Lord Hanuman is a deity and an ardent devotee of the Lord Ram. He is one of the central figures in the Hindu epic Ramayana and its various versions. He is also mentioned in several other texts, including the Mahabharata, the various Puranas and some Jain texts. Lord Hanuman participated in Ram’s war against the demon king Ravan. Several texts also present him as an incarnation of Lord Shiva. He is the son of Anjana and Kesari and is also described as the son of the Wind-God Pawan, who according to several stories, played a role in his birth. He belonged to a tribe called “Vanar”, residing in a deep forest and not civilized as compared to other communities of their time, but certainly not a monkey as portrayed in various sources.
Hanuman was born to the Anjaneri mountain. His mother Anjana was an Apsara who was born on earth due to a curse. She was redeemed from this curse on giving birth to a son. The Valmiki Ramayana states that his father Kesari was the son of Brihaspati, the King of a place named Sumeru. Anjana performed intense prayers lasting 12 long years to Lord Shiva to get a child. Pleased with their devotion, Lord Shiva granted them the boon they sought. Hanuman, in another interpretation, is the incarnation or reflection of Lord Shiva himself.
Hanuman is often called the son of the deity Vayu (Wind God). Several different traditions account for the Vayu’s role in Hanuman’s birth. One story mentioned that Anjana and her husband Kesari prayed Lord Shiva for a child. By Shiva’s direction, Vayu transferred his male energy to Anjana’s womb. Accordingly, Hanuman is identified as the son of the Vayu.
As a child, believing the sun to be a ripe mango, Lord 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 the sun in his mouth. Rahu approached Lord Indra, King of Devas, and complained that a monkey child stopped him from taking on Sun, preventing the scheduled eclipse. This enraged Lord Indra, who responded by throwing the Vajra (thunderbolt) at Hanuman, which struck his jaw. He fell back down to the earth and became unconscious. Upset over the attack, Hanuman’s father figure Lord Vayu (the deity of wind) went into seclusion, withdrawing air along with him. As living beings began to asphyxiate, Lord Indra withdrew the effect of his thunderbolt. The Devas then revived Hanuman and blessed him with multiple boons to appease Lord Vayu.
On ascertaining Lord Surya, the Sun God, to be an all-knowing teacher, Hanuman raised his body into an orbit around the sun and requested to Surya to accept him as a student. Surya refused and explained claiming that he always had to be on the move in his chariot, it would be impossible for Hanuman to learn well. Undeterred, Hanuman enlarged his form, with one leg on the eastern ranges and the other on the western ranges, and facing Lord Surya again pleaded. Pleased by his persistence, Surya agreed. Hanuman then learned all of the latter’s knowledge. When Hanuman then 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 later became Sugriva’s minister.
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.
Adventures In Ramayana
Meeting with Lord Ram
Lord Hanuman meets Lord Ram during the latter’s 14-year exile. With his brother Lakshmana, Ram is searching for his wife Sita who had been abducted by Lord Ravan. Their search brings them to the vicinity of the mountain Rishyamukha, where Sugriva, along with his followers and friends, are in hiding from his older brother Vali.
Having seen Ram and Lakshmana, Sugriva sends Hanuman to ascertain their identities. Hanuman approaches the two brothers in the guise of a Brahmin. His first words to them are such that Ram says to Lakshmana that none could speak the way the Brahmin did unless he or she had mastered the Vedas. When Ram introduces himself, the Brahman identifies himself as Hanuman and falls prostrate before Ram, who embraces him warmly. Thereafter, Hanuman’s life becomes interwoven with that of Ram. Hanuman then brings about friendship and alliance between Ram and Sugriva; Ram helps Sugriva regain his honor and makes him King of Kishkindha by defeating Vali. Sugriva and his Vanaras (monkey clan), most notably Hanuman, in return agree to help Ram defeat Lord Raavan and reunite with Sita.
In their search for Sita, a group of Vanaras reaches the southern seashore. Upon encountering the vast ocean, every vanara begins to lament his inability to jump across the water. Hanuman too is saddened at the possible failure of his mission, until the other vanaras and the wise bear Jambavan begin to extol his virtues. Hanuman then remembers his own powers, enlarges his body, and flies across the ocean till he finally reached Lanka.
Hanuman reaches Lanka through air jump and marvels at its beauty. After he finds Sita in captivity in a garden, Hanuman reveals his identity to her, reassures her that Ram has been looking for her, and uplifts her spirits. He offers to carry her back to Ram, but she refuses his offer, saying it would be an insult to Ram as his honor is at stake. In order to give Sita faith, Hanuman gives her a ring that Ram wanted Hanuman to give her. After meeting Sita, Hanuman begins to wreak havoc, gradually destroying the palaces and properties of Lanka. He kills many rakshasas (demons). To subdue him, Ravan’s son Indrajit uses the Brahmastra. Though immune to the effects of this weapon Hanuman, out of respect to Lord Brahma, allows himself be bound. Deciding to use the opportunity to meet Lord Ravan, and to assess the strength of Ravan’s hordes, Hanuman allows the rakshasa warriors to parade him through the streets. He conveys Ram’s message of warning and demands the safe return of Sita. He also informs Ravan that Ram would be willing to forgive him if he returns Sita honorably.
Enraged, Ravan orders Hanuman’s execution, whereupon Ravan’s brother Vibhishana intervenes, pointing out that it is against the rules of engagement to kill a messenger. Ravan then orders Hanuman’s tail be lit with fire. As Ravan’s forces attempted to wrap cloth around his tail, Hanuman begins to lengthen it. After frustrating them for a while, he allows it to burn, then escapes from his captors, and with his tail on fire he burns down large parts of Lanka. After extinguishing his flaming tail in the sea, he returns to Ram.
In the war between Ram and Ravan, when Lakshmana is badly wounded during the battle against Indrajit, Hanuman is sent to fetch the Sanjivani, a powerful life-restoring herb, from Dronagiri mountain in the Himalayas, to revive him. Ravan realises that if Lakshmana dies, a distraught Ram would probably give up, and so he dispatches the sorcerer Kalanemi to intercept Hanuman. Kalanemi, in the guise of a sage, deceives Hanuman, but Hanuman uncovers his plot with the help of an apsara (celestial nymph), whom he rescues from her accursed state as a crocodile.
Ravan, upon learning that Kalanemi has been slain by Hanuman, summons Lord Surya to rise before its appointed time because the physician Sushena had said that Lakshmana would perish if untreated by daybreak. Hanuman realizes the danger, however, and, becoming many times his normal size, detains the Sun God to prevent the break of day. He traps Surya in his armpits and then resumes his search for the precious herb, but, when he finds himself unable to identify which herb it is, he lifts the entire mountain and delivers it to the battlefield in Lanka. Sushena then identifies and administers the herb, and Lakshmana is saved. Ram embraces Hanuman, declaring him as dear to him as his own brother. Hanuman releases Lord Surya from his armpit, and asks forgiveness, as the Sun was also his Guru (teacher).
Shortly after he is crowned Emperor upon his return to Ayodhya, Ram decides to ceremoniously reward all his well-wishers. At a grand ceremony in his court, all his friends and allies take turns being honored at the throne. Hanuman approaches without desiring a reward. Seeing Hanuman come up to him, an emotionally overwhelmed Ram embraces him warmly, declaring that he could never adequately honor or repay Hanuman for the help and services he received from the noble Vanara. Sita, however, insists that Hanuman deserved honor more than anyone else, and Sita gives him a necklace of precious stones adorning her neck.
When he receives it, Hanuman immediately takes it apart, and peers into each stone. Taken aback, many of those present demand to know why he is destroying the precious gift. Hanuman answers that he was looking into the stones to make sure that Ram and Sita are in them, because if they are not, the necklace is 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 tears his chest open, and everyone is stunned to see Ram and Sita literally in his heart.
After the War
After the war, and after reigning for several years, the time arrived for Ram to depart to the world above. Many of Ram’s entourage, including Sugriva, decided to depart with him. Hanuman, however, requested from Ram that he will remain on earth as long as Ram’s name was venerated by people. Ram 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 Chiranjivi (immortals) of Hinduism.