Hindus turn to the Lord Hanuman for strength and audacity. The Monkey God is revered throughout India particularly in rural communities and remains among the most illustrious deities of Hinduism. Hanuman’s typical image is that of a monkey with a single head, two arms, and lengthy tail looped over his head. However, the deity comes in several forms which include one with five heads and 10 arms.
In addition to the god’s original image, his other heads include that of a “Garuda”, a legendary bird-like creature which is half-man and half-bird; pig; horse; and man-lion which stand for the five most essential Vishnu Avatars. There are actually 24 avatars of Vishnu. Avatar refers to the theory in Hinduism which means the material incarnation of a god on earth. The idea of Hindu embodiment or personification is similar to the religions of Christianity and Buddhism.
Hanuman is a principal character in the Ramayana, one of the earliest epic poems in India which depicts the struggles of Prince Rama to free his wife from Ravana, a demon ruler. It comprises the Sanskrit Itihasa together with the Mahabharata, the Great Classic of the Bharata. Hanuman epitomizes loyalty and devotion.
Lord Hanuman’s Jayanti (birthday) is held on March 31 of every year and celebrated all over India. Hindus visit the tempers where the divine being is bequeath with a new vermillion coat mixed up with milk fat from butter and richly embellished. People fast and read Ramayana as well as the Hymns of Hanuman or Hanuman Chalisa. Hindus also read loudly the Tales of Hanuman’s Love for Rama.
Hanuman was born to Anjana, one of the wives of King Dasharath of Ayodhya. Agni, the Hindu God of Fire gave Dasharath a bowl of consecrated pudding to be shared by his wives so they will bear celestial children. However, an eagle seized a portion of the desert and dropped the piece to where Anjana was engaged in deep meditation. Anjana was cursed and assumed the image of a female monkey. It could only be lifted if she delivered a baby who was Lord Shiva’s incarnation. The God of Wind, Pavana delivered it to the woman’s extended hands. Anjana gave birth to Hanuman after this incident. Pavana became the godfather of Hanuman.
Hanuman’s birth freed his mother from the curse. Anjana assured her son he will never die before she went back to heaven. She said ripe fruits like the rising sun will serve as his food. Hanuman mistook the radiant sun as food and jumped for it forcing Indra, the Hindu god of the sky and rain to strike him down with thunderbolt and threw Hanuman to earth. Pavana interceded and carried Hanuman to Patala or the unfathomable realm of the universe.
Everyone on earth gasped for air as Hanuman left the earth. Brahma, the first god in the triumvirate, pleaded with him to come back. As a result, Hanuman was blessed to become eternal, invincible, and very powerful.
Many Hindus fast to honor Hanuman every Tuesday and in certain cases, on Saturdays. They also give the god special offerings. The temples of Hanuman are very common in India. Hanuman’s character teaches his followers infinite power that is not used within each one of them.
Listen to this audio of the popular Hanuman Chalisa: