Who are Aghoris?
Most of us have heard of Aghoris and the common knowledge that is prevailing is that they are tantric practitioners who perform very strange rituals that shock the normal people who are horrified when they hear some of the tantric practices that involve corpses, dead bodies, feces, burial grounds, sexual intercourse with dead bodies and cannibalism.
However, since they deal with spirits and indulge in some grisly acts, they are also highly feared while they also arouse deep curiosity in common people with varying reactions from all the people who learn of these practices.
The routines are religious in nature but the rituals are far from normal religious practices; they are a bit on the unbelievable side due to the mystique surrounding them.
In short, the Aghori sadhus are associated with weird grisly and even disgusting rituals that may involve decayed fecal matter, indulging in the sex act with decayed and burnt corpses, cannibalizing the corpses even when they are half burnt, having sexual intercourse with the dead bodies, rituals involving skulls, spirits and corpses.
These followers of Bhairava another manifestation of Lord Shiva are dressed in black while they are themselves dark-skinned and sport long black hair.
The main feature of these Aghoris is that they are almost always under the influence of drugs or hard liquor. Their eyes seem to be stable and at peace with the world.
There are various stories about their habitats. The general concept is that they avoid human habitations and stay is secluded, hidden places away from the prying eyes of the curious human beings. They dwell near cremation grounds or the jungle areas where they conduct their weird rituals far from human presence.
That is why they chose to stay in the frosty wilderness of the Himalayas concealing themselves in caves or other hidden enclaves.
They were also residing the tiger-infested jungles of West Bengal as also in the hot deserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat.
The basic idea is to avoid human company while they meditate and go into trances in their religious pursuits.
Aghoris worship Bhairava another form of Shiva or Mahakala or the female version Shakti or Mahakali, the destroyer, or its female manifestation who is the goddess of death, Shakti or Kali.
While the Hindu philosophy considers each deity as a manifestation of another and the effort is to worship all forms of the gods and goddesses thus satisfying all deities.
But, the religious demands of both Lord Shiva and the goddess Kali are not just ordinary ones; their requirements are specific and unchangeable. Here the role of the aghories is vital since they are the only ones who are willing to go out of the way of comforts and undergo the hardships that will please Kali and Lord Shiva (manifested as Bhairav)
The Divine Satisfaction
According to the Aghor philosophy, the ferocious goddess Kali is so intense and demanding that ordinary gifts will not appease her. She can only be appeased by the offerings of Meat, blood, sex and alcohol.
These things are normally not available to most of the other sadhus who are vegetarian and teetotalers.
The Aghori ideology sees everything as one and in this quest to perceive the oneness of even banned items like feces, or human flesh or liquids which they consume to appease their deities.
In their oneness theory they feel that they cannot discriminate against waste matter too.
Sex Rituals to Appease Deities
The fiery Goddess Kali is not an easy deity to please; according to Aghoris, the most difficult practices have to be performed so that the great Goddess can be satisfied.
Some consume gore and feces, some get their apertures sexually exploited by dried fecal tools, while most of them have to find a corpse and copulate with it. They are thus looking for show their oneness with vilest acts and the use of the filthiest things since their only aim is to remain lost in the lord overlooking all these dirty distractions without getting the sense of revulsion that may break their focus.
The Sex Act
Sexual intercourse has a very prominent place in the Aghoris’ way of life but they are quite secretive and conducted amid much fanfare and the beating of drums and chantings of some powerful mantras; and, all these acts are performed amid the presence of the dead and their spirits.
During sex, the females are penetrated with the genitals of the males and also with penis-like appendages made of dried up feces.
The belief is that smearing the ashes of the dead and copulating in the midst of the dead provides awesome supernatural powers to the practitioners of the sex act.
The rules of copulation during these rituals quite strict and unrelenting and require that:
- The women taking part in this ritual should be menstruating since blood and sex satisfy the Goddess,
- The woman in question should be penetrated for almost an hour,
- She should be a willing partner in this grisly sex act without any negative feelings, the men cannot ejaculate till the ritual and its mantras are over,
- The participants in this sex act should be in a state of trance.
Supernatural powers are received after the satisfaction of the goddess and the lord whom the participants are impersonating.
Other Principles of the Aghori sect
- Aghoris do not fear the dead,
- They do not harbor grudges or hate,
- To become confirmed Aghoris, they should possess a kapal or skull purified by mantras which is their identification,
- They are then allowed to eat corpses,
- They do not kill for eating flesh,
- Marijuana is a regular habit,
- They practice tantric rituals and prepare strange medications.
Thus, it can be seen that even though we may not agree or understand the basics of this secluded, reclusive sect of sadhus, just knowing about their practices can lead to some understanding of these people and their faith.
Tāṇḍavam, also known as Tāṇḍava nṛitya is the creation of Lord Shiva whose moods were depicted in this divine art form in the shape of a dance that he used to perform. It is said that this dance created and first performed by Lord Shiva, the creator of the universe who was supposed to be the Master of Dance or The king of dance Natraj himself.
It is believed by his devotees that this Hindu God could vary the intensity of this graceful and artistic dance to express the mood swings that were overtaking him quite often; it is also believed that the complete cycle of creating, preserving and dissolving in this world has its source in the Thandavam.
His Rudra Roop is the intense version of his personality, it is also full of violence and even the gods used to run away when he was in that fiery rage; he himself is the creator and destroyer too and, he is capable of destroying death itself. When he assumes the Rudra Roop, he starts performing the Taandava Nritya which is known to be accompanied by a stotra which is a eulogy or hymn that is sung along with the Tandava nritya
The other milder and joyous version of the Tandava is called Ananda Tandava which the lord used to indulge in when he was in a happier, more pious or sexually aroused mood
Shiva is describes a s Nataraja as per the Shaiva Siddhant traditions and he is the supreme lord who invented the Taandava and its various branches; hence, he is the King of Dancing.
The name of the dance is derived from the closest disciple of Shiva who was called Tandu; he was so adept at his knowledge of the dance form that he was the one who coached Bharata, the famous author of the Natya Shastra, a book that goes deep into the world of dance and its teaching. In doing so he also imparted a deep insight about the finer aspects of the Thandavam particularly in the usage Karanas and Angharas modes of the Thandava.
He has done this in compliance to the instructions of Shiva but there is also a thinking in some scholars that the Natya Shastra also contained an earlier work which might have been written by Tandu himself.
It is also believed that almost all the art forms of classical dance, music and song have been derived from the rituals and mudras derived from the Shaiva traditions.
Raavan Tandava Strotra
In fact there is an interesting story concerning the strotra that is sung along with the Thandav nritya; it concerns Ravana who is said to have been the one who created the Raavan Tandav Strotra which was sung by him as a prayer to Lord Shiva.
It is said that Ravana was a byproduct of the union of both the gods and the demons and he was blessed with the good qualities of both; the result was a personality, mind and body that was second to none in terms of the divine powers that he possessed. These powers kept on growing and he developed an awesome personality bestowed with all the right qualities.
With strict penance and meditation, he was able to please Lord Brahma who rewarded him with some weapons while also granting him invincibility. This boon and its ramifications went to his head and he went to Mount Kailash and uprooted it from the earth.
This affront offended Lord Shiva who used his toe to push down the mountain entrapping Ravana and started to crush him slowly. Sensing the extra pressure that was gradually increasing, Ravana found himself unable to contain the massive weight of Mount Kailash.
Realizing that he had made a huge mistake, Ravana started to plead for his life and sing praises to the almighty lord to spare his life even though he was an ignorant person.
But, what emerged from his learned entreaties was a wonderful form of poetry that was in the form of a prayer to the great qualities of Lord Shiva to invoke his goodness to spare his life; this prayer is known as Ravana Tandav Strotra. Since that time the strotra is sung along with the Tandav nritya to invoke the forgiveness and blessings of the Lord.
In turn, Lord Siva was really impressed by Ravana’s artistic talent in coming up with an extempore work of excellence that he pulled him out from under mount Kailash and rewarded him with a Chandrahaas which is a weapon.
In this modern world, the way of life has become urbanized to a great extent and the common man has moved quite a distance from the religious cults and practices of the past; you may call it the effect of education and development. We may also assert that the growth of humans as logical, enlightened beings is a result of this development; yet, this does not mean that the secrets of religious practices and secret cults and mysticism, voodoo, magic and tantra have ceased to exist.
The practices, secret or open, have been nurtured by the experts, the religious-minded and through secret practices by hidden and forbidden clans.
Aghoris are a living example, they are visible quite frequently but not their internal secret practices, rituals and occultism; coming across an ascetic with ash rubbed on his body may not tell you that the ash is from a funeral pyre. Aghoris are actually reclusive ascetics who follow Shaivism and have, through the practice of the secret arts continued the practice proximity to the dead; because, it is believed that they are the link between the dead and the living.
In fact, we may state that they are the Hindu version of magicians and witch doctors; because they have these black powers, they are shunned and abhorred by the normal Hindus. They normally smear ashes from the funeral pyres on their bodies; the higher rituals require eating rotting human flesh. Their ultimate aim is to transform the Shava (corpse) to Shiva which they attain by meditating while sitting on a dead corpse.
- Their main characteristics:
- They are smeared with human ash,
- They are known to stay in burial or cremation grounds,
- They engage in Post Mortems, and
- They use the human bones for preparing jewelry and performing rituals.
- They do Sex with dead bodies and if they ever do sex with women’s and they only do during their menstrual days.
For them Sex is not for pleasure, it is a way to channelize the energies of Kundalini and there are certain Aghori rituals which can be performed during Sex only. For them it is a way to attain the supreme power and a way to merge Shakti with Shiva. Shakti is represented as Kundalini which is located at the base of spine and Shiva resides at the crown chakra. So during Sex normally Kundalini rises from Root chakra (Mooladhar Chakra) and travel towards Crown Chakra.
The Hindus believe that, if the Aghoris and other Tantrics are able to get hold of a complete human carcass from the cremation grounds, the body parts and the bones may be used to create powerful black magic; therefore, after cremation it is a practice to hide one bone of the body so that no one can get hold of it to complete the human carcass for conducting the rituals.
Aghoris are highly venerated and the common people have fanatical belief in their powers; they engage in exorcism and conduct healing against possession by evil spirits.
They are believed to be very effective in treating hauntings and freedom from evil spirits through worship and mantras; renunciation, tapasya and mantras are their potent weapons for fighting of supernatural entities.
Beliefs and aims
Aghoris are devotees of Bhairava, a manifestation of Lord Shiva in his most fiery form; he is a destroyer and causes annihilation at will. Aghoris are believers in monism which means that everything goes back to one single thing which can divide arbitrarily or by artificial means divided into many different things all of which are distinct by themselves.
Through their way of living, they also seek moksha or freedom from the perennial cycle of birth, death and reincarnation; this aim is sought to be fulfilled through the unification of the identity of the self with the absolute; that is in keeping with their monistic philosophy.
They also have the firm belief, in keeping with their belief in monism, that all the opposite forms have no reality and are simply illusory. Their philosophy in accepting degradation and pollution while leaving behind the social taboos in modern Hinduism, is supposed to provide them a typically special level of consciousness making the concept of non-duality (advaita) that much clearer.
The Aghoris have another similar group with which they are likely to be confused; they are the Shivnetras who are similarly ardent devotees of Lord Shiva but differ from the Aghoris in one vital aspect.
The Shivnetras (eyes of Shiva) are known to be following the Sattvic form of worship that is based on purity and goodness but the Aghoris form of worship is diametrically opposite due to the practice of Tamasic form of worship which is denoted by the following qualities:
- Inaction, and
Though the Aghori Traditions might differ in their beliefs and practices, the broader principles of Shaivism are very deeply rooted in their strict following of their faith.
The two cardinal principles that they adopt and observe religiously in keeping with their Shaiva principles are:
- Shiva is perfect: Since he is Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent, and
- Shiva is the doer: All occurrences and conditions, effects and their causes are the doing of Shiva.
This entails that all existing things are perfect; denying their perfection is to deny the existence of the Supreme Being.
Aims of Aghori meditation
The ultimate aim of an Aghori is to become a Sadasiva which is a state where you attain moksha or freedom; this state can only be attained if they are able to get rid of eight restricting bonds that they need to be free of; these are jointly called Astamahapasa i.e. eight great restricting bonds that come in the way of salvation.
The Aghories seek to remove these bonds to achieve moksha – Shame, Fear, hatred, sensual pleasure, greed, obsession and anger.
- Sexual acts conducted under certain conditions help in attaining victory over sexual desires,
- Sadhana in a burial place or cremation ground removes fear,
- Shame is eradicated when you are naked during the rituals and otherwise.
Kina Ram was the founder of the Aghori faith in the modern world and is stated to have been about 150 years old when he died in the late 18th century.
According to some accounts, Dattatreya was the adi-guru who founded the aghori faith appeared to Keenaram at the top of the Girnar Mountains in Gujarat and fed him on his own flesh to bless him with certain extra powers like clairvoyance while accepting him as his disciple.
Dattatreya was considered as the incarnation of Vishnu, Mahesh and Brahma and is highly respected in all the sects practicing Tantra; he appears frequently in the Puranas, the scriptures and performs the left-hand Tantric worship which is considered to be highly effective.
Asshava samskara is one of the most the famous rituals involving a corpse as the altar to invoke their mother-goddess called Smashaan (Cremation ground) Tara who, like Kali, is one of the ten wisdom-goddesses of which Bhairavi, Baglamukhi and Dhumavati are the most powerful mahavidyas and worshipped by Aghories.
Also worshiped by Aghoris for attaining supernatural powers are Avadhuti, Mahakala, Virabhadra, Bhairav and some other manifestations of Lord Shiva.’ The Shava Sadhana, worship with a corpse is another practice that is popular among the Aghories.
The Kuldevi (Patron Goddess) of the Aghories is Hinglaj Mata and the main pilgrimage point is Kina Ram’s ashram in Varanasi which houses the Samadhi of the Aghori saint.
While the cremation grounds are the natural habitat of the Aghories, those which are in the vicinity of the 51 Yoni Pithas are the most famous; they are found all over South Asia and the Himalayas.
Aghories are famous for exorcising haunted houses.
Patients afflicted with severe ailments believe that the Aghoris can heal your ailments by transferring the weak health to their sturdy and healthy bodies and then transferring the health state back to your body; this is an amazing form of Transformative Healing method.
But mainly Aghoris are known for their darker powers and it is believed that if they do any kind of black magic or some tantra on anyone than it is really difficult to get rid of it. They are very aggressive, having fierce energies and these days it is really difficult to find a true Aghoris.
T he Hindu faith and its mythology is a massive collection of episodes, personalities, scriptures with most of them interconnected and woven into astonishing tales of heroics, valour, devotion, faith etc. While some of these look like spinning or concoctions, others are vividly crafted sagas which go deep into details and leave a distinct mark on the psyche and thinking of the reader.
In Hinduism, it is all based on belief and faith; if you do not believe; it is like a figment of someone’s fertile imagination and appears to be a concoction. But, faith provides you with deep insights and a sense of knowledge and power as you proceed further and get immersed in the veritable subject with reverence and devotion.
One of the most popular and endearing tales in the mythology of Hindus is the churning of the ocean which finds mention in ancient scriptures like the Vishnu Purana, Bhagwat Purana and the Mahabharata is pertaining to the production of the elixir of life otherwise called the drink of immortality Amrit.
It is believed that the nectar or Amrit was obtained after the Demons on one side and the Devas on the other, physically churned the ocean.
A slight variation occurs to this fantastic saga with the Churning of the waters of the ocean being substituted for milk; therefore, it is also called Kshirsagar manthan (kshir meaning milk and sagar meaning ocean).
This is how the story goes:
Indra was the ruler of all gods (devas) and used to go around his kingdom seated on a white elephant called Airavat. During one of his journeys he met Sage Durvasa.
The Ferocious Durvasa
The significance of this rishi needs to be elaborated before we proceed further. Durvasa muni was born to Atri and Anusuyya and, due to the story surrounding his birth, he is claimed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
The 44th chapter of Brahmanand Purana narrates the story of a massive confrontation between Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva; so violent was the quarrel that Lord Shiva was overtaken by his legendary rage which nobody except Parvati, his consort could face.
This rage prompted all devas to flee to avoid the effects of his violent rage; but, Parvati who was also very powerful could face him at any time. During that period, following such upheavals Parvati told him point blank that, due to his uncontrollable anger, Shiva was not pleasant company and it was becoming increasingly difficult to cohabit with him.
This pronouncement by his beloved had the desired effect on the mighty Shiva; he made up his mind to scale down his anger (rather, to get rid of it) so that he is able to mellow down to come to the expectations of his beloved.
He, therefore, deposited his anger into Anusuyya, sage Atri’s wife due to which she gave birth to a male child named Durvasa which literally translates into one with whom it is difficult to live.
Since Durvasa was made up of the component of Shiva’s legendary anger, he grew up to be armed with a mercurial temper that was quick to display itself.
The episodes of Samudra Manthan find specific mentions in the scriptures including Padma purana, Vayu purana, and the Vishnu Purana, Ahni Purana and the Srimad Bhagvata apart from others; other scriptures, however, just do not make any mention of the claim that a curse by sage Durvasa had any role in the Samudra manthan episode.
According to these scriptures the churning of the ocean was resorted to by the Devas and Asuras in their search for immortality.
In keeping a vow, Durvasa was on the move in an entranced state when he came across a beautiful nymph called Vidyadhari who was wearing a wreath of heavenly flowers; on the request of the sage, she immediately handed over the garland to Durvasa who adorned it on his eyebrow.
Indra used to undertake tours of various areas in his kingdom; it was during such a journey that the Lord accompanied with some other gods came across Durvasa Muni who was in a state of intoxication and frenzy. On seeing the king of the lords, Durvasa flung the garland towards Indra; Indra caught the garland and placed it on the head of Airawat who threw it to the ground in anger and irritation.
The reason for this action of Airawat is explained by the garland being sticky and wet and laced with nectar; it also bore a foul smell. The other reason which is attributed to this act of Airavat is that Indra, being an arrogant king of the gods, used to be a bit insulting to others.
The moist and sticky garland angered Airawat since it conveyed that Indra had no care for Airawat’s comfort; or, so Airawat thought.
Meanwhile, the disrespect to his gift angered Durvasa no end; he cast a curse on Indra stating that, as he threw the gift of his, similarly he will be cast from his exalted position as the head of the three worlds.
No amount of pleading could assuage the anger of the famed sage who carried the anger of Shiva within him; he did not heed the requests and just went away in his frenzy.
This curse had the effect of diminishing the prowess of Indra and his followers; this prompted the Asuras, who were looking for just such an opportunity, to launch a massive attack on the gods. The demons were led by Bali and they forced the gods to flee and seek help.
The first source for the gods to appeal for help was Brahma who, due to reasons that are not quite clear, refused to help the gods and advised them to proceed to Vishnu for his help and guidance.
The Fight Back Trick
Vishnu was a very powerful and wise god and he advised the gods to first strike a truce with the Asuras and then unite with them to churn up the kshirsagar i.e. ocean of milk to obtain the amrit or nectar that, when consumed, provides immortality to that person.
The plan was to ensure that the Devas would become immortal and then get rid of the Asuras who would be cheated out of the nectar of immortality.
This was actually a ruse thought up by Vishnu to enrol the massive hordes of Asuras who were also interested in consuming the nectar and achieving immortality. The agreement would be that the nectar churned up from the ocean would be shared equally by the Devas and the Asuras and their dream of immortality would be fulfilled.
But, there was a vile trick in the whole planning whereby only the Devas would be consuming the Nectar and obtaining immortality. This would enable the Devas defeat the Asuras and get rid of them forever.
Preparing for Samudra Manthan
Obviously, the Devas and Asuras got engaged in the job of planning the whole project; it was decided that:
- Mount Mandara would serve the purpose of the upright churning rod,
- The King of the Serpents, Vasuki who is always seen coiled around Lord Shiva’s neck would serve as the rope that churns the churning rod.
There was another wise twist given by Vishnu to unduly favour the Devas, he suggested that the Devas should choose to hold Vasuki from the tail of the serpent while the Asuras should hold the head and pull alternately so that the churning rod would turn and produce nectar.
The Asuras holding the head would be subjected to the fumes of Vasauki’s poison and would either faint or get drowsy and gradually weakened in their efforts; but, the scheduled churning did not go without a hitch.
The sitting of the mountain on the ocean did not go smoothly and it started sinking due to its weight; to avoid a crisis situation, Vishnu himself appeared as a Turtle named Kurma and stabilised the mountain which was shifting and sinking rapidly.
The samudera manthan then began in earnest with both the parties pulling alternately ausing the churning process to begin.
The Samudra Manthan also resulted in throwing up a number of items from the ocean; critical among them was a large amount of poison i.e. Halahala which escaped from the jaws of Vasuki and threatened to not only kill those present nearby, it was so potent that all creations could be destroyed by it.
They immediately ran to Shiva and begged him to salvage their lives from the impending danger; Shiva immediately swallowed the poison while the powerful Parvati constricted his throat by holding to his neck; this was to prevent the lethal poison from entering his body.
Thus, to save all of creation, Shiva consumed the poison but, in the great effort, his throat turned a luminescent blue; that is why Lord Shiva is also known as Neelkanth.
The following items were also produced during the process of churning of the ocean; they are as follows:
- Ratnas which were divided between Vishnu, Devas and Asuras,
- Three types of Godesses i.e. Lakshmi, Apsaras and Varuni, and
- Three types of Animals,
- There were three valuables, and
- Then, the scriptures follow their age-old practice of having divergent views since the whole scene becomes hazy.
Hanuman was one of the most enigmatic personalities of Hindu mythology; he was powerful beyond estimate and his enormous powers and his innocence can be estimated from the fact that, as a child he mistook the Sun to be a mango and wanted to eat it; Rahu was nearby trying to create a solar eclipse.
Hanuman just brushed him aside with his might and swallowed the Sun whereupon Rahu complained to Indra, the lord of all deities, that Hanuman had prevented him from creating an eclipse; the enraged Indra threw a Vajra (thunderbolt) which disfigured his jaw and sent Hanuman into a coma and he fell down to Earth.
This is the reason for his disfigured visage and for his name.
Why was he invincible?
This did not go well with Vayu, the wind god who had a hand in the birth of Hanuman and is referred to as his father; Vayu sucked in all the wind from the atmosphere and created a massive vacuum whereupon there was pandemonium all around because there was no air to breathe.
What ensued was a veritable rain of boons and blessings apart from his immediate revival from the coma; they could not allow this situation since it was necessary to appease Vayudev while ensuring that such an eventuality does not arise again.
Some of these boons were as follows:
- Indra promised him immunity from his Vajra’s strike and granted him a physique that was stronger and more durable than the Vajra itself,
- Varuna, the god of water, the underground world and law blessed him immunity from water,
- Agni blessed him from burning by fire,
- Brahma granted him:
- Complete immunity from Brahma’s dreaded irrevocable curses,
- Complete immunity from death by any weapon or tool of war,
- The capability to strike terror in the hearts of his adversaries, and
- Dispelling the fears in the minds of his friends and followers,
- Changing appearance at will, and
- Being omnipresent.
- Shiva provided him with a lifelong protective band while granting him the following boons:
- Ability to cross oceans,
- Perpetual longevity, and
- Scriptural wisdom.
- Kamadev granted him immunity from the enchanting lure of sex,
- Kuber awarded him the contentment and happiness of a lifetime,
- Suryadev Hanuman’s Guru granted him the two Suddhis of Laghima and Garima, the ability to reduce/increase his form as much as he wanted,
- Vishwakarma, the god of tools and craftsmen granted him lifelong immunity from all weapons or tools,
- The god of death granted him immunity from death and
- Vayu granted him higher speed exceeding his own.
His mischievous and disruptive antics offended the sages who cast a curse on him that he will never be aware of his amazing powers till someone reminded him of them; that is why Jambavanta had to remind Hanuman of his awesome powers to exhort him to proceed to Lanka to save Seeta. References to his escapades are found in Kishikindha Kaand and Sundar Kaand.
Hanuman and Surya
Surya was his teacher not by choice but due to the forceful insistence of Hanuman who had learnt of his great knowledge and tutoring skills; it took Hanuman a lot of persuasion to make Surya agree to be his Guru.When it came to asking Surya what he wanted towards his Guru Dakshina, Surya just stated that his reward was that he had imparted part of his wisdom to a deserving ward; but, we all know of Hanuman’s pushy and insistent nature, he kept on cajoling Surya to name his dakshina.
Upon the repeated requests of Hanuman and to satisfy him, Surya asked him to protect Sugriva his son in spirit who was later to become the king of the monkey kingdom, Kishikindha with hanuman joining his kingdom as a minister.
Sugriva helped Rama in his quest to liberate Seeta from the Demon king Ravana who had abducted her.
Hanuman ji and Shanidev
During his interactions with Surya devta in the course of his studies, Hanuman learnt that Surya’s son, the all-powerful Shani maharaj was not on good terms with his father and kept creating trouble for many; Hanuman met Shani in Shani- lok and tried to persuade him to rectify his relationship with his father.
But Shani was a very offensive deity and he attacked Hanuman for his audacity; since Shani climbed his shoulders, Hanuman kept growing in size entrapping him against the roof. Due to unbearable pain Shani requested Hanuman to release him with a promise to spare all Hanuman devotees.
When lord Hanuman released him, he requested for some Til and oil to ease his pains; this is why devotees who want to appease Shanidev, offer Til and Oil on Saturdays to remove the ill-effects due to Shanidev. In a later development, Hanumanji also saved Shanidev from Ravana.
This story depicts the humility and magnanimity of Hanumanji and signifies that a humble, selfless person can emerge victorious on evil through paying obeisance to Hanuman ji; no wonder he is known as Sankat Mochan, the reliever from all crisis situations.
Lord Hanuman is an amazing incarnation of Lord Shiva and he is supposed to be chiranjeevi i.e. immortal, hence he finds mention in some ancient Hindu texts which were composed at different times and places; notable among these are the Puranas, some texts of the Jain religion and The Mahabharata another epic of massive proportions.
He is one of the central figures in Ramayana, an epic which depicts the famous war between Lord Rama and the all-powerful Ravana, the demon king of Lanka; tales of his exploits and conquests and his vast knowledge are well known. Hindu mythology suggests that he used to go the Moon to perform his prayers and meditation.
His name finds mention in the Rigveda also but is disputed by many; a writing of the 17h century, RasaVinoda, describes how the trio of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh merged together physically to form Hanuman.
Folklore has it that the rocks lying between the southern end of India and the Sri Lankan shores are the bridge that he and his army of monkeys built physically to cross over to Sri Lanka and wage war with Ravana.
In the words of Rama he is described as a person with astonishing abilities, power and knowledge; he was known to possess a wholesome knowledge of all the ancient scriptures and the Vedas, the master of nine grammars and having a perfect visage and eloquent speech.
He has been addressed by a number of names all of which are a veritable description of the multiple powers and qualities that he was blessed. Though he is portrayed as a monkey god and many conficting and supporting arguments are put forth for and against this claim, some of the ancient texts explain that, in his childhood, Hanuman was attacked by Indra leading to the disfiguration of his face and his jaw jutted out giving him the name of Hanuman which means a projecting or jutting jaw.
However, Jain texts claim that he had spent his early years at an island called Hanuruha due to which he got named as Hanuman. However, there are about a score of names which are used by different religions and sects.
Some of the myths about his birthplace are:
- One theory claims that he was born at Anjaneya Hill in Karnataka,
- Anjan is a small village near Gumla in Jharkhand where his mother supposedly stayed; a cave called Anjani Gufa and some artifacts have been found to vouch for this theory,
- Anjaneri mountain near Nashik in Maharashtra also figures in this list as a probable birthplace,
- Another claimed birthplace is on Lakshka Hill in Churu, Rajasthan.
Birth and theories
Hanuman was born to Anjani and Kesari who were Vanaras i.e. shown as half monkey and half man while Vanara actually means a monkey; his mother was a diasgraced Apsara i.e. heavenly spirit which exists in the heavens but also dwell in water.
His father was the son of Brihaspati, the son of the king of Sumeru; unable to bear a child, Anjani prayed to Shiva for twelve years before she got the boon and Hanuman was born,
An interesting version from Naradeya Purana and the Vishnu Purana narrates that Narada was besoted by a princess and requested Lord Vishnu to grant him Hari mukh (Vishnu’s looks) so hat she would choose him as her husband in the swayamvara in the open court; Vishnu transformed him into a monkey-faced individual.
The princess mocked and scorned him for daring to try marrying her in spite of his looks; unable to bear the humiliation, he cursed Vishnu that he will also have to seek the assistance of a monkey one day.
Vishnu explained that Hari was also the name for vanaras hence he had turned his face into that of a monkey; Narada repented having cursed his lord but the arrow had already been shot.
This curse later culminated into he association of Rama (an avatar of Vishnu) seeking the help of Hanuman (a Vanara) in the Ramayan.
Another vastly believed theory states that Hanuman is the son of Shiva and Mohini (the female form of Vishnu), the energy that resulted was inserted by Vayu or Pavan, the wind-god on the instructions of Shiva since Kesari and Anjani requested for a son. That is why Hanuman is also referred to as the son of the wind, Pavan putra.
By Umrao Singh
To be continued……………………………