The Sunday Section: Hindu Deities - Hanuman

This post is dedicated to my lovely Hatty … all good things come to those who wait :)

Hanuman is one of the most important personalities in the ‘Ramayana’, and he also features in the ‘Mahabharata’.  He is a vanara, which means ‘human with the tail of a monkey’.  His mother, Anjana, was originally a celestial being who’d been cursed and turned into  vanara; his father is Vayu, the wind god.  Being the child of the god of the wind, Hanuman was born with great physical strength, the power to fly, and divine levels of endurance.  Hence, he is worshipped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion.

When Hanuman met Rama for the first time during the exiled prince’s fourteen year banishment in the forest, both were already aware of the other’s existence.  Hanuman offered his services to Rama, and their lives became forever intertwined.

During the war with Ravana, Lakshmana, Rama's brother, had been gravely wounded in battle and needed the life-giving herb, Sanjivani, which could only be found in the Himalayas.  As time was all-important, Hanuman flew to the mountains, but was unable to recognise the herb that was needed.  Instead of wasting time, he picked up the mountain and flew back to Lanka, saving Lakshmana's life.

This is my favourite Hanuman story … After defeating Ravana, and rescuing Sita, Rama returned to Ayodhya where he was crowned the rightful ruler.  He rewarded his well-wishers at a grand ceremony in his court.  Hanuman went up but refused any reward.  Overcome with emotion, Rama embraced him warmly, declaring that he could never adequately honour or repay Hanuman for all that he’d done for the brothers, and for Sita.  But Sita insisted that Hanuman deserved honour more than anyone else present, and asked him to name a gift.  When he finally asked for the necklace of precious stones from around her neck, she gave it to him.  Hanuman immediately began to take it apart, peering into each stone.  The shocked onlookers demanded to know why he was destroying the precious gift, and he replied that he was looking into the stones to see if Rama and Sita were within; if they were not, the necklace was worthless to him.  Some of them began to ridicule Hanuman, insisting that his love and devotion for Rama and Sita could not possibly be as deep as he professed.  In response, Hanuman tore his chest open, and all were stunned to see Rama and Sita literally in his heart.

Hanuman statue at Batu Caves 2007 (prior to being painted)

In th 'Mahabharata', Hanuman’s story is tied in with the five Pandava brothers; Bhima, the second brother, and Hanuman shared the same father – Vayu, the god of the wind.  Promising to aid the brothers in the great battle at Kurukshetra, Hanuman positioned himself in the flag of Arjuna’s chariot to secure and stabilise the war-vehicle.  The triangular saffron flag of Hanuman represents stability and equilibrium, control of the senses and the mind, and a sign of victory over all that is evil.  

Hanuman also represents the unlimited power that each of us possesses, which lies unused, and of which we are generally unaware exists.  Hanuman directed all his energies towards worshipping Rama; his undying devotion eventually freed him from suffering any form of physical fatigue.

Hanuman is one of those deities who, instead of being only worshipped on a pedestal, is one you can view as your friend, who'll always be right there, by your side.  As Hatty says: "Hanuman rocks!"