The ideal devotee of Shri Rama and the God of Strength from Ramayan; one of the few Chiranjeevis (who do not die).
There is no village or town in Bharat without a temple dedicated to Hanuman. An unforgettable character in the great epic, the Ramayan, he has become a symbol of courage, loyalty and mature wisdom.
Men and women, the young and the old, people of all agesand of all professions worship Hanuman.
Students pray to him for intelligence and soldiers for strength. In olden days there used to be temples of Hanuman at the gates of forts. The gymnasiums of wrestlers invariably have his picture.
Every human being has good qualities and bad qualities. Our ancestors have taught that every one should develop his/her good qualities and go nearer God. Divinity is only being full of noble qualities. In our country some men and women have later come to be honored as divine beings, winning the reverence, the devotion and the love of the common people. Hanuman is one such great soul.
According to legend, Hanuman is the son of the Wind God. Air sustains all living beings. One can exist without food, spend days without water; but it is impossible to exist even for a short time without air. Air is life. Therefore, Hanuman is also called ‘Pranadeva’ or the God of Life.
Hanuman was a master of music. He was also an expert in dance and drama. So, he is worshipped with love and devotion by musicians and actors. He was also a great yogi or mystic.
Hanuman was born to Anjanadevi and Vaayu, the wind God. Hanuman is also called ‘Aanjaneya’, son of Anjana. Hanuman was extraordinary from the very moment of his birth. There are many very interesting stories about his childhood.
When he was small, Hanuman felt very hungry. Looking up he saw in the east something red. Hanuman thought that the red sun was a fruit and flew up to snatch it. What was a child’s whim became something serious. Though the sun’s heat burnt his face, Hanuman was determined and continued to fly towards the sun. Indra, the Lord of Heaven, feared that the sun might be caught. So he hit at Hanuman with his terrible weapon Vajrayudha. Hanuman fell down and was hurt. His cheeks became swollen.
(This is why he came to be called Hanuman. ‘Hanu’ in Sanskrit means the cheek.)
Now, Hanuman’s father, the Wind God became very angry. So he would not move at all. In all the three worlds there was no air to breathe. Then all the gods came and consoled the Wind God. Each god conferred a boon upon the little Hanuman. Brahma and Creator said, “No weapon will be able to kill this boy.” Indra said to the boy, “You will be a ‘Chiranjeevi’ (immortal).”
Blessed thus by the gods, Hanuman grew up to be as strong as his father. He flew about as freely and was quite mischievous. The Rishis, who were troubled by his mischief, pronounced a curse on him. Hence, Hanuman would never know how powerful and strong he was. Others will have to remind him about his strength. Only then he would realize it.
Meeting With Shri Rama And Lakshmana
When Hanuman grew up he became the minister of Sugreeva, the King of Kishkindha. Vali was the elder brother of Sugreeva. Once Vali, who was fighting with a rakshasa, entered a cave with his opponent; he did not come out for a long time. Blood began to flow from the cave, so Sugreeva thought that Vali was dead. He returned to Kishkindha and became its king. But a little later, Vali returned and drove out Sugreeva. Sugreeva and his ministers hid themselves in the Malaya mountains; Vali could not enter this region.
When Shri Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana were in the forest, a rakshasa by name Ravana took away Sita by force. Rama was in great grief. He was wandering in the forests and came to Kishkindha. Sugreeva saw him when he came with Lakshmana to the Malaya mountains. Sugreeva and his companions were full of fear that Vali had sent Shri Rama and Lakshmana to kill them. But Hanuman asked them not to be afraid. Sugreeva was also very anxious to know who those handsome young men were. Whom should he send to talk to them? Finally he choose Hanuman.
Hanuman was an excellent ambassador. He could easily understand the nature of other people. As soon as he saw Rama and Lakshmana, he realized that they were not deceivers, but noble persons. In soft and pleasing words he asked them who they were, and told them about himself. Rama was very happy when he heard the words of Hanuman. He said to Lakshmana, “Did you hear his words? Even an enemy with his sword drawn would be pacified by such words. If a ruler has such a messenger, his efforts will always be successful.”
Hanuman took Rama and Lakshmana to Sugreeva. He had hopes that these brave young men would make Sugreeva king again.
Sugreeva’s Minister, Rama’s Messenger
Rama and Sugreeva became friends very soon. When Sugreeva challenged Vali to a fight, Rama helped his friend by killing Vali with an arrow.
When she heard this sad news, Vali’s wife, Thara was full of grief. She fell on his body, weeping. Hanuman prostrated before her and said, “Revered lady, Vali came to this condition because of his evil deeds, his own actions. Sugreeva was only the means. Please do not think that Sugreeva killed Vali. No one can live for all times in this world. Look at your son Angada and console yourself.”
Sugreeva then became king. All his troubles were over. The kingdom was his. He forgot his promise to Rama that he would immediately send servants to search for Sita and find her. He left the responsibilities of the state to his ministers; he forgot everything in his pleasures.
Hanuman warned him. He did his duty as a minister, saying the right thing at the right time. He said to Sugreeva, “O King, the kingdom and the fame which you desired are now yours. If you do not help your friends at the right time, even the greatest help you offer later will be totally useless. Though Rama is very anxious to find Sita, he is waiting for you. It is already late, but he is a patient man. Please send your army at once to search for Sita.”
Sugreeva sent Neela, one of his commanders, to find out where Sita was. And he returned to his pleasures.
The rainy season was over. It was now autumn. Rama’s mind was always filled with thoughts of Sita’s sufferings and sorrows, and he was miserable. He revealed his misery to Lakshmana. Hot blooded Lakshmana was very angry with Sugreeva. He went to see Sugreeva. His anger made Sugreeva’s subjects shiver with fear. Sugreeva himself was so terrified, he did not know what to do.
Again it was Hanuman who gave wise counsel. He said to Sugreeva, “Shri Rama may not really be angry with you. Perhaps he was sent Lakshmana to you as his work has been delayed. When those who are more powerful than we are enraged, it is not wise for us to become angry. Our anger will only heighten their rage. At such times we should seek to pacify the mighty. Besides, Shri Rama has helped you and therefore you should behave respectfully towards him.”
This time advice was effective. Sugreeva pacified Lakshmana, and with his entire army went to Rama. He sent the army in all the four directions to find out where Sita was. Vast as the ocean, the army set off with shouts of enthusiasm. The deafening noise seemed to make the earth Shiver. Shri Rama removed a ring from his finger and giving it to Hanuman, said: “When Sita sees you, she may be afraid of you, or may not believe your words. If that happens, show her this ring. We depend entirely on your strength.”
Hanuman prostrated before Rama and set off.
The Vast Sea Before Them
Hanuman, Angada, Jambavantha and others went towards the south in search of Sita. Sugreeva had given them only a month’s time to find her. They wandered far and wide and grew utterly weary. At last they came to the sea. They stood before the vast, roaring sea.
The period granted by Sugreeva was over. So what were they to do? The brave soldiers of Sugreeva sat bewildered. If they returned to Kishkindha, Sugreeva would certainly punish them. So, Angada suggested that they should fast to death on the sea-shore. But Hanuman replied, “Angada, that would not be right. Surely Sugreeva will not punish us if we return.” He tried to persuade them in many ways. But the others in their pessimism would not listen to him. All of them spread some grass and lay down on it, determined to die.
Just then a person by name Sampathi came there. From him they learnt that Sita was Ravana’s prisoner in Lanka. Their joy knew no bounds. They danced about shouting, “Oh! Now we know about Sita!” With great enthusiasm, they turned to the sea. But who could cross the ocean?
One of them said, “I can jump across ten yojanas.” (The ‘yojana’ was the old unit of measurement of distance.) Another said, “I can jump twenty yojanas.” Jambavantha was a mighty warrior, but now old. He said, “When I was young, I could leap over any distance. Now I am old, and can leap ninety yojanas. But this is a hundred.”
Angada went further can cross a hundred yojanas, and reach Lanka. But I do not know if I will have strength left to come back.”
The old Jambavantha consoled them all and said, “Hanuman is the only great hero who can leap over the sea to Lanka and come back. Let me go and cheer him up and encourage him.”
Hanuman was sitting away from others and silently gazing at the sea.
You remember that some sages had pronounced a curse upon Hanuman, when he was a young boy – that he would not be aware of his own strength unless others told him of it. Jambavantha now praised Hanuman’s strength and ability. He said, “No other living creature has your strength, wisdom and radiance. Why are you sitting quiet, not knowing yourself? You can certainly jump over the ocean.”
What Can Stop Hanuman?
As Hanuman became aware of his own powers, great enthusiasm welled up in him. He stood up and after glancing at them all began to grow. His companions were astonished. As they went on praising him, his stature grew.
He grew so tall that he could jump across the sea. Still he was very modest. He bowed to the elders and said, “I am the son of the Wind God who can move in the skies without touching the earth. If need be I can throw skyward all the water of this ocean and make the three worlds float on water. I will go like lightning and surely see Sitadevi.”
His voice was like thunder. He stood on Mount Mahendra and grew even bigger and then leapt.
Even the gods in Heaven were amazed at Hanuman’s flight over the ocean. They wanted to test his strength; they sent an unearthly spirit by name Surase, from the serpent world, to obstruct him. She appeared before Hanuman in the form of a rakshasi (demon) and roared: “The gods have given you for my food. I will swallow you,” “You cannot go further without entering my mouth,” she added.
She opened her mouth, and it was big enough to swallow the huge Hanuman.
Hanuman increased his size further and said, “Eat me if you want but your mouth will have to be much bigger.” Surase’s mouth grew wider as Hanuman’s body grew bigger. Hanuman’s form grew bigger and bigger. Even so, Surase’s mouth grew wider and wider.
Hanuman was clever. He thought there would be no end to this process. Suddenly he shrank to the size of a thumb, entered her mouth and came out. He now stood before her and entreated her with these words – “Now that I have entered your mouth and come out of it also, please allow me to continue my journey.”
Surase was pleased with his cleverness and allowed him to go, wishing him success.
Hanuman moved on. But there was another obstacle. There was another rakshasi in the way and she had a strange power. She would drag down those who were flying above the sea by catching hold of their shadows from below and would eat them up later. She was now overjoyed that she could get food and dragged down Hanuman’s shadow. Hanuman entered her mouth. But once inside, he grew bigger; he then burst open her body and came out.
Hanuman could see Lanka at a distance. His joy knew no bounds. But he feared that if he entered Lanka as he was, every one would see him. So assuming his normal size, he alighted on a mountain near the seashore.
Hanuman Enters Lanka
It was night. Hanuman was about to enter the city. But a goddess stopped him at the city gates. She was the goddess who protected Lanka. She thundered at him: “Who are you? If you wish to enter, you must first defeat me.”
Hanuman was enraged. His left fist came down on her face with crushing force. The blow made her totter. She begged him for life and said, “The Creator Brahma had said that when a monkey defeated me the end of Lanka would be near. Perhaps the time has now come. Go in and look for Sita.”
Where Is Sita?
Lanka was a city of great splendor. The eyes could feast endlessly on its beauty and wealth. It was full of grand buildings and lovely gardens. But Hanuman’s important task was to find Sita. So, he did not pay much attention to the beauty of the city. He searched for Sita in the mansions of important rakshasa leaders like Kumbhakarna. She was nowhere to be seen. Then he entered the palace of Ravana himself. He searched in all the nooks and corners of the palace but did not see Sita.
Hanuman’s anxiety grew. Rama and Sugreeva would be waiting with the belief that he would surely bring news of Sita. What answer could he give them? He thought he should not lose hope and went on with his search with renewed effort. But Sita was nowhere to be seen.
Hanuman was very much disturbed. Had she fallen into the sea on the way to Lanka? Or, had her heart burst at the sight of the vast ocean? Or perhaps Ravana had eaten her, as she did not marry him? Thoughts swarmed into his mind.
Just then he saw the garden Ashokavana at a distance. ‘Oh, I have not looked there’, thought Hanuman and flew to the garden. He combed the entire garden and finally found Sitadevi. He was in raptures. Sita was sitting under a tree, in a soiled saree. Her plight made Hanuman both sad and angry. He sat on the tree beneath which Sita was seated.
Day dawned. The rakshasa king Ravana came to see Sita. Sita did not wish to speak to him directly. She held a twig in her hand and replied to Ravana’s words, as if she was speaking to the twig. Ravana was very angry and went back. In her grief Sita decided to kill herself.
From his perch upon the tree, Hanuman could see and hear everything. He now resolved to address her. But he realized that if he talked to her all at once, she might be frightened. So he thought of a plan. From where he sat, he narrated the story of Rama. And he said, as if in wonder, “it seems as if Sitadevi is here!”
Hearing a voice from above Sita was at first scared, Ravana had just then left. She feared it might be a trick of the rakshasas. But she heard the names of Rama and Lakshmana and their story. She looked up in surprise. Hanuman softly got down from the tree and prostrated before her. He again said that he was Rama’s messenger and praised him. Sita was overjoyed. Hanuman showed her the ring, which Rama had given him. The sight of the ring brought back all her sorrow. Hanuman comforted her with these words: “Shri Rama will surely take you from here. Please do not worry. You need not even wait till Rama comes. If you agree straightaway I can carry you to Rama on my back. Not only you, but the entire city of Lanka with Ravana, I can carry on my back.”
But Sita calmed him and said: “Bring Rama and Lakshmana here.” She gave him the choodamani, a jewel she wore in her hair, so that he could show it to Shri Rama.
‘Ravana, Think Over This’
Hanuman had now completed his mission. But he thought it would be a good thing if he could manage to get an estimate of the enemy’s strength, kill some of the prominent rakshasas and also give a warning to Ravana. It occurred to him that he put Ravana in a rage, if he destroyed the Ashokavana so dear to him.
He set about it and uprooted trees. He pulled from the ground all the creepers bearing beautiful flowers. He trampled upon other plants. Seeing all this, the rakshasas on duty there ran to Ravana in fear. Ravana was furious when he heard the news. But all the rakshasas he sent were destroyed by Hanuman in the twinkling of an eye.
Ravana then sent his son Indrajith himself to capture Hanuman. Indrajith was a great hero. He fought with Hanuman for a while and then shot the Brahmasthra. Hanuman wanted to show respect to the weapon carrying the power of Lord Brahma and allowed himself to be tied up by it for a while.
The rakshasas were excited and in great glee. Indrajith took Hanuman to Ravana’s court. The sight of Hanuman threw Ravana into a towering rage. The radiance of Ravana’s face astonished Hanuman.
Even Devendra, the King of Heaven, was afraid of Ravana. But Hanuman was fearless. He told Ravana why he had gone there. He said, “Look, Ravana, it is not proper for you to kidnap Sitadevi and make her suffer like this. You have performed tapas (long prayer and meditation) Just think, can you face Rama? You will be destroyed, and your friends, relatives and this city, too, will be destroyed. Give up this evil way and restore Sita to Rama.”
His words were like adding fuel to the fire. Ravana’s anger blazed. He ordered the rakshasas to kill Hanuman. But his brother Vibheeshana intervened; he said that it was not right according to the principles of diplomacy to kill the enemy’s messenger.
Ravana agreed with him; he said to his servants, “Tails are ornamental to monkeys. So set fire to Hanuman’s tail.”
At once the rakshasas wrapped some cloth around Hanuman’s tail, poured oil over it and set fire to it.
They paraded Hanuman all over the city.
Now Hanuman was in a high rage. Still he was glad that the rakshasas were showing the whole city to him. He carefully noted the hidden fortresses, the topography and other useful details.
Then all at once he leapt high. He freed himself from the ropes. He beat up all the rakshasas following him and stood on a high place. He set fire to all the buildings nearby. The houses of Ravana’s ministers and commanders began to burn. Very soon the whole city of Lanka was in flames.
But suddenly Hanuman realized his mistake. In his enthusiasm to burn Lanka, he had forgotten that Sita was there. His heart was about to burst. Quickly he flew to Ashokavana. He saw Sita sitting under a tree. His anxiety was at an end. He touched her feet and received her blessings; then he flew back across the ocean.
Jambavantha, Angada and others were waiting for Hanumantha. The sight of Hanuman brought them immense relief.
A Hero Without Equal
In his anxiety to get news about Sita, Shri Rama was counting each day.
Hanuman narrated all his doings to Rama in detail and also gave him the ornament sent by Sita. Rama was overjoyed. He said: “Hanuman has done what no one else in the world could do. I had not seen a hero who could leap across the sea. He is a very intelligent messenger who has done not only what he was asked to, but also what he thought was appropriate. He is a good messenger who performs the task assigned to him and also what pleases his master. Surely, Hanuman is an excellent messenger.” Shri Rama embraced Hanuman and praised him highly.
Preparations were afoot for the war with Ravana. The monkey army marched towards Lanka with great enthusiasm. Rama and Lakshmana were carried by Hanuman and Angada respectively on their shoulders.
After Hanuman left Lanka, Vibheeshana tried to advise his elder brother Ravana. But was Ravana a person to listen to wise counsel? So, Vibheeshana left him and surrendered to Rama. There were heated arguments whether Vibheeshana should be accepted or not. Shri Rama turned to Hanuman for his opinion. The latter said, “My Lord, allow me to say one thing. I have carefully watched Vibheeshana’s face and listened to his voice when he was speaking. He has no deceit or evil intention. I think you can accept him. But with your matchless intelligence, only you can finally decide what you should do with Vibheeshana.”
Finally Shri Rama gave shelter to Vibheeshana and his followers.
The Vanara army built a bridge across the sea. The war between Rama and Ravana began.
‘If One Hanuman Is Alive�’
Hanuman’s valour rose sky-high in this war. He dashed rakshasas to the ground or whirled them and threw them up. He crushed to death many a rakshasa hero like Dhoomraksha and Akampana. The enemies trembled at his very sight. Anjaneya fought so valiantly that Ravana himself praised him as a real hero. Rama had no chariot to fight Ravana, who was sitting on a high chariot. Hanuman carried Rama on his shoulders when Rama had to fight with Ravana.
Ravana’s son Indrajith was a great hero of the rakshasa army. He once shot the Brahmasthra, the terrible missile with the power of Lord Brahma, the God of Creation. The whole Vanara army tell down unconscious. Even Rama and Lakshmana fainted. Hanuman who had also fainted for a moment, got up and going round the battlefield with Vibheeshana, put courage into his soldiers with his words. While walking along, Vibheeshana saw the old Jambavantha and spoke to him. The latter opened his eyes slowly and asked, “Vibheeshana, is Hanuman alive?”
Vibheeshana was amazed and said, “Revered Jambavantha, you do not ask about Rama and Lakshmana or about Sugreeva, Angada or Neela. But you ask about Hanuman only; why?”
“Vibheeshana, if that one great hero is alive, even if the entire Vanara army is dead, it makes no difference. But if that one person is dead, our army is as good as dead. We can hope to live only as long as he is alive.” So replied Jambavantha.
Hanuman, who was standing quite near and heard these words, held his feet with respect and devotion, and mentioning his own name, said he was alive. Then Jambavantha said to him, “You have now to do a mighty task to bring our army to life. You have also to save Rama and Lakshmana who have fainted because of the Brahmasthra.
Fly across the ocean and over a great distance till you reach the Himalaya mountains. You will there see a mountain containing all herbs. There grow the herbs Mritha Sanjeevini, Vishalyakarani, Savamakarani and Sandhanakarani. Fetch them at once and save these soldiers.”
Immediately Hanuman flew towards the Himalayas with the speed of thought. He could also see the mountain. Hanuman searched for them and, when he could not find the herbs, threatened the mountain itself in his terrible anger. “See what I will do to you,” he said, and shaking the very mountain flew back with it to Lanka. As he streaked across the sky with the mountain it appeared as if the very sun was flying towards Lanka.
The very smell of those herbs was enough to make Rama, Lakshmana and the whole army recover and sit up. The rakshasas did not want the enemy to know how many on their side had died; so, obeying Ravana’s orders, they had thrown their dead into the sea. So no rakshasa could come back to life. Having achieved his Purpose, Hanuman flew back with the mountain to its place, put it there, and hurried again to the battlefield.
After the war was over, Hanuman entered Lanka and stood before Sita and told her of the victory. Sita was speechless for a moment with joy. Then she said that there was no fitting reward she could give to Hanuman who had brought such happy tidings.
“The words you have spoken with such affection are more precious than any heap of diamonds or the divine kingdom. I have seen Rama victorious. What greater fortune can I ask for!” Hanuman replied.
Rama had now to return to Ayodhya. But he had some doubts. Bharatha had ruled over the kingdom for fourteen years. So he might wish to be the king. How could he find out? Even if Bharatha had that desire, he would not say so. And nobody could ask him. Some intelligent person should make it out from Bharatha’s face and the way he spoke, and should then inform Rama. It was a difficult mission which would need much shrewdness and a capacity to understand persons.
Who was to go?
There was only one person whom every one remembered when there was a difficulty to be overcome, when courage and intelligence was needed. And that was Anjaneya! Shri Rama, of course, sent for Hanuman.
He told him, “if Bharatha has the slightest wish to be king and does not want me to return, come and tell me. I will stay on here. You must carefully observe his expression and study his words and find out.”
Hanuman assumed the shape of a man and went to Ayodhya and informed Bharatha of Rama’s arrival. Bharatha fainted with joy. When he recovered he said, “O greatest of men, I do not know whether you are a man or a god. I must reward you for bringing this glad news.”
Shri Rama returned to Ayodhya.
His coronation took place with great splendor. Rama gave priceless gifts to all his friends. He also gave an invaluable necklace and ornaments to Sitadevi. But she remembered the great help of Hanuman and gave them to him. She even took off the necklace and looked at Rama. Shri Rama read her mind and said, “Devi, do please give the necklace to the person who has brought you immense joy and in whom valour, ability, courtesy and wisdom are embedded for ever.” At once, she gave necklace to Hanuman.