Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, had the misfortune of getting pit against a God. So he has stood no chance of getting a fair audience. He is remembered to have a negative personality and but few of us know or deny to acknowledge that he had many positive attributes too. Those who concentrate on the negative traits, treat him as a villain and those who acknowledge his good qualities, worship him.
Events that highlight Ravana’s negative traits
He had forcefully taken away the kingdom of Lanka that was built by Viswakarma and ruled by Kubera. His demons would terrorize the sages and wouldn’t allow any other religion to prosper. He had sinned by cunningly abducting someone else's wife and to top it all, a Goddess! He didn’t touch her only because he was cursed by Vedavati, that he would burn if he touched a woman without her consent. He killed the bird Jatayu, when it came to rescue Sita from his clutches.
He banished his demon brother Vibhishana from his kingdom when Vibhishana tried to reason with him. Hanuman, who was simply a messenger, was arrested and his tail was set on fire for the sake of amusement for the demons - a dastardly act on Ravana's part. He did not heed his wife, Mandodari's advice on sending back Sita respectfully to her husband. Because of his own stubbornness, he insisted on sending one by one, his son and his brothers to fight against Lord Rama, knowing deep inside that they would all die.
And, at the same time, he could easily qualify as an unsung hero for many reasons
Ravana was the greatest devotee of Lord Shiva and would worship him daily with elaborate rituals. He was a great poet and a learned one. He has sung the Shiva Tandav Stotrum extempore and even managed to calm Shiva when He got angry with Ravana.
He was a good brother to Swaroopnakha because he wanted to avenge her insult. He was upset to see his sister cry.
He was a good administrator and was a great king to his subjects. The demons in Lanka were very happy with their king. And while we belittle him on ordering Hanuman's tail to be torched, we must not ignore the fact that he paid heed to what Vibhishan had advised that it was not politically correct to kill a messenger.
While the war with Sri Rama was going on and he was losing his family members in the battle, in a huff he had gone to the Vatika to kill Sita. But when one of his ministers said this was a cowardly act, he had the presence of mind to refrain from doing so. If he was really a demon, he wouldn't have bothered to be a gentleman.
Ravana was a Brahmin, son of Rishi Vaishrava, while Rama was a Kshatriya. That makes Rama, a social caste lower than Ravana. It's for this reason that Ram went to Rameshwaram to atone for his sin of killing a Brahmin. So, if God Himself had sinned by killing a Demon, doesn’t that put Ravana on a higher platform?
And when the final fatal arrow struck Ravana on the battlefield, Sri Rama Himself urged Lakshman to hurry to Ravan's side to extract some wisdom from him as Rama too considered him to be the greatest scholar on the Earth. So, Rama and Lakshman stood at Ravana's feet in reverence as he shared his wisdom with them.
So, while Ravana was a villain, he had so many great qualities that even Gods bowed down before him - not due to fear, but with respect. We are mere mortals.
All that we need to remember is to imbibe the good from people, whether they are demons or Gods.
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