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……………………………