Hanuman is Lord Rama’s greatest devotee, is his chief support after his brother Lakshmana, in the Hindu epic Ramayana. He has been depicted in art;sculpture and paintings over the centuries.He is also mentioned in many ancient texts, including the Mahabharata,the Puranas and certain Jaina texts.Hanuman participated in Rama’s war against the demon king Ravana to liberate his wife Sita.
Hanuman is the son of Anjana and Kesari and also referred to as Pavanputra or son the the wind-God Vayu or Pavan who has played a role in his birth. Hanuman is known by many names; Anjaneya, Kesarinandan, Bajrang Bali, Jitendriyam, Marutinandan, Sankat mochan among others.
Hanuman was born to Anjaneri mountain. His mother Anjana was an apsara who was born on earth owing to a curse. She was however freed from it after she gave birth to a son. As per the Ramayana of Valmiki his father Kesari was the son of Brihaspati and the King of a place named Sumeru. Anjana prayed for 12 long years to Lord Shiva for a child and Hanuman was the son they got.It is also believed that Hanuman is the incarnation or reflection of Lord Shiva.
Hanuman is also called the son of Vayu or Pavan. As per one version mentioned in the 16th century Bhavartha Ramayana by Eknath it is said that when Anjana was worshipping Shiva, the King Dasaratha of Ayodhya was also performing Putrakama yagna in order to have children. As a result, he received some sacred payasam (sweet pudding)to be shared by his three wives, which led to the birth of Rama, Lakshmana and Bharata. However a kite was flying past and took away a fragment of the pudding and dropped it into the hands of Anjana while she was praying in a forest, and the wind God or Vayu facilitated this. It is also believed that by Shiva’s direction, Vayu transferred his male energy to Anjana‘s womb. So Hanuman is also called Pavanputra or son of the Wind.
Hanuman carrying the mountain of herbs,sculpture,10th century, Madhya Pradesh,LACMA,USA.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As a child Hanuman was fascinated with the sun and thought it was a ripe fruit. He tried to reach it to eat it and was stopped by the Vedic planet Rahu. However Hanuman beat Rahu who approached Indra for help. Indra threw his weapon Vajra at him and this hurt his jaw or Hanu, thus he also got his name, Hanuman. However Vayu, the wind-God got angry and withdrew which suffocated everyone. Indra had to remove the effect of his vajra and the devas revived Hanuman.
Hanuman‘s role in the Ramayana is mentioned in Sundarakanda in the epic. Hanuman is also mentioned in the Mahabharata;he is Bhima’s brother.
Hanuman worshipping Lord Rama and Sita,painting, 17th century,Smithsonian collection,USA.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hanuman meets Lord Rama during his exile.With his brother Lakshmana, Rama is searching for his wife Sita who had been abducted by demon king,Ravana. Their search brings them to mountain Rishyamukha, where Sugriva, along with his followers are hiding from his elder brother Vali.Sugriva sends Hanuman to ascertain their identities. Hanuman approaches Rama disguised as a brahmin. However he reveals his identity and falls at his feet. Hanuman then forges friendship between Lord Rama and Sugriva; Rama helps Sugriva regain his honour and makes him the king of Kishkindha. Sugriva and his vanaras, most notably Hanuman, help Rama defeat Ravana at Lanka and liberate and reunite with his wife Sita.
Many incidents take place during the search for Sita . Hanuman reaches Lanka through air jumps and finds Sita in captivity in a garden, Hanuman reveals his identity to her, reassures her that Rama has been looking for her, offers to carry her back to Rama, but she refuses his offer, saying it would be an insult to Rama as his honour is at stake. In order to reassure Sita, Hanuman gives her a ring that Rama had sent through him.
Hanuman being taken to Ravana,illustration,17th century,Mewar,Rajasthan.
By Maharaja of Jagat Singh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
When Lakshmana is badly wounded during the battle against Indrajit, Hanuman is sent to fetch the sanjivani, a powerful life-restoring herb, from Dronagiri in the Himalayas, to revive him.
Hanuman with the mountain of herbs ,print,1910.
By Ravi Varma Press [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsHanuman
Hanuman visits Sita,bazaar art,early 20th century.
By bazaar art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
After his coronation after returning to Ayodhya following his victorious battle against demon king Ravana, Rama decides to reward all his well-wishers. Hanuman approaches without wanting any reward. Rama embraces him warmly, declaring that he could never repay Hanuman for the help a received from the vanara army. Sita, however, insists that Hanuman deserved honour more than anyone else, and Sita gives him a necklace of precious stones which she herself was wearing. Hanuman tears it apart, and inspects each stone. Everyone asks why he is destroying the precious necklace. Hanuman says he was looking into the stones to make sure that Rama and Sita are in them, because if they are not, the necklace is of no value to him. People laugh at Hanuman, saying his reverence and love for Rama and Sita could not possibly be as deep as he says. To this, Hanuman tears his chest open, and everyone is astonished to see Lord Rama and Sita in his chest.
Pushpakviman, bazaar art,1910.
By Modern Litho Works, Bombay [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hanuman is worshipped by many; by wrestlers for his strength.There are many temples of Hanuman, and his images are installed at all temples where images of avatars of Lord Vishnu are present. His temples free the area of evils like the rakshasas or demons. He is believed to protect from accidents and his images are found on mountain roads.
Many prayers, mantras are dedicated to Hanuman. These include Hanuman Chalisa, Bajranga Baan, Maruti Strotam, Anjaneya Dandakam , Vadvanal Strotam, Hanuman Sathhika, Hanuman Bahuk, Hanuman Dwadesha, Bhimrupi Strotam, Sundara Kanda, Maruti Gayatri Mantra, Hanumansahasranam stotra , Ek-mukhi Hanuman Raksha Kavacham, Pancha-mukhi Hanuman Raksha Kavacham and Sapta-mukhi Hanuman Raksha Kavacham.
Hanuman, silver amulet,early 20th century,Rajasthan.
By Vassil – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1877418
Hanuman showing Lord Rama in his chest,oleograph,1945.
By Anant Shivaji Desai, Ravi Varma Press (http://www.barodaart.com/oleographs-ramayana.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.