Lord Hanuman is described in the various Vedic scriptures primarily the Ramayana as a devout servitor of Lord Rama. Born to Anjana and Kesari, he acted as a determined assistant, subordinate and devotee of the Lord in a ghastly battle against the Lankan King Ravana who had abducted Mother Sita, Rama’s divine consort.
Hanuman is considered to be Chiranjeevi; the one who lives eternally. He is stronger than the strongest enemies, full of valour, with various skills and powers. He is one of the famed devotees of the Lord. His devotion to the Lord is matchless. At the same time he is the wisest of all, very knowledgeable, and a brahmachari (celibate). Throughout his life as given in the epic Ramayana, he performed only one task which is serving the lotus feet of Lord Rama by obeying His commandments. He joined the military forces with the Lord in a battle against the Lankan King Ravana, and used his extraordinary powers several times to assist the Lord. He also set Ravana’s Lanka on fire in an attempt to save Mother Sita.
There are various legends as to how Hanuman received his name. He is known by many different names, some of which include:
- Anjaneya – Son of Anjana
- Hanumanta – One with puffy cheeks
- Kesari Nandan - son of Kesari
- Marutinandan - son of Marut, or the wind
- Pavanputra - son of wind
- Bajrang Bali - strong like a thunderbolt
- Manojavam - the one who is swift as mind
- Kapeeshwar – Lord of Monkeys
- Akshahantrey – Slayer of Aksha
Lord Hanuman is known for obedience, intelligence and devotion to his tasks. His communication skills are exemplary. He symbolizes strength controlled by mind power. He grants his devotees knowledge, wisdom, valour and strength. Worshipped on Tuesdays, he is worshipped as Bhaktha Hanuman and also as Veera Hanuman in the temples. He is usually depicted kneeling humbly in front of Rama vigrahmas (Deities of Lord Rama) in the Rama Sannadhis. As Bhaktha Hanuman - he is often shown with both hands folded together in prayers. As Veera Hanuman, he is often shown battling alongside Rama, holding his Mace in one hand and the Sanjeevi Parvatham (Mountain) in the other.
Lord Hanuman is considered to be a boundary guardian, and his temples are believed to keep demons and evil spirits at bay. He is also worshipped by the devotees of Shiva as a profound Yogi, and by wrestlers to grant them immense strength. His idols and small temples are also often found on the treacherous mountain roads as he is believed to protect his worshippers from accidents.
Why does Lord Hanuman have the physiognomy of a monkey?
Lord Hanuman is half human-half monkey. He has superhuman strengths, and can fly like the wind. He also has the ability to change his form, and often increases or decreases his size as mentioned in the Ramayana. He has the dhvajaa or yellow flag, and a vajra or lightning bolt on the palms of either hand. On his forehead is the marking of Lord Vishnu — a U-shaped marking with a dot in the middle.
Over his shoulders, Lord Hanuman wears the Janeyu - a sacred thread of Brahmins. His tail curves upwards and on the end hangs a bell. He is always depicted wearing either red (colour of strength) or saffron clothes (colour of sacrifice), like a sage. Red is the colour of strength and saffron is the colour of sacrifice. Around his neck he wears a string of pearls that is a gift from Mother Sita for helping rescue her. Lord Hanuman’s weapon is Gada, or the Mace. He is also often depicted carrying the Sanjeevani Parvath in one hand. Legend has it that during the battle between Lord Rama and Ravana at Lanka, Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana was mortally wounded by an arrow. To save his life, Hanuman journeyed to the Himalayas to retrieve the Sanjeevani herb. He did not know which herbs to bring back, so he carried back the whole mountain to save Lakshmana’s life.
Vehicle of Lord Hanuman
Lord Hanuman doesn’t have a vahana or vehicle. This is because he has the ability to fly, a gift from Vaayu, or the Lord of Wind. However, sometimes he is shown on a camel, as seen at Veera Anjaneya Swamy Temple, Hyderabad. One legend explains that Lord Hanuman did use a camel as his vehicle to please one of his devotees. An ardent devotee of Hanuman did penance by praying for his ‘darshan’ for many years. Lord Hanuman blessed him with his darshan but the devotee was not satisfied. He told Lord Hanuman that the darshan was too swift, just like a gust of wind, and he couldn’t see him to heart’s content. He requested Lord Hanuman to take the camel for his vahaana, so he could have a good long look at him. Bound to the devotee because of his ardent devotion, Lord Hanuman granted his wish. This is why he is sometimes shown astride a camel.
Favorite Fruits and food of Lord Hanuman
Lord Hanuman is very pleased when he is offered Gur or Jaggery, and gram. He especially favours bananas. He is also often worshipped with offerings of butter, which is applied to his mouth and tail in temples.
Role of Hanuman in Mahabharata and Ramayana
The Fifth Book of the Ramayana, called as Sundara Kanda, is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. Hanuman meets Lord Rama during His Fourteen Year exile, while he (Hanuman) was the Chief Minister for King Sugriva, ruler of Kishkindha. He approached the brothers (Rama and Lakshmana) disguised as a Brahmin.
When Rama introduces Himself, the Brahmin falls at His feet. Thereafter, Hanuman's life becomes deeply interwoven with that of Rama. Hanuman then brings about an alliance between Lord Rama and King Sugriva. Later the Lord assists Sugriva in regaining his honour. King Sugriva along with his Vanar Sena (army of monkeys) joins forces with Rama to defeat Ravana.
When Ravana abducts Sita, Rama sends Hanuman to give His message to Ravana. Hanuman flies to Lanka and reducing his size to that of an ant finds Mother Sita in captivity in a garden. He expands to normal and reveals his identity to Her, but she refuses to leave with him. He kills many Rakshasas (demons), so Ravana’s son Indrajit binds him using the Brahmasutra. He conveys Rama's message of warning and demands the safe return of Sita. He also informs Ravana that Rama would be willing to forgive him if he returns Sita honourably. But when Ravana orders his execution instead, Hanuman allows his tail to be lit on fire, and uses it to burn down Lanka.
In the Ramayana, Hanuman changes shape several times. From a cat searching Lanka for the kidnapped Sita to the size of a mountain blazing with radiance, he changes his form several times. He does this due to the two siddhis bestowed upon him by Surya, Anima and Garima. He also journeys to the Himalayas to retrieve the Sanjeevani herb to save Lakshmana, who is severely wounded by an arrow when fighting Indrajit. Unable to decide which herbs to bring back, Hanuman carries back the whole mountain to save Lakshman’s life.
Hanuman also saves Rama and Lakshmana from Rakshasa Mahiravana and Ahiravan, brother of Ravana. They trap the two princes in Patala, guarded by a fierce creature who is part reptile and part monkey, called as Makardhwaja. When Hanuman reaches to rescue them, he realizes that Makardhwaja is his son, as he was born when a drop of sweat falls into the water when Hanuman dips his tail into the ocean to extinguish his burning tail from the way back to Lanka. When Hanuman introduces himself to Makardhwaja, the latter asks his blessings. Hanuman enters Patala and kills Mahiravana by taking the form of Panchmukhi Hanuman.
Lord Hanuman is also mentioned in the Mahabharata. He is considered to be Bhima’s brother, since they are both the sons of Vaayu. He meets Bhima disguised as a weak and aged monkey, in an attempt to subdue his arrogance. Bhima enters a field where Hanuman is lying with his tail blocking the way. Bhima asks the old monkey to move it, but the disguised Lord Hanuman asks him to move it out of the way. When the powerful Bhima fails at lifting the tail, he requests to know the monkey’s identity. At his request, Hanuman reveals his true magnanimous form, and is also said to have enlarged himself to demonstrate his size and might during the legend of the crossing of the sea as he journeyed to Lanka in Ramayana. He also assures Bhima that he will be by his side to protect the Pandavas in the war of Mahabharata. According to a legend, Hanuman is one of the four divine personalities to have heard the Bhagavad Gita from Krishna and seen his Vishvarupa (universal) form.
Read more about Hanuman Chalisa and its benefits
Story about why Lord Hanuman attempts to consume Planet Sun:
There are several interesting legends associated with Lord Hanuman, as a young, frivolous child. As a young child, Hanuman loved having fruits. One day, he saw the Sun to be a ripe mango, and decided to eat it. Since Hanuman was no ordinary child, he flew toward the Sun planet, at the same time that Rahu was approaching the Sun for an eclipse. The two clashed, and the child Hanuman thrashed Rahu. Rahu had no choice but to request the King Indra to intervene. When Indra saw Lord Hanuman trying to eat the Sun, he attacked him by throwing a thunderbolt or Vajra. Stunned by the impact, the child Hanuman fell to earth, completely unconscious getting a permanent mark on his jaw. Angered by Indra’s attack, Lord Vaayu, the Wind god, who considers Hanuman his son withdrews all air from Earth, causing the world to die.
To appease him, all the demigods revived Hanuman and blessed him with multiple boons. Brahma gave Hanuman a boon that would protect him from the irrevocable Brahma's curse. From Shiva, he obtained the boons of longevity, the ability to cross the ocean and scriptural wisdom. Indra blessed him that the Vajra weapon will no longer be effective on him. Varuna blessed baby Hanuman with a boon that he would always be protected from water. Agni blessed him so he could never be harmed by fire. Surya awarded him two siddhis - namely "laghima" and "garima", to be able to get bigger than the biggest and smaller than the smallest. Yama, the God of Death blessed him immortality. Vishwakarma blessed him so that Hanuman could not be harmed by any form of objects or weapons. Vayu blessed him with more speed than he himself had. Kamadeva also blessed him that the appeal of sex will not weaken him. And hence, that’s how Lord Hanuman gained several supernatural powers.
Another story of Lord Hanuman tells of how Lord Rama blessed him for his unmatched devotion. Hanuman saw Mother Sita applying Sindoor to Her forehead and asked Her why She did that every day. When Sita said that this simple act was done as a gesture to pray for longevity for Her husband, Rama’s life. Upon hearing this, Hanuman got intrigued. He thought that if a pinch of sindoor in the hair can increase the longevity of Lord Rama, then why not apply on the entire body? Seeing his sindoor covered body, Lord Rama gave him a blessing that whenever the name of devotion takes place, Hanuman’s name will be taken first. Also, whoever will pay respect to Hanuman on Tuesday, not only will their wishes come true, but they will also be dear to Lord Rama Himself.
Some secret legends:
The most intriguing legend related to Lord Hanuman is related to his birth. How does Hanuman have two fathers – both Kesari and Vaayu?
Anjana was a beautiful Apsara in celestial palace court of Lord Brahma, but was cursed by a sage to become monkey-faced. With Brahma’s blessings, she was born on earth and married Kesari, the Ape king. Being an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, she prayed to Him every day and told Him that her one desire was to be freed from the curse of the sage.
When King Dasrath was performing Yagna that blessed him and his wives to give birth to divine incarnations in the form of Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna, a kite stole part of the Prasad kheer given to Kaushlya, and flew to where Anjana was meditating. Lord Vayu kept the kheer in Anjana’s hand, and she drank it thinking its Lord Shiva’s Prasad. Hence was born Lord Shiva’s incarnation – Anjaneya, the son of Anjana, and who is also well known as Vayu Putra because Lord Vayu played an important role for his birth.