Mythological villains: 7 most popular villains of Indian mythology

October 24, 2021 3:30 AM

Every villain, even though he commits ghastly sins, has several shades in his or her character. Indian mythology has several such examples in which the act of a character led them to earn the title of a villain.

Amid the festive season, we bring you Indian mythology’s most popular villains.Amid the festive season, we bring you Indian mythology’s most popular villains.

By Reya Mehrotra

To say that a villain is purely evil would be untrue. Every villain, even though he commits ghastly sins, has several shades in his or her character. Indian mythology has several such examples in which the act of a character led them to earn the title of a villain. Amid the festive season, we bring you Indian mythology’s most popular villains.

Kaikeyi

Born to King Ashvapati of Kekeya, Kaikeyi was raised by her hunchbacked nursemaid, Manthara as her mother was exiled. She is known to be very fierce and was the second consort of King Dasharatha and mother to Bharat. Out of Dashrath’s three wives, Kaikeyi had the most important role in the run of events in Ramayana as she was the one who pushed her husband to send Ram into exile. Initially, loving towards Ram, she was poisoned by Manthara who urged her to fight for her son’s crowning rather than Ram’s.

Kansa

Kansa was the tyrant ruler of the Vrishni kingdom who rose to power after overthrowing his father King Ugrasena and brother to Devaki, who mothered Balram and Krishna, who is known to be Lord Vishnu’s avatar. After her marriage to Vasudev, a heavenly voice prophesied that Devaki’s eighth child would kill Kansa, who wanted to kill Devaki immediately. However, Vasudev promised to give all of their children to Kansa. Kansa imprisoned the couple and killed their children as soon as they were born. When Krishna the eighth child was born, they secretly escorted him to Yashoda’s house and he survived and eventually killed Kansa.

Shakuni

One of the most important characters in Mahabharata, Shakuni was the king of Gandhara and brother of Gandhari, mother of the Kauravas. He is portrayed as clever and evil in his motivations and advised his nephews in becoming powerful and defeating the Pandavas.

He was eventually killed by Sahadeva, the youngest Pandava. He is known to have played an important part in the game of dice between Yuddhishthira and Duryodhan, that led to Draupadi’s disrobing.

Hiranyakashyap

The king of daityas and a demon, Hiranyakashyap was born to Diti, daughter of Daksha Prajapati and the sage Kashyapa. It is said that both he and his brother Hiranyaksha were born as demons due to their parents’ union during the time of dusk, known to be an inauspicious time. The name ‘Hiranyakashyap’ means clothed in gold or the one fond of wealth and comforts. After his brother was killed by Lord Vishnu’s avatar, he gained magical powers by praying to Lord Brahma but was later killed by Vishnu avataar Narasimha. He was also father to Prahlada, whom he tried to kill, and brother to Holika. He wanted everyone to worship him, including his son. However, his son was a devotee of Lord Vishnu, hence he decided to kill him. This episode gave rise to the Holika dehen tradition in Hinduism.

Mahishasura

Buffalo demon Mahishasura is known to be a deceitful demon who shape shifted to pursue his evil ways. He was the son of buffalo Mahisi and was killed by Goddess Durga. A demon, he had waged a war against the gods as the gods and the demons were always in conflict. He was given the boon by Brahma that no man, beast, demon or god could kill him. His killing gave goddess Durga the name ‘Mahishasuramardini’ or the Slayer of Mahishasura. The Navaratri festival lauds the battle between Mahishasura and Durga.

Raavan

Raavan, the Lankan king and the main antagonist in the Hindu epic Ramayana and its adaptations, is known for abducting Sita and holding her hostage in the Ashok Vatika. In the epic, he has been described as the eldest son of sage Vishrava and demoness Kaikeshi and is husband to Mandodari and father to Meghnaad, one of his most powerful sons. Even though he is described to be extremely knowledgeable, a learned scholar and religious person, this act of his led to his downfall and he was killed by Lord Ram. He was also known as a Shiva devotee and was well versed in the four Vedas and six Shastras. He was blessed with several boons by Lord Shiva and Brahma.

Duryodhana

The main antagonist in Mahabharata, Duryodhana was the eldest of the Kauravas, the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra and queen Gandhari. As the first born, he was the crown prince of Kuru and its capital Hastinapur. Karna was his closest friend. He is remembered in history for ordering the disrobing of Draupadi. He had asked her to sit on her left thigh which she had refused and insulted her in his court. Though he was a courageous warrior, his arrogance and greed led to his downfall.

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