Birth of Lord Hanuman
Hanuman was born in the Treta Yuga. There are several stories in regard to his birth. Anjana was an apsara named Punjikasthala, who was cursed to be born on earth as a female monkey. She could only be redeemed of her curse if she gave birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Anjana was doing a penance to Lord Shiva to have a child. Shiva was pleased and gave her the boon that she would give birth to a son.
Another story states that when Anjana was worshipping Lord Shiva, King Dasharatha, the ruler of Ayodhya was performing ‘Putrakama Yagna’ nearby. After the Yagna ended, Dasharatha received some sacred pudding, which was to be shared by his three wives, who later gave birth to Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. By divine regulation, a kite snatched the part of the pudding and dropped it while flying over the forest where Anjana was engaged in austerity. Vayu, the Hindu deity of wind, delivered the falling pudding to the outstretched hands of Anjana, who consumed it. After the completion of the penance Anjana met Vayu, who was charmed by her beauty. After knowing her destiny, Vayu made love with Anjana. As a result Hanuman was born. He is also called ‘Pavanputra’ as the son of Pavan or Vayu or the wind-God.
Names of Lord Hanuman
The origin and meaning of the name "Hanuman" in Hindu mythology remain uncertain. In the Hindu pantheon, deities often have multiple names, each reflecting a noble characteristic, attribute, or a legendary feat associated with that particular deity.
The name "Hanuman" encompasses two significant aspects highly cherished in Hindu devotional traditions: "heroic, strong, assertive excellence" and "loving, emotional devotion to a personal God."
Variations of "Hanuman" can be found in different languages, such as Hanumat and Anuman in Tamil, Hanumantha in Kannada, and Hanumanthudu in Telugu. Other names associated with Lord Hanuman include:
• Anjaneya, Anjaniputra (Kannada), Anjaneyar (Tamil), Anjaneyudu (Telugu), Anjanisuta: All these names denote "the son of Anjana."
• Kesari Nandana or Kesarisuta: Based on his father's name, these names mean "son of Kesari."
• Vayuputra/Pavanputra: Signifying his status as the son of Vayu deva, the Wind God.
• Vajrang Bali/Bajrang Bali: This name emphasizes his incredible strength, describing him as "the strong one (bali), who had limbs (anga) as hard or as tough as vajra (diamond)." It is widely used in rural North India.
• Sankata Mochana: Meaning "the remover of dangers, hardships, or hurdles" (sankata).
• Maruti: Referring to him as the "son of Maruta," another name for Vayu deva.
• Kapeeshwara: Denoting "lord of monkeys."
• Rama Doota: Identifying him as "the messenger (doota) of Rama."
• Mahakaya: Signifying his gigantic form.
• Vira, Mahavira: Meaning "most valiant."
• Mahabala/Mahabali: Referring to him as "the strongest one."
• Vanarkulathin Thondaiman: This Tamil name translates to "descendant of the Vanar clan."
• Panchavaktra: Describing him as "five-faced."
• Mukhya Prana Devaru: This name holds significance among followers of Dvaita, such as Madhwas, and means "Primordial Life Giver."
Iconography of Lord Hanuman
The iconography of Lord Hanuman portrays him both in the presence of other central characters from the Ramayana and in solitary form. When depicted alongside Rama and Sita, Hanuman is typically positioned to the right of Rama, assuming a humble posture of devotion, often depicted with a Namaste or Anjali Hasta gesture, bowing or kneeling before them. In solo representations, Hanuman is depicted wielding significant weapons such as a mighty Gada (mace) and thunderbolt (vajra), symbolizing his strength and power. These scenes often depict episodes from his extraordinary life.
The iconography of Hanuman is prevalent and can be observed in temples throughout various regions. It is common to find him depicted alongside Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana, usually in Vaishnavism temples. In these representations, Hanuman is shown with his chest open, symbolically revealing images of Rama and Sita near his heart, illustrating his deep devotion and unwavering loyalty. Additionally, Hanuman is highly revered among followers of Shaivism.
In northern India, aniconic representations of Hanuman, such as round stones, have been utilized by yogis as aids to focus on the abstract aspects of his divinity. Furthermore, Hanuman is often portrayed as carrying a saffron flag in service of the Goddess Durga, along with Bhairava, further emphasizing his multifaceted nature and his role in diverse religious traditions.
Characteristics of Lord Hanuman
Lord Hanuman possesses a multitude of remarkable characteristics, as follows:
Chiranjivi (immortal): Hanuman is blessed with immortality. His existence is intertwined with humanity, as long as the story of Rama endures and is recounted by the gods throughout time.
Brahmachari (self-controlled): Hanuman exemplifies self-control, exhibiting mastery over his desires for materialistic pursuits in the world.
Kurup and Sundar: Hindu texts describe Hanuman as externally appearing kurup (ugly), but internally radiating divine beauty (sundar).
Kama-rupin: Hanuman possesses the ability to shapeshift, effortlessly altering his form to be smaller than the smallest or larger than the largest adversary.
Strength: Hanuman possesses extraordinary strength, capable of carrying any burden for a righteous cause. He is referred to by various names such as Vira, Mahavira, and Mahabala, signifying his immense power.
Innovative: Hanuman is renowned for his ingenuity in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Often faced with daunting challenges that threaten his mission and existence, he consistently finds innovative solutions.
Bhakti: Hanuman exemplifies unwavering devotion (bhakti) to Lord Rama and Sita. Hindu texts, such as the Bhagavata Purana, Bhakta Mala, Ananda Ramayana, and Ramacharitmanas, portray him as a talented, strong, brave, and spiritually devoted individual.
Learned Yogi: Hanuman is depicted as knowledgeable in Vedanta philosophy, the Vedas, poetry, grammar, music, and other disciplines. These texts highlight his multidimensional wisdom and scholarly abilities.
Remover of obstacles: Hanuman is revered as the remover of difficulties in devotional literature. Devotees seek his divine intervention to overcome various obstacles and challenges in life.
Bestower of Siddhis and Nidhis: Hanuman is believed to grant his devotees the eight classical Siddhis (supernatural powers) and nine Nidhis (treasures).
Healer: Hanuman possesses the ability to heal diseases, alleviate pain, and alleviate sorrows, providing solace to his devotees.
Slayer of demons and protector: Hanuman is the vanquisher of demons and negative energies. He safeguards devotees from ghosts, evil spirits, demons, and other malevolent forces. He offers protection from the malefic effects of celestial bodies, the evil influence of talismans and spells.
Protector and savior: Hanuman serves as the guardian and savior of devotees of Lord Rama, ensuring their well-being and safeguarding their interests.
Panchamukha (five-faced): Hanuman assumes a fierce form with five faces, each representing a specific attribute. The east-facing face (Anjaneya) bestows purity of mind and success, the south-facing face (Karala Ugraveera Narasimha) grants victory and fearlessness, the west-facing face (Mahaveera Garuda) offers protection from black magic and poisons, the north-facing face (Lakshmi Varaha) brings prosperity and wealth, and the horse face (Hayagriva) facing upwards signifies knowledge and the blessing of virtuous children.
Legends of Lord Hanuman
Hanuman is also considered as the incarnation of Lord Shiva. It is said that when Ravana once tried to enter Shiva’s abode in Himalayas, Nandi stopped him and Ravana mocked him as monkey, Nandi cursed Ravana that he will meet his end due to Monkey.
Hanuman wanted to have Lord Surya as his teacher. To do so, Hanuman raised his body into an orbit around the Sun and requested Surya to accept him as a student. Lord Surya refused first time saying that he had to move in his chariot all the time so Hanuman could not learn anything effectively. But Hanuman was determined in his mission and enlarged his body. He placed one leg on the eastern ranges and the other legs on the western ranges with his face turned towards the Sun and made the request again. Surya was pleased by his persistence and granted his prayers.
Lord Hanuman in Ancient Hindu Texts
Lord Hanuman has an extensive presence in ancient Hindu texts. The earliest mention of a divine monkey, potentially the precursor to Hanuman, can be found in hymn 10.86 of the Rigveda, dating back to the period between 1500 and 1200 BCE. This hymn, presented as a metaphorical legend, depicts a dialogue between the Gods Indra and Indrani and a spirited monkey referred to as Vrisakapi. The hymn emphasizes the importance of peaceful coexistence and unity among divine beings.
Lord Hanuman is prominently featured in two Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as well as various Puranas. The Shiva Purana describes Hanuman as an avatar of Shiva, while other Puranas and scriptures establish him as the spiritual son of Vayu, an incarnation of Vayu, or even an avatar of Rudra, another name for Vayu. Different traditions view Hanuman's relationship with Shiva in distinct ways, with Vaishnava traditions perceiving no direct connection, whereas Shaiva traditions considering Hanuman as either an avatar or the son of Shiva.
In Valmiki's Ramayana, believed to have been composed in or before the 3rd century BCE, Hanuman plays a significant role as a simian ally and messenger to Lord Rama. Over time, Hanuman's character evolved, reflecting regional cultural influences. However, it was in the late medieval period that he gained prominence and became the embodiment of an exemplary spiritual devotee, particularly through the popular vernacular text Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas (1575 CE). Hanuman's portrayal in this era aligned with the Bhakti movement and the devotional practices of Bhakti yoga, emphasizing his unwavering devotion, courage, strength, and divine powers.
During this transformative period, Hanuman became a symbol of devotion and strength, combining the qualities of shakti (power) and bhakti (devotion). Folk traditions and stories from the 17th century onwards began to depict Hanuman as a divine being, a descendant of deities, and an avatar of Shiva. He emerged as a champion of those facing religious persecution, a yogi, an inspiration for martial artists and warriors, and a representation of cherished virtues and internal values. Hanuman's cultural significance grew, and Hindu monks often named their organizations after him, especially during the era when monks transitioned into soldiers.
In addition to the Ramayana and Mahabharata, Lord Hanuman finds mention in various other texts, enriching the tapestry of his adventures beyond the narratives of the earlier epics. The Skanda Purana, for instance, includes references to Hanuman's presence in Rameswaram. In a South Indian rendition of the Shiva Purana, Hanuman is portrayed as the son of Shiva and Mohini, the female incarnation of Vishnu. Alternatively, his mythology has been intertwined with or associated with the origin of Swami Ayyappa, a revered deity in certain regions of South India.
Lord Hanuman in Ramayana
Meeting of Hanuman with Rama is an important episode in the epic "Ramayana", as from then on Hanuman was a great follower of Rama. At the latter part of the 14 years exile, Rama and his brother Lakshmana were in search for Sita, who had been abducted by the Rakshasa emperor Ravana. They came near the mountain Rishyamukha where Sugriva and his followers along with Hanuman were hiding from his elder brother Bali, who had cast him out of the kingdom and kept his wife captive.
Sugriva sent Hanuman when he saw Rama and Lakshmana coming to ascertain their identities. Hanuman approached to them in the guise of a Brahmin and talked to them in such a way that Rama was very impressed. When Rama introduced himself, Hanuman revealed his own identity and fell prostrate before Rama’s feet. Rama embraced him warmly and then after Hanuman’s life was interwoven intimately with that of Rama. Hanuman introduced Rama with Sugriva and they committed for a friendship. He helped Sugriva to defeat Bali in battle and regain his kingdom. Sugriva with his monkey army assisted Rama to rescue Sita.
When time came for Rama to set his journey for heavenly abode, many of his followers including Sugriva wanted to follow him. But Hanuman requested to remain on earth as long as people would venerate the name of Rama. Sita granted his prayer. Thus Hanuman is one of the Chiranjeevis (immortals) in Hinduism.
Lord Hanuman in Mahabharata
During the era of the Mahabharata, centuries after the events of the Ramayana, Lord Hanuman had become a relatively forgotten demigod residing in a secluded forest. It was during this time that his spiritual brother, Bhima, the mighty Pandava prince and another son of the wind God Vayu, wandered into the forest in search of flowers for his wife. Sensing Bhima's presence, Hanuman decided to test him, aware of Bhima's tendency to boast about his exceptional strength.
Bhima stumbled upon Hanuman lying on the ground in the guise of a feeble old monkey. Requesting Hanuman to move, Bhima received no response. In that era, stepping over someone was considered deeply disrespectful, so Hanuman suggested that Bhima lift his tail to create a passage. Bhima eagerly accepted the challenge but, despite his immense strength, could not budge the tail even slightly.
Humbled by this encounter, Bhima realized that the seemingly frail monkey was, in fact, a divine being. He implored Hanuman to reveal his true identity. With a sense of surprise, Bhima witnessed Hanuman unveiling his true form. The two brothers embraced, and Hanuman bestowed a prophecy upon Bhima, foretelling his pivotal role in an imminent and dreadful war. Hanuman promised Bhima that during the war, he would perch atop the flag of their brother Arjuna's chariot and unleash a mighty battle cry that would strike fear into the hearts of Bhima's enemies. Satisfied with this revelation, Hanuman bid farewell to his brother, allowing him to continue his quest.
True to the prophecy, Hanuman would not reappear until the early 1600s, following the culmination of the war that reshaped the world. Until then, his divine presence remained concealed, leaving behind the memory of his remarkable encounter with Bhima as a testament to the unwavering bond between these celestial siblings.
Lord Hanuman in Buddhism
Lord Hanuman, known for his prominent role in Hindu mythology, also finds a presence with a Buddhist influence in certain versions of the Ramayana. These versions include Tibetan adaptations in west and central Asia. In the Khotanese versions, the storyline and character of Hanuman closely resemble the Hindu texts, similar to the theme of Jataka tales. The Tibetan version, on the other hand, features more embellishments and lacks the inclusion of a Jataka gloss.
The Tibetan adaptation introduces novel elements to the story, such as Hanuman's involvement in carrying love letters between Rama and Sita. This addition diverges from the Hindu version, in which Rama sends the wedding ring with Hanuman as a message to Sita. Additionally, the Tibetan version presents a unique interaction between Rama and Hanuman, where Rama playfully scolds Hanuman for not corresponding more frequently through letters. This implies that Hanuman, as the monkey-messenger and warrior, possesses a learned nature, capable of reading and writing.
Lord Hanuman in Jainism
Lord Hanuman also holds significance within Jainism, as mentioned in the Paumacariya, the Jain adaptation of the Ramayana. Authored by Vimalasuri, this version portrays Hanuman not as a divine monkey but as a Vidyadhara, a supernatural being and demigod in Jain cosmology. According to the Paumacariya, Hanuman is born to Anjana Sundari and Pavangati, the wind deity. Anjana gives birth to Hanuman in a forest cave after being banished by her in-laws. Her maternal uncle rescues her, and while boarding his vimana, Anjana accidentally drops her baby on a rock. Remarkably, the baby remains unharmed while the rock shatters. Hanuman is then raised in Hanuruha.
Lord Hanuman in Sikhism
In Sikhism, Lord Rama is referred to as Sri Ram Chandar, and the story of Hanuman as a siddha, a spiritually accomplished being, has had a significant influence. Following the birth of the martial Sikh Khalsa movement in 1699, Hanuman became an inspiration and object of reverence among the Khalsa during the 18th and 19th centuries. Some Khalsa regiments even carried images of Hanuman into battle, symbolizing strength and courage.
The Sikh scriptures feature compositions that highlight the heroic exploits of Hanuman. For instance, Hanuman Natak, composed by Hirda Ram Bhalla, and Das Gur Katha by Kavi Kankan, vividly describe the courageous deeds of Hanuman.
Significance of Hanuman Chalisa
The Hanuman Chalisa holds immense significance as a devotional hymn dedicated to Lord Hanuman, the great devotee of Lord Shri Ram. Composed in the 16th century by the Indian poet Tulsidas, this poetic work is written in Awadhi, a regional language. Tulsidas claimed to have experienced visions where he directly encountered Hanuman, which inspired him to write the “Ramcharitmanas”, an Awadhi rendition of the Ramayana.
The Hanuman Chalisa consists of forty stanzas, each beautifully describing the qualities and heroic deeds of Lord Hanuman, who is revered as the son of the wind. It not only encompasses heartfelt worship of Bajrangbali (Hanuman) but also portrays the essence of Lord Shri Ram's divine persona in simple yet profound verses. The term 'Chalisa' signifies the number forty, representing the forty verses contained within this hymn (excluding the two introductory couplets). Hence, this prayer is known as the Hanuman Chalisa.
Devotees consider the Hanuman Chalisa a powerful prayer. Regular recitation of the Hanuman Chalisa grants freedom from fear in life and fulfills heartfelt wishes. The hymn encapsulates the miraculous powers of Hanuman, and through the recitation of these verses, one can invoke the benevolence and grace of Hanuman.
Temples of Lord Hanuman
Temples dedicated to Lord Hanuman can be found throughout India, symbolizing the deep reverence and devotion people hold for this beloved deity. These temples serve as important spiritual and cultural landmarks, attracting countless devotees who seek solace, blessings, and inspiration.
Some of the most renowned Hanuman temples include the Hanuman Temple at Connaught Place in Delhi, where a massive idol of Lord Hanuman stands as a powerful symbol of strength and protection. The Mehandipur Balaji Temple in Rajasthan is another prominent pilgrimage site, believed to possess the power to heal and exorcise evil spirits. The Salasar Balaji Temple in Rajasthan is yet another significant temple dedicated to Hanuman, drawing devotees from far and wide to seek the blessings of the deity.
These temples often feature vibrant and elaborate rituals, with devotees offering prayers, chanting hymns, and performing aarti ceremonies. The energetic atmosphere resonates with the devotion and faith of the worshippers. Throughout the year, especially on Tuesdays and Saturdays, devotees flock to these temples to seek Hanuman's divine grace and to find inspiration in his unwavering devotion to Lord Rama. The temples of Lord Hanuman stand as enduring symbols of faith, strength, and devotion, providing a spiritual refuge and a profound connection to the revered deity for millions of devotees across India.