In my childhood, asuras were portried in stories as well as books as dark and huge fellows with horns on the forehead and teeth stemming out from the mouth. They are bloodsucking, doing all bad things, steal the nice things which the brahmana's possess, and disrupt the brahmana's rituals. I often asked, why are they doing it? Do they have their own "Asuraayana" like Deva's "Ramayana"? What do the asura children get taught? no one answered me until some time in my teen-hood when I got an expression about the Asura's as the ones who do every sort of things to come into power., to conquer the world, etc. Sometime I tried to compare our ministers in the parliament as asuras. But the soft appearances of several ministers made me think otherwise. Though Sita was "born" out of the earth, was she abandoned by her parents? if so who were they? Why Ravana was so interested in Sita?
"Asura: Tale of the vanquished" was a good read, answering several of my questions. Though it is mentioned that, "The content of this book is the sole expression and opinion of its author and a work of his imagination and does not claim scriptual authenticity", the author Anand Neelakantan from Thripoonothura, narrated the events, almost in parallel to the Raamayana. He portried the story of common men who were inspired, led, used and betrayed by the villian's and hero's of the great epic. In this book, Devas and Brahmanas are treated with contempt and are cunning by nature. They followed the "Dharma" & complicated rituals drawn upon by themselves without allowing competition. And asuras were the competition. So asuras were treated as "against the Dharma" and considered to be banished and eliminated. Devas and Brahmanas tried to expand their reach by conquering the "non-devas" and "non-brahmanas". Asuras resisted that move in a healthy manner. After Mahabali, the initiative of uniting Asuras came from Ravana. Ravana's knowledge and skills were well accepted and the common Asuras treated him as king. Though able and strong, several of Ravana's victories were attributed to the initiatives of common men, like Bhadra. I treat the figure "Bhadra" as not a single person, becasue there were a lot who was fed up by the raids of Deva's and castism. They saw no way of improvement in such a life. The asura men loved material things. Asuras too has caste system, but it is not based on birth or skin color. Anyone could reach a position of power through hard work and luck.
Why Ravana is called "Dashamukha" is also narrated in Ravana's own words. Ravana has to defeat Kubera and then Varuna to setup his kingdom in Srilanka. Like any ruler, Ravana also tried to expand his kingdom and on the way got blows from others kings Karthiveeraarjuna and Vaanara king Baali. But at the same time, he conquered Yama. Ravana was a devotee of Shiva. Shiva is treated as the Asura god. Though Shiva is termed as "destroyer" in the scriptures, he has given boons to the asuras who then built beautiful kingdoms like Srilanka. With his worship, Ravana achieved boons which made him so strong and knowledgeable that, he was able to capture all the nine planets and made all of them to be in lagna bhava in the birth time of Meghanatha, his son, the greatest of all. Ravana had a daughter, which he loses and this is the first book that I am finding her mention.
Rama is shown as the keeper of Dharma, which means he is also a slave of dharma. This is clear when Rama agrees for Sita's purity test after the war and also when Rama kills Shambuka, a shudra practising brahmin-rituals. Rama gets in war without ethics. This is well shown when he killed Baali from behind. Rama used several of Ravana's resources to defeat Ravana. Rama called Ravana "Mahabrahmin" after the war, which implicitly means that Rama was tightly tied to his dharma and was a slave of dharmic rituals while Ravana was a free thinker and explorer. Though several of the Raamayana books I read end with either the war or later after Sita's "Bhoomi pravesha", the cycle of life in Srilanka or Ayodhya and elsewhere continues.
I see several similarities of the present ruling system, competition and the life that we are going through, via Bhadra. Though a person is capable of proceeding with his life with his strengths, the surroundings are capable of making good or bad impact. And the impact could be too little to notice for a short term, but will be strong in the long run, which might change his life altogether.
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