Hanuman is one of the most interesting personalities in Hindu mythology. Also known as Anuma or Maruti he is the son of the monkey, Anjani and the God of Winds, Vayu.
In the great Hindu epic, The Ramayana, Hanuman is the minister of the monkey king Sugriva and the loyal companion of Prince Rama( the avatar or incarnation of Vishnu – the preserver of the universe). Hanuman loved Rama and vowed to serve him always. Rama’s wife, Sita had been taken by the evil demon Ravana to the island of Lanka, and Rama and his brother Lakshmana had been searching all over India for her.
It was Hanuman who discovered she was on the island, and so he climbed the highest mountain and leapt across the ocean to Lanka. He fianally found Sita in the garden of the monster surrounded by demon women. He hid and began to sing softly in praise of Rama. When Sita heard him she came closer and he showed her a ring of Rama’s to prove he was there to rescue her.
Sita was happy to see Hanuman, for the demon was threatening to torture her if she continued to refuse to marry him. However she refused to be carried away by him as she wouldn’t allow herself to be touche by any man except her husband. She gave him a jewel from her sari to take with him back to Prince Rama, but as he was leaving he was captured and his tail was set alight.
However the fire failed to hurt the monkey god, who instead caused vast destruction swishing his tail around and jumping all over the buildings, setting alight to the city. He wet his tail in the ocean and then jumped back to India.
Hanuman’s army of monkeys built a bridge of rocks from India to Lanka so Rama and Lakshmana could march their troops across to attack the demons and rescue Sita.
In the ensuing battle Ravana employed all kinds of evil spells and weapons to fight off Prince Rama’s army. The battle lasted days and nights until finally Ravana used invisible forces to conquer Rama and Lakshmana and their army. Hanuman was the last still unharmed. He was full of grief and anger at the sight of his beloveds laying around the battlefield either dead or dying. One of the dying was an old sage who told him of sacred herbs growing on the top of a Himalayan mountain which would not only save the dying but revive the dead if it could be brought quickly enough.
So Hanuman leapt back to India again and and raced to the mountains. With no time to spare looking for the herbs he simply ripped the top off the mountain and flew back to Lanka with it. As soon as he flew over the battlefield the two princes and their army were restored to life and health. Lakshmana was lifted up by Hanuman and the army of Rama overcame the demons. Hanuman was sent to find Sita and he returned her to Prince Rama.
They all returned to India where Rama was pronounced king and Sita was crowned his queen. At their feet knelt Hanuman, their devoted and loving servant. Rama rewarded Hanuman with the gift of eternal life.
Hanuman is said to be as large as a mountain, with yellow skin, a red face and an extremely long tail. His roar is like thunder and he flies through the clouds with a great gushing sound He is looked upon by Hindus as the ultimate hero. He represents the figure of the ideal being, as he is humble yet brave. His physical prowess, mental discipline and spiritual purity have made him extremely popular all over India Hanuman shrines are seen outside villages covered in gulal powder where locals and travellers take his blessings.
He is usually depicted with the mace depicting his incredible power. Otherwise he is shown kneeling at the feet of Rama and Sita. He is often associated with Shiva. He is seen also carrying the mountain top high over his shoulder.
Hanuman’s total love and surrender to Rama is an inspiration to many devotees. He is beautifully illustrated ripping open his heart and revealing the great prince and his princess.
“Hail to Hanuman, the ocean of wisdom and virtue.
Hail Monkey Lord of the three worlds.
You are Ram’s emissary, and the abode of matchless power,
Anjani’s son, named ‘Son of the Wind’……
…In your hands shine mace and banner
And a sacred thread adorns your shoulder….
Those who take refuge in you find all happiness
And those who you protect know no fear……….”
Originally published in Here & Now magazine. Written by Khalid Julian Millane, joint owner of Shikara Design, importer of Asian artifacts, furnitire and carpets, and who has anendless fascination with Eastern mythology and history.
Related to - Eastern Spiritual Mythology