Anjaneya,or Hanuman of the Ramayana
Anjaneya or Hanuman, popularly known as Sri Anjaneya and Anjaneya Swami is one of the most popular gods of Hinduism. He is so popular that Anjaneya temples are found in various parts of India where people offer regular obeisance. Hindus from all wakes of life, from children to elders, worship him and adore him. As an exemplary devotee of Lord Rama, for Hindu he is an epitome of devotion, surrender and humility.
Like Ganesha he commands respect and veneration as a popular god of Hinduism from children and elders alike. Those who studied the Ramayana or know it even superficially appreciate his divine nature and superhuman personality, which is shaped by the strength of celibacy, humility, selflessness, unsurpassed devotion, determination, fearlessness and an extraordinary commitment to work for the divine. Sri Anjaneya is immortal.
According to his followers, he instill faith, courage and devotion among his devotees or the devotees of Lord Rama who are equally dearer to him. He personified super human strength and bestows good health and good fortune upon those who pray to him with utmost devotion.
Anjaneya temples are found everywhere in India, in towns and cities, on the hills, in the forests and most difficult places. Millions observe fast on Tuesdays and refrain from drinking and smoking as a mark of respect for him. Sita, Lord Rama's consort, found in him a friend, a son and a loyal servant. Impressed by his loyalty and commitment to the cause of Rama, she blessed him to remain immortal in his existing form until the end of creation and help the loyal devotees of Rama.
People believe that Anjaneya is very much active on earth even today. Wherever the name of Rama is uttered or chanted, Anjaneya said to go there and become an invisible part of the scene. People pray to him for courage and confidence, freedom from sorrow and for protection against evil spirits and bad luck. Hanuman is a terror to evil forces. Because of his intense purity and devotion they are afraid to appear anywhere near him. Therefore those who are afraid or believe they are being haunted pray to Anjaneya and seek his protection.
People pray to Hanuman in various ways and also worship him in the traditional manner by making offerings. However, the most popular and traditional form of worship to Hanuman is by chanting the Hanuman Chalisa or his eulogy (Anjaneya Dandakam). The Hanuman Chalisa is a prayer cum eulogy in verse form containing 40 lines of pure adulation. It describes the great qualities and adventures of Hanuman.
It is said that because of his complete humility he would not stir into action, unless one reminds him of his true greatness and his divine purpose. His devotees therefore chant the Chalisa, to remind him of his greatness and prompt him to wake up from his devotion and help them. Hanuman's Chalisa has become a modern mantra, more popular, perhaps, than the Ramacharitamanas itself. Many of his devotees may not know Hindi. But they would chant Chalisa with sincerity and faith.
In the images and pictures, Sri Anjaneya looks like a human shaped monkey with the strength of a gorilla. He personifies super strength.
Except for his face, the rest of his body is very human and well-built. His gait, posture and manner of expression are also very much human. With regard to his nature, character and behavior, he is indeed much better than human beings.
He conducts himself admirably in the presence of big and small, without the clumsy movements of an ape or the selfish behavior of the humans. Physically he is half human and half monkey.
Undoubtedly, Hanuman is the most ancient superman of the world, who can fly, battle with the evil, change his shape and form at will, fly to other planets and even try to hold the Sun in his hand as if it is an orange. Hanuman personifies the strength of devotion what we can do with faith in our hearts.
He probably descended from an ancient tribe that once inhabited the forests in the region presently known as the Dandakaranya.
Hanuman lives in the hearts of people through his exemplary devotion and surrender to God. Physically he is endowed with unlimited powers. Being the son of Vayu, the wind god, he has the ability to increase or decrease his size at will and also fly into the air and travel to far away regions of the earth and the solar system.
According to the mythology, he was born to Anjana and Vayu. Vayu is a Vedic divinity who is mentioned in several Vedic hymns and worshipped along with Indra, Varuna and Agni. Anjana was originally a celestial nymph. She was extremely beautiful and agile. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, she was cursed to become a monkey and live on earth. She married a monkey called Kasturi with whom she lived for sometime till she came into contact with Vayu. Hanuman was born to her through Vayu.
As a child Hanuman earned notoriety by his various acts of mischief which even annoyed the gods. Once he tried to swallow the sun believing it to be a fruit. He terrified the demon Rahu by shocking him out of his stupor. He fought with Indra and was badly hurt. His connection with Vayu saved him from further disaster. To cool down his temperament Vayu took him to Kailas and left him to the care of Lord Siva.
Siva blessed him and endowed him with divine bent of mind and enormous powers. Nandi, Siva's vehicle and his humble servant, taught Hanuman all the Vedas and the scriptural knowledge, besides imparting to him the qualities of humility and egolessness. We understand that because of these qualities Hanuman does not remember his true powers and would not stir to action unless someone reminds him, as it happened before he flew into the air to find Sita.
Knowing his abilities and his dexterity, Sugriva made him his minister. When Rama reached Kishkindha in search of his estranged wife Sita, Hanuman saw Rama for the first time. That was a momentous occasion. It changed his life and the course of Ramayana for ever. In that one moment Hanuman realized who his true master was and surrendered to him with his heart and soul. The thought of Rama never left his mind from then onwards.
In the imagery of Rama, we generally see Hanuman, standing reverentially on a side, sitting or standing in a humble manner with his hands joined in reverence. When he is shown alone, he appears in different ways, sitting cross legged, kneeling, standing or flying. In all cases we see him holding his weapon, the mace. When he is shown as flying in the air like a superman, he carries a mountain with one hand and the mace with the other. In some temples we see very tall and imposing images of Hanuman reminding us of his immense strength.
Hanuman is known by many names.
When he is cheerful he is called Prasannanjaneya. When he is in a ferocious mood he is called Veeranjaneya.
When he is in a meditative mood he is called Dhayananjaney and when he is absorbed in devotion he is called Bhaktanjaneya.
He is called Anajaniputra or Anjaneya because his mother's name was Anjana. He got the name Vayuputra because of his connection with Vayu.
He is called Kesarinandana, though he was not actually the son of Kesari, because he was brought up by his step father. He is called Ramaduta, because he acted as the messenger of Rama to deliver a message to Sita.
He is called Baladhama, because of his prowess, gnanagunasagara because of his pure qualities and bhajarangi because of his devotion. There are several other names.
Manojavam, Marutatulyavegam, Jitendriyam, Buddhimatamvaristham, Vaatatmajam, Vanarayothamukhyam, Vanaranamadhisam, Sri Rama Dutam, Atulita Bala Dhamam, Hemasailabha Deham, Danujvana Krusanam, Sakala Guna Nidhanam, Raghupati Priya Bhaktam, Sankat Mocana are some of the popular epithets used in reference to Anjaneya and mentioned in his prayers which reflect his qualities and greatness (mahima).
He played his dutiful role as a servant of God in the epic Mahabharata also. He taught a few lessons in humility to his step brother Bhima and also agreed to appear as an emblem on the flag of the Pandavas to boost their morale in their fight against evil.
Symbolically, Hanuman represents the aim element in the macrocosm. In the microcosm he represents both the mind and the breath. In the Puranas he appears both as an attendant god of Vishnu and an aspect of Siva. There are many thoeries as to the origins of the legend of Hanuman. Some historians believe he may be a prehisoric god associated with the legend of Ramayana even before it became an epic.
Monkeys are ubiquitous in India. In the ancient times their number might have exceed even the human population in the Indian subcontinent. Even today, there is no forest in India which is free from monkey population. (In fact they have now invaded the urban areas also). Therefore association between Rama, who lived and wandered in the forests during his exile and the monkeys was inevitable.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Symbolic significance of Hanuman, the Hindu god
- Books on Rama and Ramayana
- Bhakti, spiritual devotion
- Bhakti movement in India
- Popular Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism
- The Ramayana translated by Romesh Dutt
- The Concept of Atman or Eternal Soul in Hinduism
- The Problem of Maya Or Illusion and How To Deal With It
- Belief In Atman, The Eternal Soul Or The Inner Self
- Brahman, The Highest God Of Hinduism
- The Bhagavad Gita Original Translations
- The Bhagavadgita, Philosophy and Concepts
- Bhakti yoga or the Yoga of Devotion
- Hinduism And The Evolution of Life And Consciousness
- Why to Study the Bhagavadgita Parts 1 to 4
- Origin, Definition and Introduction to Hinduism
- Symbolic Significance of Numbers in Hinduism
- The Belief of Reincarnation of Soul in Hinduism
- The True Meaning Of Renunciation According To Hinduism
- The Symbolic Significance of Puja Or Worship In Hinduism
- Introduction to the Upanishads of Hinduism
- Origin, Principles, Practice and Types of Yoga