The story that follows describes a man who was to become, in a future life, the demon King Ravana.
In ancient times, there lived a great and honourable King named Satyaketu. Satyaketu had two sons, Pratapabhandu and Armiadarana, both were embodiments of kindness and wisdom. When the time came, Satyaketu passed the throne to his elder son Pratapabhanu. The new King ruled with the utmost care for his subjects and by following the teachings of the Vedas he made his Kingdom the perfect place for all beings to live.
Although Pratapabhanu was very content in his kingdom, his ministers and advisors were keen to expand the Empire. Eventually Pratapabhanu got the taste for a larger Kingdom and began to conquer the surrounding Kingdoms with his powerful army. The conquered Kingdoms flourished under his rule and Pratapabhau developed a keen interest in hunting. He began to spend more and more of his time in the forest slaying innocent animals. Even the sacred deers so loved by the sages were not spared.
On one outing, the King saw an incredibly huge boar gazing right back at him. The King although sensing something strange about the boar, set off in pursuit. As if teasing the King, the strange boar would appear and then disappear as the King aimlessly followed for hours. The now tired King knew that he was lost deep in the forest and nightfall was coming soon, but his desire to kill the boar was all-consuming. The boar suddenly disappeared into a dark mountain cave and the King was left lost, tired, hungry, and thirsty. Pratapabhanu knew he was in trouble. He walked and walked through the thick forest when out of great fortune he spotted a hermitage.
The simple hermitage was owned by a former King who was defeated in battle by Pratapabhanu. He lived in hiding, pretending to be a simple sage, but deep down he was an angry and jealous man. The hermit offered the King water, food and a bed for the night. Pratapabhanu felt that this was a blessing from the Gods, but did not disclose his true identity to the hermit, nevertheless the hermit recognised him. The King pretended to be a minister and the hermit pretended to believe him. The King looked upon the hermit as a great teacher as he sat with him and questioned him about all kinds of different subjects like morality, wealth, pleasure and liberation. It seemed that the hermit was a great saint, but little did Pratapabhanu know that he was in fact plotting his downfall.
Appearances can be deceiving, just like the beautiful peacock can devour a snake, the imposter hermit spoke words of such sweetness that even a wise King fell for his nectar-like lies. The King decided to reveal his true identity and to this the hermit said, “My dear child, I knew you were the King all along. By the grace of my guru, I know all things. Your name is Pratapabhanu, son of Satyaketu. Hearing this, the King fell to his feet and prayed to the hermit. Pratapabhanu said, “Truly I have achieved every worldly success but there is one thing I have not conquered and that is suffering. Please grant me my wish that I may be free from suffering, liberated from old age and death, free from all enemies and let me enjoy sovereignty of the world ever remaining undefeated.”
The hermit said, “May you be blessed. There is one other thing…the Brahmanas who spend their entire lives in devotion and penance cannot be subjugated by you. But if you did have power over the Brahmanas, even the Gods will bow at your feet, and then you can rule the world. But be wary, the curse of a saintly Brahmanas is the worst of punishments. Very rarely do they curse anybody, but when they do, even the Gods cannot stop them.”
The King said, “How can I win over the Brahmanas my dear teacher, the fear of their curse is now my only concern.” The cunning hermit replied, “I have an idea, but I have never left the forest and it would require me to come to the City to help you.” The King replied, “O please master, be graceful and come to the City. As said in the Vedas, the great show kindness to the meek as mountains always bear tiny blades of grass upon them, or the ocean carrying foam, or the Earth bearing all of these living beings.”
The Hermit said, “Yes, I will help you. But you must never speak a word of this to anybody. Through my yogic powers, I will cook food for your court and you must serve it to many Brahmanas, and know that whoever eats the food will become powerless and fall at your feet. Now rest dear King, we will leave for the City tomorrow.”
The obedient King fell asleep, now intoxicated by the desire to rule the world. The hermit in the dark hours of the night received a visitor, it was a demon, who had taken the shape of a boar. It was the same boar who had led the King astray. Together the hermit and the boar laughed as they saw their deception coming together.
The next day, the King and the hermit left for the capital. There the King organised a function for one hundred thousand Brahamanas to visit the palace and dine upon the finest of foods. The palace priests and advisors were asked to leave the palace whilst the ceremonies took place. The hermit was responsible for all of the preparations.
The food was beautifully prepared, and the banquet was like nothing the Brahamanas had ever seen. The evil hermit had mixed within the food the flesh of many kinds of animals. The innocent Brahmanas, who had unknowingly broken their lifelong vows to a vegetarian life were appalled and completely shocked. The demon spoke, as if the voice was coming from heaven, “Brahmanas know that this is the King’s deception, leave at once!”
The leader of the Brahmanas spoke, “O vile King, how could you deceive us in this way! You and your family will indeed suffer the curse of the Brahmanas. In future lives, you and your family will be reborn as demons in the City of Lanka.”
The King cried, “What have you done! This is no fault of mine, please come and see! The Brahmanas together with the King went to the kitchen where there was nobody to be seen. The evil hermit had disappeared. The people of the palace blamed destiny for what had happened but who truly knows. The Lord of the Brahmanas said, “You may not have been responsible for this, but your past actions have surely contributed to these circumstances, now there is nothing that can be done to take back the curse.”
The Kingdom fell into chaos with none of Sataketu’s line surviving the wars that ensued over the coming year. And as the Brahmanas curse decreed, the King was reborn as the demon King Ravana.