Hanuman is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Ram. Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Sri Ram in the struggle against the demon king Ravan.
Known also as Anjaneya Maruti, Pavanputra, Anjaniputra, Bajrang Bali and Hanumat, He is portrayed as the eleventh avatar of God Shiva (He is also called Rudra).
Hanuman was born to Anjana, a female vanara, and Kesari, a male vanara, near Trimbakeshwar, Maharashtra. According to the Vedas, his mother was an apsara who was born on Earth as a female vanara due to a curse. She would be redeemed from this curse on her giving birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva and endowed with the Supreme Power of exalted devotion to Bhagwaan Hari.
Several different traditions account for Hanuman’s birth. When Dasarath, the king of Ayodhya was given the sacred payasa (pudding) by Agnideva to share among his wives so that they may have divine children, by divine ordinance, (Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughn) a bird (kite) snatched a fragment of that pudding and, whilst flying over the forest, dropped it where Anjana was engaged in worship. Pavandev (the deity presiding over the wind) delivered that fragment of pudding to the outstretched hands of Anjana who immediately swallowed it. With that grace, she, in due course, gave birth to Hanuman. Thus Lord Siva incarnated as Hanuman in the bodily form of a monkey through the grace and blessings of his god-father Pavandev, with Anjana and Kesari as his earthly parents.
Hanuman, in one interpretation, was the incarnation or reflection of Shiva. Other interpretations, such as that of Dvaita, consider Hanuman to be the son of, or a manifestation of, Vayu, God of Wind. When Ravan tried to enter the abode of Shiva, he called Nandishwara “a monkey”. Nandishwara in turn cursed Ravan, that a monkey would burn his Lanka.
Another story of Hanuman’s origins is derived from the Vishnu Purana and Naradeya Purana. Narada, infatuated with a princess, went to his God Lord Vishnu, to make him look like Sri Vishnu, so that the princess would garland him at Swayamvara. He asked for a Hari-Mukh. Hari is the name of Lord Vishnu and Mukh means face. But Vishnu instead bestowed him with the face of a monkey. Unaware of this, Narada went to the princess, who burst into laughter at the sight of his monkey face before all the king’s court. Narada, unable to bear the humiliation, cursed Vishnu, that Vishnu would one day be dependent upon a vanara. Vishnu replied that what he had done was for Narada’s own good, as he would have undermined his own powers if he were to enter matrimony. Vishnu also noted that Narada’s request for Hari has the dual Sanskrit meaning of vanara. Upon hearing this, Narada repented for cursing his idol. But Vishnu told him not repent as the curse would act as a boon, for it would lead to the birth of Hanuman, without whose help Ram (Vishnu’s avatar) could not kill Ravan.
As soon as Hanuman was born, Anjana was released from the curse.
Childhood, education, boons and curse
Hanuman mistook the Sun for a Fruit. As a child, believing the sun to be a ripe mango, Hanuman pursued it in order to eat it. Rahu, a Vedic planet corresponding to an eclipse, was at that time seeking out the sun as well, and he clashed with Hanuman. Hanuman thrashed Rahu and went to take sun in his abode. Defeated Rahu complained to Indra (king of the gods in heaven) that a monkey child stopped him from taking on Sun, so that Solar eclipse could not take place. This enraged Indra, who responded by throwing the Vajra (thunderbolt) at Hanuman, which struck his jaw. He fell back down to the earth and became unconscious.
The god-father Pavandev carried Hanuman to Patala and as he departed from the earth, taking the atmosphere with him. All life was endangered. Brahma and all the other gods went to Patala and begged Pavandev to return. In order to appease him they conferred multiple boons on the baby Hanuman. Brahma then gave Hanuman a boon that would protect him from the proverbial irrevocable curse called Brahma’s curse – Brahmashap. From Brahma Hanuman obtained the power of inducing fear in enemies, of destroying fear in friends, to be able to change his form at will and to be able to easily travel wherever he wished. From Mahadevji he obtained the boons of longevity, scriptural wisdom and ability to cross the ocean. Lord Shiva assured safety of Hanuman with a kavach (band) that would protect him for life Indra blessed him that his weapon Vajra, will no longer be effective on him and his body would become stronger than Vajra. Varuna blessed baby Hanuman with a boon that he would always be protected from water. Agni blessed him, Saying, “Fire will never burn you.” Surya gave him two siddhis of yoga namely “laghima” and “garima”. With “laghima” he could attain the smallest form and with “garima” he could attain the biggest form of life. Vayu blessed him with more speed than he himself had. Yama, the God of Death blessed him healthy life and free from his weapon Yama Danda, thus death would not come to him. Kubera showered his blessings declaring that Hanuman would always remain happy and contented. Vishwakarma blessed him that Hanuman would be protected from all his creations in the form of objects or weapons. A permanent mark was left on his chin due to impact of Vajra, explaining his name.
On ascertaining Surya, the Hindu deity of the sun, to be an all-knowing teacher, Hanuman raised his body into an orbit around the sun and requested that Surya accept him as a student. Surya refused, claiming that as he always had to be on the move in his chariot, it would be impossible for Hanuman to learn effectively. Undeterred by Surya’s refusal, Hanuman enlarged his body, placed one leg on the eastern ranges and the other on the western ranges, and with his face turned toward the sun made his request again. Pleased by his persistence, Surya accepted. Hanuman then moved (backwards, to remain facing Surya) continuously with his teacher, and learned all of the latter’s knowledge. When Hanuman requested Surya to quote his “guru-dakshina” (teacher’s fee), the latter refused, saying that the pleasure of teaching one as dedicated as him was the fee in itself. Hanuman insisted, whereupon Surya asked him to help his (Surya’s) spiritual son Sugriva. Hanuman’s choice of Surya as his teacher is said to signify Surya as a Karma Saakshi, an eternal witness of all deeds.
Hanuman was mischievous in his childhood, and sometimes teased the meditating sages in the forests by snatching their personal belongings and by disturbing their well-arranged articles of worship. Finding his antics unbearable, but realizing that Hanuman was but a child, (albeit invincible), the sages placed a mild curse on him by which he became unable to remember his own ability unless reminded by another person.
In the Service of Sri Ram
Hanuman met Ram during the latter’s 14-year exile in the forest. With his brother Lakshman, Ram was searching for his wife Sita who had been abducted by Ravan, their search had taken them to the vicinity of the Pampa Lake situated at the base of the mountain Risyamukha where Sugriv, along with his followers and friends, were in hiding from his older brother Vali, with whom he had quarreled over a mistake. Sugriva was suspicious that Ram and Lakshman might have been sent by Bali to kill him. Therefore, to ascertain whether they were friends or foes, Sugriv sent Hanuman to ascertain their identities. Hanuman approached the two brothers in the guise of a brahmin. When Ram introduced himself, Hanuman revealed his own identity and fell prostrate before Ram, who embraced him warmly. Thereafter, Hanuman’s life became interwoven with that of Ram. Hanuman then brought about a friendship and alliance between Ram and Sugriv; Ram helped Sugriv regain his honour and made him king of Kishkindha. Sugriv and his vanaras, most notably Hanuman, went off in search of Sita;
In their search for Sita, a group of Vanaras reached the southern seashore. Upon encountering the vast ocean, every vanara began to lament his inability to jump across the water. Hanuman too was saddened at the possible failure of his mission, until the other vanaras and the wise bear Jambavantha began to extol his virtues. Hanuman then recollected his own powers, enlarges his body, and flied across the ocean. On his way, he encountered a mountain that rose from the sea, proclaimed that it owed his father a debt, and asked him to rest a while before proceeding. Not wanting to waste any time, Hanuman thanked the mountain and carried on. He then encountered a sea-monster, Surasa, who challenged him to enter her mouth. When Hanuman outwited her, she admited that her challenge was merely a test of his courage. After killing Simhika, a rakshasa, he reached Lanka.
Hanuman reached Lanka. After he found Sita in captivity in a garden, Hanuman revealed his identity to her, reassured her that Ram had been looking for her. He offered to carry her back to Ram, but she refused his offer, saying it would be an insult to Ram as his honour was at stake. After meeting Sita, Hanuman began to wreak havoc, gradually destroying the palaces and properties of Lanka. He killed many rakshasas, including Jambumali and Aksha Kumar. To subdue him, Ravan’s son Indrajit used the Brahmastra. Though immune to the effects of this weapon Hanuman, out of respect to Brahma, allowed himself be bound. Deciding to use the opportunity to meet Ravan and to assess the strength of Ravan, Hanuman allowed the rakshasa warriors to parade him through the streets. He conveyed Ram’s message of warning and demanded the safe return of Sita. He also informed Ravan that Ram would be willing to forgive him if he returns Sita honourably.
Ravan ordered Hanuman’s execution, whereupon Ravan’s brother Vibhishana intervened, pointing out that it was against the rules of engagement to kill a messenger. Ravan then ordered Hanuman’s tail be lit a fire. As Ravan’s forces attempted to wrap cloth around his tail, Hanuman began to lengthen it. After frustrating them for a while, he allowed it to burn, then escaped from his captors, and with his tail on fire he burnt down large parts of Lanka. After extinguishing his flaming tail in the sea, he returned to Ram.
In the Ramyan, Hanuman changed shape several times. For example, while he searched for the kidnapped Sita in Ravan’s palaces on Lanka, he contracted himself to the size of a cat, so that he would not be detected by the enemy. Later on, he took on the size of a mountain, blazing with radiance, to show his true power to Sita.
Also he enlarged & immediately afterwards contracted his body to out-wit Sirsa, the she-demon, who blocked his path while crossing sea to reach Lanka. Again, he turned his body micro to enter Lanka before killing Lankini, the she-demon guarding gates of Lanka.
Lifting a mountain
When Lakshman was severely wounded during the battle against Ravan, Hanuman was sent to fetch the Sanjivani, a powerful life-restoring herb, from Dronagiri mountain in the Himalayas, to revive him. Ravan realised that if Lakshman dies, a distraught Ram would probably give up, and so he dispatched the sorcerer Kalanemi to intercept Hanuman. Kalanemi, in the guise of a sage, deceived Hanuman, but Hanuman uncovered his plot with the help of an apsara, whom he rescued from her accursed state as a crocodile.
Ravan, upon learning that Kalanemi had been slain by Hanuman, summoned Surya to rise before its appointed time because the physician Sushena had said that Lakshman would perish if untreated by daybreak. Hanuman realised the danger, however, and, becoming many times his normal size, detained the Sun God to prevent the break of day. He then resumed his search for the precious herb, but, when he found himself unable to identify which herb it was, he lifted the entire mountain and delivered it to the battlefield in Lanka. Sushena then identified and administers the herb, and Lakshman is saved. Ram embraced Hanuman, declaring him as dear to him as his own brother. Hanuman released Surya from his grip, and asked forgiveness, as the Sun was also his Guru.
Hanuman was also called “langra veer”; langra in Hindi means lame and veer means “bravest of brave”. The story behind Hanuman being called langra is as follows. He was injured when he was crossing the Ayodhya with the mountain in his hands. As he was crossing over Ayodhya, Bharat, Ram’s younger brother, saw him and assumed that some Rakshasa was taking this mountain to attack Ayodhya. Bharat then shot Hanuman with an arrow, which was engraved with Ram’s name. Hanuman did not stop this arrow as it had Ram’s name written on it, and it injured his leg. Hanuman landed and explained to Bharat that he was moving the mountain to save his own brother, Lakshman. Bharat, very sorry, offered to fire an arrow to Lanka, which Hanuman could ride in order to reach his destination more easily. But Hanuman declined the offer, preferring to fly on his own, and he continued his journey with his injured leg.
In another incident during the war, Ram and Lakshman were captured by the rakshasa MahiRavan (or Ahiravan), brother of Ravan, who held them captive in their palace in Patala (or Patalpuri)–the netherworld. MahiRavan kep them as offerings to his deity. Searching for them, Hanuman reached Patala, the gates of which were guarded by a young creature called Makardhwaja (known also as Makar-Dhwaja or Magar Dhwaja), who was part reptile and part Vanara.
The story of Makardhwaja’s birth said to be that when Hanuman extinguished his burning tail in the ocean, a drop of his sweat fell into the waters, eventually becoming Makardhwaja, who perceived Hanuman as his father. When Hanuman introduced himself to Makardhwaja, the latter asked his blessings, but fought him to fulfill the task of guarding the gate. Hanuman defeated and imprisoned him to gain entry.
Upon entering Patala, Hanuman discovered that to kill Mahi Ravan, he must simultaneously extinguish five lamps burning in different directions. Hanuman assumed the Panchamukha or five-faced form of Sri Varaha facing north, Sri Narasimha facing south, Sri Garuda facing west, Sri Hayagriva facing the sky and his own facing the east, and blows out the lamps. Hanuman then rescued Ram and Lakshman. Afterwards, Ram asked Hanuman to crown Makardhwaja king of Patala. Hanuman then instructed Makardhwaja to rule Patala with justice and wisdom.
When the war ended, Ram then remembered Bharat’s vow to immolate himself if Ram did not return to rule Ayodhya immediately, on completion of the stipulated period. Realising that it would be a little later than the last day of the 14 years when he would reach Ayodhya, Ram sent Hanuman to Ayodhya to inform Bharat that Ram is on his way home.
Shortly after Ram was crowned Emperor upon his return to Ayodhya, Ram decided to ceremoniously reward all his well-wishers. At a grand ceremony in his court, all his friends and allies were honoured at the throne. Seeing Hanuman, Ram embraced him warmly, declaring that he could never adequately honour or repay Hanuman for the help and services he received from the noble Vanara. Sita, however, insisted that Hanuman deserved honour more than anyone else, and Sita gave him a necklace of precious stones adorning her neck.
When he received it, Hanuman immediately took it apart, and peered into each stone. Taken aback, many of those present want to know why he was destroying the precious gift. Hanuman answered that he was looking into the stones to make sure that Ram and Sita were in them, because if they were not, the necklace was of no value to him. At this, a few mock Hanuman, saying his reverence and love for Ram and Sita could not possibly be as deep as he implies. In response, Hanuman teared his chest open, and everyone was stunned to see Ram and Sita literally in his heart.
After the victory of Ram over Ravan, Hanuman went to the Himalayas to continue his worship of the Lord. There he scripted a version of the Ramyan on the Himalayan mountains using his nails, recording every detail of Ram’s deeds. When Maharishi Valmiki visited him to show him his own version of the Ramyan, he saw Hanuman’s version and became very disappointed.
When Hanuman asked Valmiki the cause of his sorrow, the sage said that his version, which he had created very laboriously, was no match for the splendour of Hanuman’s, and would therefore go ignored. At this, Hanuman discarded his own version, which is called the Hanumad Ramayana. Valmiki was so taken aback that he said he would take another birth to sing the glory of Hanuman which he had understated in his version.
After the Ramayan war
After the war, and after reigning for several years, the time arrived for Ram to depart to his heavenly abode. Many of Ram’s entourage, including Sugriva, decided to depart with him. Hanuman, however, requested to remain on earth as long as Ram’s name was venerated by people. Sita accorded Hanuman that desire, and granted that his image would be installed at various public places, so he could listen to people chanting Ram’s name. He is one of the immortals of Hinduism.
In the Mahabharata
Hanuman is also considered to be the brother of Bhima, on the basis of their having the same father, Vayu. During the Pandavas’ exile, he appeared disguised as a weak and aged monkey to Bhima in order to subdue his arrogance. Bhima entered a field where Hanuman was lying with his tail blocking the way. Bhima, unaware of his identity, told him to remove it. In return, Hanuman told him to remove it himself. Bhima tried, but was unable to do it despite his great strength and therefore inquired into Hanuman’s identity, which was then revealed. Upon Bhima’s request, Hanuman was also said to have enlarged himself and shown him the same size in which he had crossed the sea to go to Lanka, looking for Sita.
During the great battle of Kurukshetra, Arjuna entered the battlefield with a flag displaying Hanuman on his chariot. The incident that led to this was an earlier encounter between Hanuman and Arjuna, wherein Hanuman appeared as a small talking monkey before Arjuna at Rameshwaram, where Ram had built the great bridge to cross over to Lanka to rescue Sita. Upon Arjuna’s wondering aloud at Ram’s taking the help of monkeys rather than building a bridge of arrows, Hanuman challenged him to build a bridge capable of beating him alone; Arjuna, unaware of the vanara’s true identity, accepted. Hanuman then proceeded to repeatedly destroy the bridges made by Arjuna, who decided to take his own life. Vishnu then appeared before them both, chiding Arjuna for his vanity and Hanuman for making Arjuna feel incompetent. As an act of penitence, Hanuman decided to help Arjuna by stabilizing and strengthening his chariot during the imminent great battle. According to legend, Hanuman was one of the three people to have heard the Bhagwad Gita from Krishna, the other two being Arjuna and Sanjaya.
Hanuman is said to be Chiranjivi (immortal) and is present in the world even today. He is the link between the devotees and God, for, as instructed by the Lord, he serves, protects and inspires the servants of God. Saints like Tulasidas had the darshan (divine vision) of the Lord through the grace of Hanuman.