The Legend of Hanuman
Everyone knows enough about Hanuman, but in pieces. The problem with legend of Hanuman is that he comes in picture only after meeting with Lord Ram when the latter was in exile, searching for Sita. If we go beyond our texts, there’s much more to Hanuman than serving lord Rama. Here’s a biographical narrative of Hanuman with finer details and high-points of the monkey (as per Ramcharitmans) or the man (as per Ramayana). It’s a longish article but I promise it will be worth the 10 minutes.
The Birth of Hanuman
That’s where it’s most complicated. In the worldly aspect, Hanuman was the Son of Anjana and Kesari and was therefore called Anjneya. Like many protagonists of that era, he too was a divine progeny, born of Air (Pawan or Vayu), which earned him the sobriquets Maruti, Pawan Putra and Vayu Putra. Last, he is a reincarnation of Lord Shiva (Rudra) and is therefore known as Rudravatar. There are various legends on how Hanuman got his name which you may read here. Like other divine reincarnations, his birth as a mortal was for a specific cause, to assist Ram in his quest of Sita and fight against Ravana.
In another story, a frenzied Narada once cursed Vishnu that he’ll have to depend heavily on a monkey. After Narada apologised and offered to withdraw his curse, Vishnu said this curse will give birth to Shiva’s reincarnation called Hanuman, who will help Vishnu’s incarnation – Ram – save the world and restore peace.
Even as a kid, Anjneya was quite mighty, intelligent and naughty. He was so mighty that he mistook SUN as a ripe mango, went to its orbit and put the sun in his mouth. An enraged Indra attacked Hanuman with his weapon Vajra. This made Vayu, Hanuman’s divine father angry and he started asphyxiating the whole world. At this point various gods, including Indra, gave knowledge and mighty powers to Hanuman this, including protection from, and control over fire, water, air, death and carnal pleasures. It is at this point that he receives some of his eight Siddhis (powers), receiving the remaining Siddhis and the nine Nidhis (treasures) later from Sita.
The carefree and impish that young Hanuman was, he often created small troubles for sages. As a result, some sages placed a mild curse on him which made him forget all his unearthly powers till the right time to use them comes.
Role in the Battle of Ramayana
Hanuman was the minister of Sugriva’s army. It wasn’t a coincidence. As his Guru Dakshina (fee) for teaching Hanuman, Lord Sun asked him to assist Sugriva, his mortal son on earth. Hanuman met Ram in the position of Sugriva’s minister and disguised as a Brahmin. After learning the identity of Ram and Lakshman, Hanuman reveals himself and bows to Ram. Since this moment, Hanuman was a staunch devout of Ram. After a search platoon of Sugriva’s army hits Southern shore of India’s mainland, its members are unable to cross the vast ocean to reach Lanka (present day Sri Lanka). At this point, Jambhawan, the wise old bear, reminds him of his forgotten powers. An elated Hanuman flies (or probably jumps) across the Indian Ocean. In this extraordinary journey, he met ‘Mainak Parvat’ a mountain which was waiting on the ocean bed to assist Hanuman and fulfill its destiny; and Sursa (a sea monster) whom he outwits by changing his size from colossal to microscopic proportions.
On crossing the ocean, Hanuman teaches a lesson to Lankini, the guardian demoness of Lanka, with a mighty punch. After entering Lanka, Hanuman met Vibhishan (Ravana’s righteous brother), and learned of Sita’s location from him. He then met Sita, introduced himself and gave lord Ram’s ring as a proof of his authenticity as a messenger. Having met her with humility, he wreaked havoc in the palatial lawns (Ashok Vatika) and killed various soldiers of Ravana’s army, including his son Akshay Kumar. After that, Hanuman voluntarily surrendered and was presented in the court. After a diplomatic but futile dialogue with Ravan, Hanuman’s tail was set on fire as a punishment. Using his tail as a wick, he set the whole city on fire, and aborted all unborn demon kids with a loud shriek. These exploits are narrated in Sundarkand, the fifth canto of Ramayan which is sung in praise of Hanuman. With this, Hanuman left Lanka, later to return with the Ram, Lakshman and Sugriva’s Army. Hanuman fought the war bravely and played a pivotal role in its outcome. When Lakshman was fatally attacked by Ravan’s son Meghnad, Hanuman flew overnight to Himalayas to find Sanjeevni Bootee (a potent herb) and saved Lakshman.
Hanuman in Mahabharata
Being a chiranjeevi, Hanuman is immortal. Naturally, he made appearances in Mahabharata. In one incidence, Hanuman met Bheema when Bheema was coming back after an ego-boosting fight with Gandharvas. When he saw an old monkey with his tail covering the road, Bheema asked the old monkey to shift the tail. The monkey, complained of being too old and weak for that and asked Bheema to do so for him. When Bheema – with all his might and power – couldn’t budge the tail by an inch, he asked the Monkey for apology and explanation. Hanuman than appeared in his true form before a humbled Bheema and on his request showed him his form and valor as it was while fighting the demons of Lanka.
Most of us know that during the battle of Mahabharata, Hanuman was present in an invisible form on the flag of Arjuna’s chariot. There’s a legend behind this…
Some time after meeting Bheema, Hanuman also met Arjuna and the two had an argument, again a product of Arjuna’s vanity. He claimed that he can build a bridge similar to what Sugriva’s army built to reach Lanka before the war. Hanuman then dared Arjuna to build a bridge that can withstand his weight, let alone an Army’s. Arjuna’s first bridge was thwarted as quickly as it was raised after Hanuman stepped on it. At this point, Krishna asked Arjuna to build the bridge again and touched it before asking Hanuman to try it. Now Hanuman, with all his might and prowess, couldn’t harm the bridge. At this point he saw the form of his lord Ram in Krishna and vowed to protect Arjuna and serve Krishna by being present on the chariot’s flag in invisible form.
When after the war Krishna and Hanuman left Arjuna’s chariot, it caught fire and burnt instantly. Hanuman apparently guarded the chariot and guarded it from all the fatal attacks that might have killed Arjuna.
Hanuman Seen by People in Kalyug
If his followers are to be believed, Hanuman is one of the easiest deities to please. He awards his followers his appearance through dreams, apparitions and hints of his blessings. While there are countless such tales, there’s a very popular and incredible incidence of finding Hanuman. A group of foreign mountaineers were trekking in the Himalayas. When they entered a natural cave for rest, they saw a peculiar monkey clad in red clothes, reading a book. Bemused, someone in the group clicked the figure. Without further description, here’s the picture.
The book was apparently Ramayana.
Famous temples of Hanuman
Hanuman is worshipped as God in entire India and some parts of the world. He is regarded as lord for granting WISDOM and Courage and granting powers to fight the negativities of the life. There are various temples of Lord Hanuman across the country. Here are some such temples:
Balaji – Mehandipur (Rajasthan): Believed to exorcise against possessions, witchcraft and other forms of paranormal.
Balaji – Salasar (Rajasthan): Visited famously by businessmen from across the country
Hanuman Mandir, Connaught Place (Delhi): Was established by Pandavas after winning the war.
Jakhu or Jakhoo Temple (Shimla): Built on the hill where Hanuman briefly rested while going to Himalayas to find Sanjeevni Booti for Lakshma.
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh): Built by Goswami Tulsidas, the author of Ramcharitmanas.
Alathiyur Hanuman Temple, Mallapuram (Kerala): Built over 3000 years ago by Rishi Vasistha, one of the seven Saptarishis.
While there’s a lot more untold about Hanuman, this narrative ends here. In another post, I will mention the amusing and allegorical interactions between Hanuman and Shani.