Difference between Rakshasas, Asuras and Daanavas

Rakshasas were one of the class of beings created by Brahma when he created night. [incidentally, the other beings were Yakshas. Devas were created with daytime, Pitars were created with the dusk and Humans/manushyas were created with the dawn. And after that he was happy with the result, he created the Gandharvas, an expression of his joy. this is what is more or less mentioned in the Vishnu Purana. These class of beings are strongest at those respective times.]


Asuras were one of the class of deities competing for power with the Devas. The epithet of Asura was not negative in the beginning, it meant "powerful". Varuna and sometimes Agni are described as Asuras. The name of Asuras became associated with negative attributes in the later mythology.
Daanavas were a clan of beings, born of Danu, the wife of Kashyapa Rishi. Daityas too were closely related to them, they were born of  Diti, one of the other wives of Kahsyapa Rishi.[incidentally, the Adityas were the sons of Aditi, one of the 13 wives of Kshyapa Rishi, who were the daughters of Prajapati Daksha]. The conflict between the Daitya/Danavas and Adityas forms the core of most wars in mythology.
Update: Raavana was not a Rakshasa. His mother Kaikasi was a Daitya Princess while his father Vishrava was a Rishi. He is described as a Brahmin owing to his great learning and mastery of the Vedas [also because his great grandfather was Brahma himself]. He was the king of a great many Rakshasas, Asuras and Daityas but his dominion included many races, tribes and species. Owing to his negative traits he was also referred to as an Asura and quite a few people who assume that Rakshasa=Asura=Daitya=Daanava, refer to him as all being four.



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