Mumbai: An ardent follower of Lord Aadinath (or Rishabhadeva) follower, Ravana is the next face of god for the Jains, according to its community scholars and laity. The community honours him and says he will be the next Tirthankara (teaching God) in future. “Ravana and his wife, Mandodari, were staunch followers of Rishabhadeva, the first Tirthankara of Jainism. Legend has it that the couple went to Ashtapad, famously known as Ratna Mandir, near Mount Kailash, where only a few people can make it,” said Dr Bipin Doshi, Mumbai University teacher of Jain philosophy, adding, “The mandir was made by King Bharata Chakravartin, son of Rishabhadeva. Even after several attempts, the mandir is not yet traceable.”
Doshi also narrated a popular story of Ravana which led to the boon. “While the couple was climbing the stairs of the temple, Ravana was playing a string instrument (supposedly the rudra veena), which made Mandodari go into a state of bliss. In mid-play, one of the strings of the instrument snapped. Afraid of disrupting her happiness and peace, he plucked out a vein from his thigh to replace the string and continued playing,” Doshi added.
He said that those who are able to visit the temple once, attain moksha (liberation) in the same birth. “Impressed by Ravana’s devotion, the Lord descended and blessed him with a boon — he would become one of the 24 Tirthankars of Jainism,” he added.
It is not just the story that testifies to Jains honouring the ten-headed God. Some Jains even pray to Ravana by drawing a rangoli in their houses.
“We make a small drawing on the floor with wheat flour and use wheat grass (to depict Ravana’s hands and legs). At the centre of the rangoli, we place a bowl with patasha (sweet made of sugar) and water caltrop in it and perform a five-minute pooja, seeking forgiveness for any mistakes we made, unknowingly or knowingly,” said Jainam Shah, a Digambar Jain.
“Worshipping Ravana is not a common practice amongst the community, although in coming years, he will be our next Tirthankar. He was blessed with sublime knowledge and was devoted towards whatever he did. Just one incident and people forget all the goodness in him,” said Shraddha Baphna, a marketing employee.