Raavana has traditionally been the villain to Rama in the Hindu epic the Ramayana, but in Tamil Nadu he is also a protector. The idea of a villain as protector is one that is uniquely Hindu. After all, Raavana was good before he was bad. He simply succumbed to human fallibilities. The story of his defeat in the Ramayana illustrates how the gods must intervene to put the world back in balance again. The sheer ferocity and power of Raavana as the protagonist to Rama (an avatar of Vishu) is revered and relied on to to ward off evil spirits and the evil eye.
Our Halloween jack-o-lantern sits next to an ash-gourd or poosanikai in Tamil. This vegetable is offered to the gods in religious ceremonies, and when painted with the face of Raavana is hung outside newly constructed homes and buildings.