Forever sitting at his masters’ feet…he is always to be seen tearing his bare chest with his hands to prove his loyalty. Infact there is no similar character in Indian mythology that is so modest yet so loved and respected.
By Neeraj Mahajan
Infact it would not be totally wrong to say that the most popular character of Ramayana is Hanuman…not Ram. Even though Ram is by all means the Hero of Ramayana and Hanuman is just his side-kick—Hanuman steals the show by super-natural feats like flying with the Himalayan peak on his palms, carrying both Ram and Laxman on his shoulders and setting Lanka on fire with burning tail. Not only children but also people across all age groups love him for that.
Even today Hanuman’s shrines far outnumber those of Ram. He is said to be the foremost deity of the Kali Yuga. He seems to be present everywhere from the in street-corner temples to colorful posters on the walls of dhabbas and from dashboards of motor vehicles to comic books, advertisements, TV serials and Films. If all these are not signs of his popularity that what is…. If the growing corpus of books, posters, films and at least two published autobiographies are an indication, then Hanuman is indeed an upwardly mobile deity with an evergreen fan following not only in India but also abroad.
Hanu mean-- one having an odd-shaped jaw – Hanuman probably got this name because of his childhood pranks. Legend has it that one day while playing baby Hanuman swallowed the rising sun, mistaking it to be a ripe berry. The celestial gods though of punishing him so they shattered his jaw and hurled him back to earth. Then in order to pacify Hanuman’s father Vayu Deva, the same gods gave him the boon – that made him more powerful, more versatile then any of them.
To Quote from Hanuman Chalisa: “vidyavan guni ati chatur, rama kaja karive ko atur, prabhu charitra sunive ko rasiya, rama lakshmana sita mana basiya. Meaning: You have the greatest wealth of divine knowledge. You are virtuous and intelligent, always ready to serve Lord Rama, and your greatest pleasure is listening to His glories. Rama, Laksmana and Sita always reside in your heart.
Hanuman epitomizes knowledge, virtue, strength, courage and everlasting love for God. The essence of Hanuman’s being or existence is his undivided Bhakti for Lord Rama. He symbolizes the pinnacle of bhakti. A vanara who aided Lord Rama (an avatar of Vishnu) in rescuing his wife Sita, from king Ravana, Hanuman is considered to be the eleventh Rudra avatar of Lord Shiva. He is better known as the spiritual Son of Vayu deva, the God the wind.
Bestowed with many names like Pawan Putra, Bajrangbali, Maruti, Kesrinandan, Sankat-mochan, Panchmukhi, Balaji --Hanuman was born in Treta Yuga as the son of an apsara called Punjikasthala, who born as Anjana, a female vanara because of a curse which got washed with the birth of Hanuman – an avtaar of Lord Shiva. The story goes that Anjana had performed intense prayers to beget Lord Shiva as her Child. Pleased with their devotion, Shiva granted her that boon. Meanwhile, on the advise of sage Vashistha Dasaratha, the king of Ayodhaya, was performing yagna to beget sons. Pleased with his prayers, Agni Dev- the God of Fire appeared and some sacred fruits, to be shared by Dashratha’s wives, Hence Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna were born. But the story does not end here, it is believed that a kite flying in the sky picked up a part of the fruit and dropped it in the outstretched hands of Anjana who was engaged in worship. Anjana consumed it and hence Hanuman was born.
As a child Hanuman was blessed with super-natural powers but he was also quite naughty and used to tease meditating saints by playfully hiding their belongings. The matters came to a pass where the sages gave him a curse that he would forget all about his god-gifted power. Hanuman asked them to forgive him. At this the sages toned down their own curse and said he would remember about his lost powers when someone reminded him and when he needed them most
This, is one of the most crucial aspects that makes Hanuman relevant in today times because even today you hear people telling others –“You are like Hanuman…. who has forgotten his hidden potential”. People who are familiar with the story of Ramayana know what difference this realization made in Hanuman’s life. Till the moment he is made to realize his own powers by Jambhavant, Hanuman is depicted as just an ordinary monkey, yet from that moment onwards he starts doing super-natural deeds. Sundarkand, the fifth book in the Ramayana epic, focuses mainly on the adventures of Hanuman.
This transformation from the ordinary to extra-ordinary is not to be taken lightly. Some of Hanuman’s super-natural feats: -- flying across to Lanka as Lord Rama’s messenger, fighting the demons and destroying the Ashok Vatika, burning down nearly half of Lanka with his blazing tail, getting the Dronagiri parbat on his palm when asked to get sanjivini herb. Do you think any ordinary mortal can conceive of doing all these – that is why Hanuman remains an idol for today’s generation?
It is not that these super-natural deeds are unparalleled in Indian mythology. If Hanuman lifted Dronagiri parbat--- Krishna lifted the Goverdhan Parbat, with his index finger. Hanuman increased his size to engulf the Sun or teach Shani a lesson so lid Lord Krishna show his “virat roop” on the Kurukshetra battlefied in Mahabharata. If Hanuman killed demon Ahiravan, the King of Patala, as Panchmuki Hanuman, Lord Vishnu adopted the form of Narshimha to kill Hiranyakashap and install Prahlad as his successor. In short there are any number of Gods and Goddesses like Lord Rama, Shiva, Ganesha, Goddess Durga and Kali who have displayed extra-ordinary powers and performed super-natural deeds. In terms of knowledge, wisdom or strength they are no less than Hanuman—Yet Hanuman’s greatness stems from the fact that while all the other Devis and Devtas – were God or his Avtaar in one form or the other. Hanuman never claimed to be God.
(To Be Continued)