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Lanka (Sanskrit: लंका Sri lankā meaning "respected island", Sinhala: ලංකාපුර (Langkapura), Malay: Langkapuri, Tamil: Ilankai, Javanese and Indonesian: Alengka or Ngalengka) is the name given in Hindu mythology to the island fortress capital of the legendary king Ravana in the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The fortress was situated on a plateau between three mountain peaks known as the Trikuta Mountains. The ancient City of Lankapura is thought to have been burnt down by Lord Hanuman. After the King Ravana was killed by Lord Rama with the help of the former's brother Vibhishana, Vibhishana was crowned King of Lankapura by Lord Rama after which he ruled the kingdom.
His descendants ruled the kingdom even during the period of the Pandavas. According to the epic, the Mahabharata, the Pandava Sahadeva had visited this kingdom during his southern military campaign for the Rajasuya sacrifice of Pandava king Yudhisthira.
Lanka was originally ruled by a Rakshasa named Sumali (as per Ramayana). Later it was taken by Visarvana (Kubera) who was a Yaksha. From him, Rakshasa Ravana, took the rulership of Lanka. Rama killed Ravana and installed his brother Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka. According to both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Yaksha king Vaisravana alias Kubera was the ruler of Lanka. His capital was guarded by Rakshasas. His half-brother Ravana (son of the sage Vishravaya and Sumali's daughter) fought with Kubera in battle and obtained the sovereignty of Lanka from him. Ravana ruled Lanka as the king of Rakshasas. Having slain the king of the Rakshasas, viz Ravana, with his brother Kumbhakarna, and sons and kindred, Rama installed in the kingdom of Lanka the Rakshasa chief, Vibhishana, pious, and reverent, and kind to devoted dependents.
According to the story set forth in the Ramayana and (in an abbreviated version) in the Mahabharata (Book III: Varna Parva, Section 271 ff.), Ravana was a powerful king in Lanka who ruled Lanka as well as reasonable area in mainland India. The Battle of Lanka is depicted in a famous bas-relief in the 12th century Khmer temple of Angkor Wat.
The Lanka referred to in the still-extant Hindu Texts and the Ramayana (referred to as Ravana's Lanka), is considered to be a large island-country, situated in the Indian Ocean. The Ramayana, as also several other surviving Hindu texts, clearly state that Ravana's Lanka was situated 100 Yojanas (800 miles or around 1288 kilometres) away from mainland India. They also state that Lanka was located at the point where the Prime-Meridian of India passes the Equator. This island would therefore lie more than a hundred miles South-west of present-day country of Sri Lanka.
There has been a lot of speculation by several scholars, that Ravana's Lanka might have been in the Indian Ocean around where the Maldives once stood as a high mountain, before getting submerged in the Indian Ocean.
Ravana's Lanka, and its capital Lankapuri, are described in a manner that seems super-human even by modern-day standards. Ravana's central palace-complex (main citadel) was a massive collection of several edifices that reached over one yojana (8 miles or 12.88 kilometres) in height, one yojana in length, and half a yojana in breadth. The island had a large mountain range known as the Trikuta Mountain, atop which was situated Ravana's capital of Lanka, at the center of which in turn stood his citadel. The city itself is described as being 100 Yojanas (800 miles or 1288 kilometres) long and 30 Yojanas (240 miles or 386.4 kilometres) in breadth.
Many of the references to Lanka in the Mahabharata are found in sage Markandeya's narration of the story of Rama and Sita to king Yudhishthira, which narration amounts to a truncated version of the Ramayana. The references in the following summary are to the Mahabharata, and adhere to the following form: (book:section). Markandeya's narration of the story begins at Book III (Varna Parva), Section 271 of the Mahabharata.
The son of Pandu, viz. Sahadeva, conquered the town of Sanjayanti and the country of the Pashandas and the Karanatakas by means of his messengers alone, and made all of them pay tributes to him. The hero brought under his subjection and exacted tributes from the Paundrayas (Pandyas?) and the Dravidas along with the Udrakeralas and the Andhras and the Talavanas, the Kalingas and the Ushtrakarnikas, and also the delightful city of Atavi and that of the Yavanas. And, He having arrived at the seashore, then dispatched with great assurance messengers unto the illustrious Vibhishana, the grandson of Pulastya and the ruler of Lanka (2:30).
.. The Vangas and Angas and Paundras and Odras and Cholas and Dravidas and Cheras and Pandyas and Mushika and Andhakas, and the chiefs of many islands and countries on the seaboard as also of frontier states, including the rulers of the Sinhalas, the barbarous mlecchas, the natives of Lanka, and all the kings of the West by hundreds, and all the chiefs of the seacoast, and the kings of the Pahlavas and the Daradas and the various tribes of the Kiratas and Yavanas and Sakras and the Harahunas and Chinas and Tukharas and the Sindhavas and the Jagudas and the Ramathas and the Mundas and the inhabitants of the kingdom of women and the Tanganas and the Kekayas and the Malavas and the inhabitants of Kasmira ... (3:51).
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