Hinduism believes in the existence of one Supreme God ‘Paramatma’ but though God is one, He manifests himself in innumerable forms and is both the Reality and the Unreality, the Seen and the Unseen, The Manifest and the Unmanifest, The Purusha (Divine entity) and the Prakriti (Nature, Divine Energy). He is immutable, imperishable, infinite, One without a beginning or end. All Gods and Goddesses are his manifestations and worshipping them with love and devotion is a concept easier to understand for the common masses than the in depth study of scriptures and the enlightened path of Jnana Yoga. One of the most celebrated and revered Gods in the Hindu pantheon of Gods is Lord Hanuman, the personification of devotion, perseverance and strength. His entire life was dedicated to the service and complete surrender to Lord Rama and there have been many devotees, saints and sages who have attained salvation by mere contemplation of his holy name.
Hanuman in Hindu scriptures is known by a number of names. During his childhood Indra, the King of Gods struck Hanuman’s jaw hence the name Hanuman, Hanu meaning ‘jaw’ and Mant or Man meaning ‘disfigured or prominent’. Another meaning for Han is ‘destroyed or killed’ and Maan meaning ‘pride’. His other names are Anjaneya and Anjaniputra meaning son of Anjana, Kesari Nandan (son of Kesari), Bajrang Bali (One whose limbs are as strong as a Vajra or thunderbolt), Vaatatmaja/ Pavanaputra/ Marutinandan ( son of Vayu the wind God). Some legends state that his name was derived from the Tamil word ‘Aan- Mandi’ meaning male monkey.Because of his immense strength, he is generally the patron deity of all physical culture places like gymnasiums and wrestling houses. Besides these from his famous shlokas he has been praised and eulogised as Manojavam ( one with a swift mind), Maarutatulyavegam ( One whose speed equals the wind God ), Jitendriyam (one who has complete sense control), Buddhimataamvarishtam (one whose intellect excels all others), Vaanarayuktamookhyam (one who is chief of Vanaras), Shriramadootham (messenger of Rama), Atulita Baladhaamam (epitome of unmatchable strength), Hemashailaabha Deham (Body shining like a golden mountain), Danujavana Krushanum (destroyer of demonic forces), Gyaaninama Agraganyam (supreme knowledge), Sakala Gunanidhaanam (repository of all good qualities and virtues), Sankata Mochana (liberator of all troubles).
In Jainism, the origin of his name is said to be taken from the island Hanuruha where he is said to have spent his childhood.
Hanuman is mentioned in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, though some legends claim that he was mentioned even in the Rig Veda. From the 8thcentury onwards, Hanuman has been mentioned as an Avatar or incarnation of Lord Shiva in the Skanda Purana, Bhagvad Purana, Brihadharma Purana, Mahanataka (dramatic history of Lord Rama) with some ancient texts from Odisha stating that Hanuman was in fact the combined incarnation of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He came to be revered as the ideal devotee of Lord Rama and a Brahmachari (celibate).
Legends on his birth
Hanuman was born in the Vanara (monkey) clan. There are different legends regarding his birth. According to Valmiki Ramayana, his mother Anjana in her previous birth was cursed to be born on earth with the condition that she would be redeemed on the birth of her son. His father was Kesari, the son of Brihaspati who ruled over a place named Sumeru. Anjana performed severe penances to Lord Shiva for 12 years to beget a son. Finally, Shiva pleased with her worship promised her that he himself would be reborn as her son. According to Bhavartha Ramayana by Eknath, a kite snatched the sacred pudding bowl which was to be shared by the three wives of Dasharata after the Putakameshti Yagna and dropped it at the place where Anjana was engaged in worship and was then carried by the wind God Vayu to her. She consumed it which resulted in Hanuman being born. Another legend states that when Anjana and Kesari prayed to Lord Shiva for a child, Shiva directed Vayu to transfer his male energy to Anjana’s womb. Hence, he is considered as the son of Vayu. According to Naradeya Purana and Vishnu Purana, Narada once wished to marry a particular princess who impressed him. Seeking Lord Vishnu’s help he asked for Hari Mukh or the Lord’s divine face. The Lord knew that he was not destined for matrimony and instead gave him a monkey’s face as Hari also means monkey. When Narada was ridiculed in the Swayamvara, he cursed Lord Vishnu that he would one day be dependent on a monkey. Lord Vishnu advised him that he had done it for Narada’s greater good. When Narada regretted his gesture, the Lord assured him that the curse was in fact a boon as it would lead to the birth of Hanuman, whose help was absolutely necessary in his incarnation of Rama. According to Vaishnavites, Vayu or the wind God took three incarnations to help Lord Vishnu. The first was Hanuman to help Rama, the second was Bhima to assist Krishna and the third was Madhvacharya to help the founding of the Vaishnava sect. Hanuman is also considered as Rudra, an Avatar of Shiva.
Many places of birth have been claimed as the birthplace of Hanuman. One place is located near the Rishyamukha Mountain now called ‘Anjaneya hill’ in Hampi in Karnataka where a temple marks this spot. Another birthplace is said to be Anjaneri Mountain near Trimbakeshwar in Nashik district. Others claim that Hanuman was born on Lakshka Hill in Churu district of Rajasthan. Anjan Dham in the district Gumla in Jharkhand is considered to be the birthplace according to other claims with some archaeological objects retrieved and stored in the museum. Some other claims state that he may have been born in the hills of Khurda at Bhubaneshwar.
When Hanuman was a child, he believed the sun to be a mango and sped skywards to eat it. It was a solar eclipse day and Rahu, the planet with the disembodied head, was also seeking out the sun. Hanuman caught Rahu and imprisoned him. Rahu cried out to Indra who threw his thunderbolt (Vajra) at Hanuman which struck his jaw. He fell down to the Earth and became unconscious. This angered the wind God Vayu who withdrew all air and went into seclusion. It is therefore generally considered that Rahu’s negative influences can be subdued if one were to worship Hanuman. All the Gods were upset and Indra withdrew the effects of his Vajra. They revived him and in order to appease Vayu conferred on him a number of boons. Brahma granted him immunity from all his curses, to change his form at will and protection from all weapons. Shiva granted him wisdom, longevity and the ability to cross the ocean. Indra granted him immunity against Vajra and Varuna granted him infinite protection from water. Agni blessed him to become immune to fire. Surya granted him the Yoga Siddhis of Laghima and Garima which was the power to attain the smallest or largest form at will. Yama blessed him with freedom from death (immortality) and healthy life, Kubera blessed him with eternal contentment and happiness. Vishwakarma blessed him with immunity and protection from all his creations, Kamadeva granted him immunity from sensual pleasures and Vayu blessed him with speed faster than him. Hanuman grew up to be a mischievous boy in his childhood, disturbing the sages in their meditation with his playful antics. The sages were thoroughly fed up with him but since he was a child they mildly cursed him that he would forget all his powers and abilities until reminded by it at a later stage. This section has been explained in the Kishkindha Kanda of Ramayana and later in the Sundara Kanda when he makes full use of his powers.
Surya as his teacher
Hanuman felt that Surya the Sun God with his all-encompassing knowledge would be a suitable teacher for him and requested him to teach him. But Surya explained that he was always moving around in his chariot hence would be unable to teach him. But Hanuman grew in height and with both his legs stretched covered the Eastern and Western ranges implying that he could continue his education undeterred by Surya’s movement. Surya was pleased by Hanuman’s perseverance and became his celestial teacher. He refused Guru Dakshina at the end of Hanuman’s education stating that teaching such a brilliant and sincere student was a reward unto itself. But Hanuman insisted and Surya then asked him to help his spiritual son Sugreeva and thus it was that Hanuman later became Sugreeva’s minister. It is said that the Surya Namaskar postures done in yoga (which is a combination of all postures) done with devotion was composed by Hanuman in honour of Surya. Pranayama or the science of breath control is said to have been taught by Vayu to Hanuman who later taught it to all human beings.
In the Ramayana
The Ramayana has been divided into various Kandas or parts in which Hanuman’s role in mentioned in great detail in the Kishkindha Kanda and Sundara Kanda. His approaching Rama and Lakshmana as a Brahmin, taking them to Sugreeva, crossing the ocean to find Sita in the Ashoka Vana of Lanka, the burning of Lanka, saving Lakshmana’s life by carrying the mountain to retrieve the powerful life-restoring herb Sanjeevani, the building of the bridge to Lanka with the help of the other Vanaras, the rescuing of Rama and Lakshmana from Ravana’s brothers Mahiravana and Ahiravana, the destruction of Ravana and being sent to make possible the final reunion of Sita with Rama, all these incidents and many others beautifully highlight the great role that Hanuman played in the great epic Ramayana.
Hanuman’s selfless love
After Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya and his coronation as King, he wished to reward all those who helped him in his journey. He embraced Hanuman and declared that he could never repay him for his devoted service. Sita removed a necklace of precious stones and lovingly handed it over to Hanuman. Hanuman began to take the necklace apart peering into the stones. The stunned members of the kingdom demanded to know how he could destroy such a priceless gift. But Hanuman unfazed, replied that as he could not see the image of Lord Rama and Devi Sita, the necklace had absolutely no value for him. When they mocked his reverence and asked him whether he had them in his heart, Hanuman immediately tore his chest open and stunned everyone by displaying the images of Ram and Sita in his heart. Later, when everyone decided to return to Lanka after the coronation, Rama and Sita blessed him that he would be one of the Chiranjeevis (immortals) who would remain on earth forever as long as the Lord’s name was chanted. It is found that to this day there is always a Hanuman image installed in temples and public places thus saturating the surroundings with the Lord’s presence.
It is said that Hanuman later departed to the Himalayas and recorded every detail of Rama’s deeds, scripting a version of the Ramayana using his nails. Maharishi Valmiki visited him after completion of his version of Ramayana and was stunned to see that it was matchless in splendour to Hanuman’s version. When Hanuman saw his disappointment, he unhesitatingly promised Valmiki that he would discard his own version known as Hanumad Ramayana. Maharishi Valmiki was overwhelmed and stated that he would take another birth to sing the glories of Hanuman. One of the tablets is said to have drifted ashore and deciphered by Mahakavi Kalidasa who was thrilled to recognise it as a part of Hanumad Ramayana.
In the Mahabharata
Bhima was considered as a brother of Hanuman as they had the same father Vayu. Once Hanuman wished to subdue the arrogance of Bhima and during the Pandavas exile, disguised as an old and decrepit monkey, he laid down on the path of Bhima. When Bhima asked him to move out of the way, Hanuman refused and Bhima began to pull his tail. Despite his great strength he was futile in his attempts. He then realised that this was no ordinary monkey and bowed to him in reverence and humility and was thrilled to know Hanuman’s true identity. Another incident is mentioned between Arjuna and Hanuman at Rameshwaram where Hanuman appeared as a small talking monkey before Arjuna while Arjuna was expressing in wonder at Rama’s decision to depend on monkeys instead of building a bridge of arrows. Hanuman challenged Arjuna to build a bridge of arrows which could support his weight alone. Unsuspectingly Arjuna built the bridge many times but each time the monkey destroyed it. Finally, Krishna smilingly placed his discus below the bridge and this time Hanuman could no longer destroy it. Vishnu then appeared and chided them both, Arjuna for his vanity and Hanuman for making Arjuna feel incompetent. Hanuman then penitently decided to help Arjuna in the battlefield by staying in the form of a flag of Arjuna’s chariot and strengthening it. After the battle, when Krishna got down from the chariot after Arjuna, he thanked Hanuman who bowed and flew away. The chariot then immediately burnt down into ashes. Arjuna was shocked but Krishna explained that his presence and Hanuman’s strength was the only reason for the safety of the chariot inspite of many celestial weapons hitting it during the war. It is said that Hanuman was one of the few people other than Arjuna who were blessed to hear the Bhagvad Gita from Lord Krishna and have his Vishwarupa Darshan (Universal Form).
In Other texts
Besides Ramayana and Mahabharata, Hanuman has been mentioned in many of the other scriptures like Brahma Purana, Narada Purana, Skanda Purana, Agama Saunaka Samhita, Agasthya Sara Samhita, Durga Chalisa and in the famous Hanuman Chalisa written by the 16th-century poet Tulsidas. Some of these scriptures apart from eulogising Hanuman also mention rituals and ways to worship him.
Hanuman’s immortality has been experienced by many saints in the course of centuries like Sant Tulsidas, Samarth Ramdas, Madhvacharya, Raghavendra Swami and Swami Ramdas. The Swaminarayan sect too believes in Hanuman worship for protection against evil spirits. Tantra practitioners are said to worship him as he has many supernatural powers (Siddhis). He is also considered a patron deity by Ayurveda healers as he saved Lakshmana’s life by bringing the Sanjeevani herb from the Himalayas. He was said to be a master diplomat, using sweet speech and mastery over language to solve any predicament. This can be seen in the Ramayana in various situations like being the spokesman of Sugreeva to find out Rama’s intentions, subduing Lakshmana’s anger due to Sugreeva’s lapse, as an envoy to meet Sita gently offering her Rama’s signet ring instilling in her confidence, seeking out Bharata on Rama’s request to find out his intentions and to fetch Sita after the war. He was a great musician, having been blessed by Goddess Saraswati and is said to have been the first to sing bhajans and kirtans in praise of Lord Rama which had the power to even melt rocks. He had no desire for name and fame and was a true Yogi untouched by sensual pleasures and the trials and tribulations that came his way.
Inner significance of Hanuman
Lord Rama represents the Sun or divine consciousness while Sita represents the light or the warming rays falling on the Earth. Hanuman is said to be the breath that unites them. He is a Simian which is generally an animal with a low threshold of discipline and self-control but Hanuman is able to conquer his baser instincts by unwavering concentration and devotion. The monkey signifies the human mind which is always restless, hence the term ‘monkey mind’. It is said that his name Hanuman means ‘hanan’ implying annihilation and ‘man’ implying mind.
After the coronation of Rama, it is said that Hanuman wished for a place to settle down in Rama’s kingdom where the injuries caused by the burns on his tail could be cured. Lord Rama then aimed his arrow on the tip of a mountain in Central India and immediately a stream of water spurted out. He then asked Hanuman to sit there so that the water could cool his tail. This place now has the Hanuman Dhara temple and access to this cave temple is from stairs starting at the bottom of the mountain to the top which takes around 30 to 40 minutes.
Relation with Shani
In the Ramayana, Hanuman is said to have rescued Shani Dev (Saturn) from the clutches of the King of Lanka, Ravana. Shani in gratitude then promised Hanuman that anyone who worshipped Hanuman would not be affected by the negative influences of Shani. Shani is also one of the names of Hanuman in the Hanuman Sahasranama Stotra.
Lord Hanuman is generally worshipped on Tuesdays and Saturdays which are associated with Mangal (Mars) and Shani (Saturn). Devotees offer oil and sindoor to him. Offering of Sindoor originated from the legend of Hanuman observing Sita applying it on her forehead and when questioned explained to him that it would ensure that her husband Rama remained with her. This prompted Hanuman to apply Sindoor all over his body stressing on the fact that the Lord should reside in him forever. Oil is said to be offered as an appeasement to Shani who is supposed to be ever grateful to Hanuman, hence will always fulfil the wishes of his devotees and remove all negative influences. Other offerings are husked black gram and garlands of Arka flowers in the North and betel leaves in the South. He is adorned with a garland of rice and lentil Vadas in the South and butter offerings are pasted on his idols. Some of the famous shlokas and mantras dedicated to Lord Hanuman are Hanuman Chalisa, Maruti Stotram, Anjaneya Dandakam, Sundara Kanda, Hanuman Bahuk, Bhimrupi stotram, Maruti Gayatri Mantra, Hanuman Sahasranama Stotra, Ek Mukhi/Sapta Mukhi/Panch Mukhi Hanuman Raksha Kavacham and many others. Wherever the Ramayana is read, a special Asan or seat is reserved for Hanuman as it is believed that he is always present wherever Lord Rama’s glories are sung.
Temples dedicated to Hanuman are found all over India as he is said to free the surroundings from evil spirits and remove all obstacles. One of the most famous temples is the Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi. Other famous temples are Jakhu temple in Simla, Anjaneya temple at Namakkal in Tamil Nadu, Raggigudda Anjaneya temple in Bangalore and many other temples in India. Besides these, there are huge idols of Hanuman lined throughout the country, most of them carved out of a single rock. There is a large 85 feet Hanuman statue installed outside India at Trinidad and Tobago and a Hanuman temple at Texas in US.
Pancha Mukhi Hanuman
This five-faced form was assumed by Hanuman to destroy Ahiravana, the brother of Ravana who was a powerful Rakshasa, well versed in black magic. During the battle in the epic Ramayana, Ahiravana captured Rama and Lakshmana and took them captive to the nether world. The only way to kill him was to extinguish five lamps burning in different directions at the same instant. Hanuman assumed this form and performed the task, killing Ahiravana and freeing Rama and Lakshmana. The five faces are Hanuman, Narasimha, Garuda, Varaha and Hayagriva. The significance of the faces in various directions are –
1. Hanuman facing East removes sin and gives purity of mind.
2. Narasimha facing South removes fear of enemies and grants victory.
3. Garuda facing West drives away evil spirits.
4. Varaha facing North confers Eight types of prosperity (Ashta Aishwarya) and removes negative influences of the planets.
5. Hayagriva facing upwards or Urdhva mukha confers victory, knowledge and progeny.
Since these faces cover all directions, worshipping the Pancha Mukhi Hanuman is said to grant absolute protection and overall well being of the devotee. These five faces also symbolise Hanuman’s way of prayer namely Naman(chanting), Smaran (remembering), Keerthanam (singing), Arpanam (surrender) and Yachanam (pleading for the Lord’s undivided love). The Panch Mukhi Hanuman’s hands hold Parashu, Gada, Trishul, Chakra, Khandha, Kumbha, Dhaalam, a plate filled with blood and a big Gada.
Panch Mukhi Hanuman Temples
There is a temple at the place where Shri Raghavendra Swami meditated on this deity at Mantralaya in Andhra Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu there is another famous shrine at Kumbakonam and a 12m green monolithic granite idol in Thiruvalluvar also known as Rudravanam in ancient times. Besides this, there are huge statues in many places in India and one consecrated even outside India in West of Lusaka, Zambia.
It is celebrated on the 15th day of the bright lunar fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March/April). According to some religious almanacs (Panchangs), it is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin (Sept/Oct). Devotees visit temples where spiritual discourses begin at dawn and since Hanuman is said to have been born at sunrise, Prasad is distributed at that time.
Some of the most uplifting and well known shlokas sung everywhere by millions of devotees praising Lord Hanuman are-
Yathra Yathra Raghunatha Keerthanam
Thathra Thathra Kruthamasthakanjalem
Bashpavari Paripurna Lochanam
Maruthim Namatha Rakshasanthakam
Wherever the songs of Lord Rama are sung
There I bow my head
Shedding tears of devotion and joy
To Maruti, the destroyer of demons
Manojavam Maaruta Tulya Vegam
Jitendriyam budhimataam Varishtam |
Vaataatmajam Vaanarayootha Mukhyam
Shri Rama Dootam Shirasa Namaami |
To the One who is swifter than thought and wind
Who has conquered his senses, Is supremely intelligent
Son of Wind God, Leader of the Vanaras
To that messenger of Lord Rama, I bow my head
The Lord in Hinduism is all-pervading, omniscient and all powerful. He is Satchidananda meaning Truth, Consciousness and Bliss. He exists in each individual Being as the Atman and can be realised either by the path of action (Karma yoga), path of knowledge (Jnana Yoga) or path of devotion (Bhakti Yoga). Of these, the path of devotion to a personal God where the devotee can visualise the form and contemplate on his glories is said to be the easiest path to self-realisation. This leads to concentration and purifying the mind by eschewing lower passions. Hanuman is one of the most dearly loved Gods in Hinduism whose unswerving devotion to Lord Rama has inspired millions of seekers to tread the path of devotion and attain liberation. He displays the dual characteristics of Bhakti (devotion) and Shakti (strength and energy). His use of brain and brawn, valour and guile in defeating his enemies is unparalleled in Hinduism. His very name invokes selflessness, serene calmness and humility in considering himself only as a servant of the Lord (Bhakti through Dasa Bhava) and he is a shining example underlying the core concept of Hinduism which states that it is not birth nor riches nor power but pure and unsullied love to the Divine alone that qualifies for God realisation be it man, bird or beast and this has inspired millions of generations to revere and honour him.