Marriages are made in heaven but blessed by Ravana in this Madhya Pradesh village. Unlike in most parts of the country where the king of Lanka is abhorred for separating a married couple -- Lord Rama and his wife Sita by abducting her -- Ravana is the first one to get an invite every time there is a marriage ceremony in the eponymously named village.
In Ravan village of Vidisha district, devotees head to Ravana’s temple prior to every auspicious occasion or a festival. Before solemnising any marriage in the village, the first wedding card is sent to Ravana’s temple, one of the very few in India.
Even the children returning from school on their bicycles chant “Jai Lankesh…Jai Lankesh” while passing by the temple daily. Neither do the villagers burn Ravana’s effigy here, nor do they celebrate Dussehra.
The village is located in the Nateran tehsil of Vidisha district -- nearly 40 km from the district headquarters -- where Ravana has been worshipped for centuries by Kanyakubja Brahmins, a Brahmin sub-sect to which the demon king belonged.
After travelling through the verdant fields for half an hour, a small temple appears on the right side of the narrow road in the village. Though it appears like any other small village temple, after interaction with the locals HT found that it was the famous 'Ravana temple' of Ravan village.
Inside the temple, there is a big 10-foot idol of Ravan, in a reclining position. The local legend has it that a calamity would strike the village if anyone tries to put the idol in an upright position.
In Ravan and its surrounding villages, thousands of Kanyakubja Brahmins and the people from other castes consider Ravana to be their reigning deity. Few years ago, the residents of the area pooled money to have the temple rebuilt around the ancient idol of Ravana. Prayers are offered daily in the temple.
"Before a wedding is solemnised here, the elders of the bride and groom’s family visit the Ravana temple and lay the first wedding card at the feet of the idol. The elders also get some oil, rub a part of it on the belly of the idol and take the rest back home. Then that sacred oil is applied on the bride and groom’s body. We consider this to be a blessing from Ravana, the protective deity of the village," said Tulsi Ram Tiwari, a Kanyakubja Brahmin.
The villagers believe that Ravana protects them and wards off evil influences and misfortunes from the lives of his worshippers. Another resident of the same village, Prashant Pal, said Ravana was a learned man and a great warrior who should be respected and worshipped. "We don't burn the effigy of Ravana here. We have no problem with other gods and goddesses. We celebrate all festivals, but not Dussehra," he said.