Hanuman is the monkey god so widely worshipped in India. He is believed to be a great devotee of Lord Ram. He had strength enough to carry a mountain on his shoulders. Capable of growing at will, he could become taller than any giant and is believed to have crossed the ocean in one leap.
Bhima was the second of the five Pandava brothers of Mahabharata fame. He was also known for his giant physique and enormous strength. The Pandavas were exiled to the forest for a period of twelve years by their enemies, the Kauravas. During these twelve years the Pandavas moved from one forest to another. Wherever they found fresh water and a suitable place to build an ashram, they stopped for some time. Once they came to the forest of Narayanashram and halted there. It was indeed a charming place, with shady green trees surrounding a wide open space. The holy river Ganga flowed nearby and was a great source of joy to them all. A bath in the sparkling cold water of the Ganga cleared the mind and removed all traces of fatigue.
Draupadi, in particular, was very happy living on the bank of the Ganga. After a bath early in the morning, she would stand in the water and worship the sun god with offerings of fresh fruit and flowers. One day, as Draupadi finished her prayers and waded into the river, a breeze sprang up from the north-east. A flower came floating in the breeze and that dropped near Draupadi. It was a beautiful flower, with a hundred velvety petals, golden in colour with a fragrance that was heavenly.
Draupadi was elated. She picked up the flower and ran to Bhima. She said to him that she has never seen anything so beautiful and asked him to fetch more flowers for her. Bhima promised her to bring more flowers though he had no idea where he would find such flowers. Draupadi was so dear to him that he was quite willing to go to the four corners of the earth for something to please her. He immediately set out in the direction from which the breeze was blowing, without stopping to think of the dangers that lay ahead.
For a long time Bhima walked along the river till he came to the foot of a mountain. Spread out before him was a grove of plantain trees. A path ran through the grove. And lying across the path, blocking it completely, was a monkey. But it was no ordinary monkey. Huge in size, he shone like a blazing fire. Bhima was a little surprised to see the monkey. He tried to frighten the animal out of the way by shouting at him. But the monkey did not move at all. He only opened his eyes a little and said in a sleepy voice that he was lying there because he is not well. He then scolded Bhima saying that he was a human being and humans ought to be more kind and considerate towards animals.
Bhima was not used to people talking to him in this manner. He grew very angry and shouted at the audacity of a mere monkey. He boasted that he was a Kshatriya born of the illustrious Kuru dynasty while he was only a monkey. Then he ordered the monkey to get out of his way so that e could proceed. The animal only smiled and warned himt o be careful as forcing his way past him may lead to Bhima's doom. At the Pandava brother was angrier.
The monkey however replied coolly that he was too old to move anyways. So all that Bhima needed to do was jump over him. But bBhima refused to do it because the scriptures forbid it or he would have jumped over him like the great Hanuman. At the mention of Hanuman the monkey looked greatly surprised. He enquired more about him.
Bhima replied with great pride that Hanuman is also a son of the great wind god and his elder brother. Once he had crossed the ocean in a single giant leap and that he was equal in strength to Hanuman.
At this the monkey uttered that if indeed he is strong then he set his tail and aside and find his way.
Here was some action and Bhima loved action. He was so proud of his strength that he laughed at the thought of moving the monkey's tail to make a path for himself. It would be child's play. But there was a great shock in store for Bhima. He could not move the monkey's tail by as much as the breadth of a single hair. He tried his hardest, using all his strength, but nothing happened. He set his jaws and strained every muscle till the very sinews seemed to crack and perspiration ran down his body. But he could not move the tail one little bit, up or down or sideways. For the first time in his life, Bhima felt humbled. He folded his hands and begged forgiveness.
The monkey revealed that he was none other than his brother Hanuman. Hanuman further said that he was delighted at meeting him.
As for Bhima, he was delighted beyond words. He threw himself at the feet of Hanuman.
At this Hanuman smiled and began to increase in size. Very soon he stood as tall as a mountain, seeming to fill the entire landscape. Bhima was completely overawed by the sight. He covered his eyes with both hands because the light that radiated from the figure of Hanuman was simply dazzling.
But soon Hanuman got back to his normal size again. He embraced Bhima. There was so much divine power in him that his very embrace filled Bhima with strength. He felt refreshed and completely recovered from the effect of his long, tiring walk. Hanuman then disclosed the purpose for his visit. He said that behind the grove of plantain trees lies the world of spirits and yakshas (semi-divine beings). They do not welcome human beings. So if he stepped into their abode he would run into great danger and he must return.
Bhima was still worried about the flowers that Draupadi wanted. Hanuman told him that the name of the flower was Saugandhika, and it grows in a stream close by. But before they parted he wished to bless Bhima.
Bhima stood before his elder brother, head bowed, eyes closed and hands folded in respect. Once again Hanuman said that Bhima would be fighting the Kauravas soon to regain their kingdom and he would all the strength that Hanuman has. So his elder brother lent him his own might. He blessed Bhima that when he challenged his enemy on the field of battle his voice will join Hanuman's and strike terror in the hearts of his foes.
Bhima touched Hanuman's feet and thanked him. Then he went towards the stream where the Saugandhika flowers grew. He gathered an armful of flowers and hurried back home. Draupadi was waiting. She was delighted to get the flowers and thanked Bhima for all the trouble he had taken to get them for her.