tamil Nadu, currently based in Goa. Through the lens of surrealism, speculative fiction and science fiction and rooted in mythologies and her Dalit and Tamilian heritage, she imagines new words of decolonised dreamscapes, futuristic oasis with mutants and monsters and narratives of feminine power.