Monday, June 14, 2010

Hanuman

Hanuman – just the name of the great Vanara warrior brings to mind his extraordinary strength and his devotion to Rama. Indeed, he is the ultimate superhero of Indian mythology!

Hanuman idol at Navabrindavanam at Anegundi near Hampi.
To know more about this place, click here

There are many legends concerning the birth of Hanuman. He was the son of Anjana, an apsara cursed to take the form of a monkey, who married Kesari, a Vanara (a tribe of monkeys) chieftain. But Hanuman was also the son of Vayu, who blessed Anjana with a child who would have his immense strength. It is also said that Hanuman was a form of Lord Shiva, who had appeared on earth to help Lord Vishnu, in his form as Rama, fight the demons. Thus, Hanuman was no ordinary Vanara, but one marked out, by divine will, for great deeds.

As a child, he was known as Anjaneya – the son of Anjana, and was very mischievous, and constantly kept the household on their toes by his antics. One day, he caught sight of the rising sun through the leaves of a mango tree, and mistook it to be a luscious mango. He jumped into the air, trying to catch it, and, with the power of Vayu behind him, soon approached the sun. The sun god, Surya, was alarmed seeing someone hurtling through the air towards him, and summoned Indra, the king of the gods. Indra, without stopping to notice that it was just a child, hurled his Vajra – the thunderbolt, which struck Anjaneya on the chin, making him unconscious. Vayu scooped up his falling son, and attempted to revive him, but with no success. In his anger, he drew all the air from the three worlds, suffocating all forms of life. Brahma and the other gods rushed to Vayu and made amends, reviving his son and giving him special powers. It was then that he earned the name ‘Hanuman’ – the mark of the thunderbolt having been left on his chin (Hanu in Sanskrit).

As he grew older, Hanuman grew even more mischievous, using his special powers to trouble the people around him, having fun at their expense. One day, he troubled a rishi to the extent that the sage cursed him to forget his special powers! However, knowing of the deeds Hanuman was born to perform, the sage added a clause that he would recollect all his powers at the appropriate time, when someone reminded him.

The loss of his powers turned Hanuman to better deeds, and he was accepted by Surya as his pupil. Once Surya had taught him all he could, as Guru Dakshina, he asked that Hanuman go to the aid of Sugreeva (a Vanara king, who was one of the sons of Surya) when the time came. Hanuman promised to do so, and took his leave from his guru.

The time for Hanuman to fulfill his pledge came when Sugreeva was exiled from his own kingdom by his brother, Vali. He joined Sugreeva and his band of Vanaras on the Rishyamukha Mountain, which Sugreeva had made his abode. It was there that he realized his purpose in life, when he met Rama.

Rama had been exiled from Ayodhya for 14 years, and was living in the forest with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. Hearing the beauty of Sita and enamored by her, the demon king Ravana kidnapped her and took her away to his far off kingdom of Lanka.

Rama and Lakshmana wandered around the forests searching for Sita. They were directed to Sugreeva by well wishers, and finally arrived at the Rishyamukha Mountain. Sugreeva was suspicious about all strangers in the vicinity, assuming them all to be spies sent by his brother, so he sent Hanuman to find out their identity. No sooner had Rama introduced himself that Hanuman felt a strange kinship with him, and he gladly took them to Sugreeva.

Sugreeva and the other Vanaras had seen the beautiful woman being carried away by the demon, but had no idea who she was. They, had, however, collected and kept carefully, the pieces of jewelry she had thrown from the skies towards them. Rama identified the jewelry as his wife’s, and wept for her. Steeling himself to avenge her humiliation, he asked Sugreeva’s help in locating and freeing Sita from the clutches of the demon.

Sugreeva agreed to help him, provided Rama helped him get his kingdom back. Accordingly, Rama killed Vali and made Sugreeva the king, and in turn, Sugreeva sent his Vanaras in all the directions to search for Sita.

Hanuman was part of the Vanara group which went south. After much searching, they arrived at the ocean, tired and dispirited. There was no place left to search, yet they had found no sign of Sita. As they prepared to abandon their search, they met an aged vulture, Sampati, who told them that Sita had been taken across the ocean to Lanka, the abode of Ravana.

The Vanaras jumped and shouted in jubilation, but only for a while, for they realized that they still had a long way to go – across the ocean, in fact. Crossing the ocean was an impossible task, but they could not return without news of Sita either!

While the Vanaras argued and discussed amongst themselves, one of them sat apart, deep in gloom. It was Hanuman, who felt even more than the others the responsibility entrusted to him, and had the deep desire to bring Rama news of Sita.

The aged and wise bear, Jambavan, who, along with his army of bears was aiding the Vanaras in their mission, knew that the time had come for Hanuman to realize his abilities, and reminded him of his powers and the curse which had made him forget them.

At once, Hanuman was conscious of a great strength, and the capability of doing the impossible. He willed himself to grow in stature till he stood taller than the tallest hills on the sea shore, and with a thrust which pushed one of those hills into the earth, leaped into the air and flew over the ocean!

He met many obstacles on the way, but he met them all with his strength and intelligence, and landed on the island of Lanka. Overpowering the guardian of the city, he entered the city and after a long search, found Sita imprisoned in the Ashoka Van. He introduced himself to Sita and proved his good intentions by showing her a ring he had brought from Rama. He volunteered to carry Sita back to Rama at once, but this the virtuous lady refused, as it would not be right. She wanted her husband to be the one to free her from the demon. Finally, he reassured Sita that her Lord would soon come to Lanka and defeat Ravana, and avenge her humiliation.

His mission accomplished, Hanuman pondered on a way to reassure Sita further and put the fear of Rama into the hearts of the people, as well as the king of Lanka. He created a disturbance in the gardens, and killed the guards sent to catch him, inviting the army to a fight. He fought bravely and succeeded in killing quite a few demons before allowing himself to be caught and taken to the palace, so that he could meet the demon king.

He warned Ravana to set Sita free at once, for Rama was on his way to redeem his wife, but Ravana laughed at the impertinence of the monkey, and ordered his tail set on fire. With the name of Rama on his lips, Hanuman allowed his tail to be set on fire, but the fire did not scorch him. Instead, he managed to set the city on fire, leaving only the Ashoka van unblemished, before setting out on his return journey.

The good news spurred the army to move faster, and soon the army of monkeys and bears with Rama leading them reached the ocean. A bridge was built of stones, boulders and hills with the name of Rama inscribed on them, and the army crossed the ocean with ease and reached Lanka. Once again, Ravana was offered peace, provided he set Sita free, but Ravana preferred to fight, and so the war began.

Hanuman was one of the bravest warriors, killing many demons with his great strength, and making a name for himself by his valorous deeds. When Lakshmana was fatally wounded by Indrajit, the son of Ravana, the physician Sushena announced that the only herb capable of saving Lakshmana was the Sanjeevani, which grew on the Dronagiri Mountain in the Himalayas. But the Himalayas were far, far away, and the herb had to be brought back before sunrise for it to work! How was it possible?

For Hanuman, nothing was impossible, and he set out for the Himalayas, taking his immense form, and flying through the air. Ravana learnt of his intention and sent his uncle, the dreaded Kalanemi to stop him, but Hanuman killed Kalanemi and reached the mountain. However, here he encountered a problem he had not anticipated. The mountain was covered with herbs, and he was unable to identify the right one. There was no time to lose, so he simply lifted the whole mountain and flew back to Lanka!

The Vanaras were stunned at the sight of Hanuman carrying the mountain, but they set to work, collecting the right herbs and reviving not just Lakshmana, but all the Vanaras who had been wounded. After the war was over, Hanuman made the journey again, to replace the mountain at its rightful place.

Hanuman showed his prowess yet again, when Ravana’s half-brothers Ahi Ravana and Mahi Ravana captured Rama and Lakshmana and took them to the netherworld, Patala. It was Hanuman, who bravely entered the nether regions, and rescued the brothers, after killing the twin demons.

Hanuman had formed a very special bond with Rama, and it was Hanuman who was deputed to go to Bharata and inform him of Rama’s return, since the period of exile was over.

Rama’s coronation was a great and much anticipated event, which was attended by the entire army who had helped Rama. After the coronation was over, Rama and Sita gifted everyone with expensive gifts. When it was the turn of Hanuman, Sita took off one of her own pearl necklaces and handed it to Hanuman.  Everyone was surprised when Hanuman did not show much enthusiasm over the gift, but instead, scrutinized each pearl and appeared unsatisfied. Finally, Sita asked him if he was unhappy with the gift, to which Hanuman replied, “Of what use is something which does not have Rama in it?” This answer stunned everyone, and finally one of them asked flippantly, “If that is so, is Rama inside you too?”  Hanuman did not utter a word, but simply tore his chest open, and there, in plain view to everyone, were Rama and Sita! Such was the devotion and love of Hanuman towards Rama!

When Rama decided to go back to heaven, he asked those who wanted to join him, to come along. While most of the Vanaras and his citizens elected to accompany Rama, Hanuman had a unique request – he wanted to stay on earth till the name of Rama was venerated by the people! Rama granted Hanuman the boon of immortality so that he could forever dwell where the name of Rama was taken with love and reverence.

It is said that Hanuman arrives whenever the name of Rama is chanted, and comes to the aid of those who chant Rama’s name. Such is the devotion of Hanuman!

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6 comments:

Sarah said...

Its really great to hear that your cute naughty boy has brought you to write these many stories for many like him.Get going.Your efforts are superb!!

Anu said...

Thanks a lot, Sarah!

krishnnaleela said...

Anuji,

Happy that I stumbled on this lovely blog of yours.

I wanted a story thread for my little girl's story telling at school.

Will come later for more. My kids love reading Indian mythological stories.

Mayank said...

I am 35 years old, and I enjoy reading your stories! I'll be passing them on to the kids I know. Thanks for your effort, Anu.

Anonymous said...

I loved it. It was truly amazing and it helped me with an religious education project thnks Anu!!

layla said...

Hi there Anu. I needed your stories for a Religious Education project that I was doing in school. It helped me a lot. I also got a lot of positive comments thank-you!!!

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