Hanuman, the well-known monkey god, can be seen in temples throughout the country. In some temples his image is set up alone standing with a mace in the right hand or sitting in a devotional posture before the images of Rama and Sita. He is considered to be the god of power and strength, who remained a celibate through his whole life. He is worshipped as being the greatest devotee of Rama, who loves Hanuman the most.
Hanuman’s other names are HANUMAT and PAVAN-SUTA. He is the son of VAYU, the lord of winds and ARIJANA, the female seduced by Vayu. Along with Rama, Hanuman is invariably worshipped and he is the most favored deity of wrestlers and grapplers. Tuesday is the sacred day on which lakhs of Hindus worship Hanuman and pray to him for strength and prosperity.
Hanuman’s deeds of bravery and feats of valor are related in great detail in the Ramayana and also scantily in a few other religious books like Mahabharata and Agni Purana. This god is described as having a short thick neck, a round red face, sharp white fangs, a mane like Ashoka flowers, a tail like Indra‘s banner and ability to expand until he could be as large as a mountain or to contract until he could be as small as a fly.
So many interesting myths surround this god. Hanuman, when quite young, saw the rising sun; he thought it to be a ripe fruit, jumped up to it and seizing it put the sun into his mouth. All the gods and goddesses, for fear that if swallowed the sun the whole world would perish, prayed to him to spit out the sun. Hanuman agreed and the world was saved from complete darkness. When only ten years old, Hanuman could lift the hills sixteen or twenty miles in circumference and throw these like stones. Once swallowed by a monster, he expanded his body and the monster had to vomit this god out.
On another occasion when one monster put Hanuman in his mouth, this god transformed himself into a very small figure and emerged out of this monster’s big ear. This story runs thus: When Hanuman was on his flight to RAVANA’S Lanka on his job assigned by Ram, a female-demon named SURASA saw that this monkey was going to harm her near relative, Ravana. So in an effort to save her cousin she swallowed Hanuman bodily. To avoid this Hanuman continued expanding his body, while she continued stretching her mouth till it was a hundred leagues wide. Suddenly Hanuman shrank his body and within seconds he became thumb-sized. Taking the female demon by surprise he darted forward and came out through her right ear.
The scriptures state that ‘his form is as vast as a mountain’ and as tall as a gigantic tower. His complexion is yellow and glowing like molten gold. His face is as red as the brightest ruby while his enormous tail spreads out to an interminable length. He stands on a lofty rock and roars like thunder. He leaps into the air and flies among the clouds with a rushing noise, while the ocean waves are roaring and splashing below. Ramayana further says, “The chief of monkeys is a perfect being. No one can equal him in learning of SHASTRAS and in comprehending the meaning and sense of scriptures. In all sciences and in the rules of austerity, he rivals the preceptor of the gods. Hanuman is the ninth author of grammar.”
Hanuman became the greatest and the most faithful helper of Rama in his campaign against Ravana. When sent as Rama’s envoy Hanuman was given a ring to convince Sita that he was truly her husband’s messenger. With a formidable leap he crossed the seas and reached Lanka. He succeeded in meeting Sita and brought her news back to Rama.
Ravana’s guards, while he was in Lanka, had succeeded in catching Hanuman, who was then brought to the demon-king’s court. At Ravana’s command his tail was set on fire and with his burning tail Hanuman created a great havoc in Lanka. When Rama’s younger brother was lying unconscious in the battlefield and the herb that could cure him was not available, he came forward to bring that herb from Himalayas. In the hurry when Hanuman could not trace that magical herb he lifted the complete hill and flew to bring the same to battlefield. The arrow
that had wounded Lakshmana was blessed in the way that whoever was wounded in the night with it could not recover if the cure was not obtained before daylight.
Hanuman knew this and was determined to bring it before the sun rose. The powerful Ravana compelled the sun to arise on the mountain at midnight. Hanuman being enraged at this conspiracy, leaped up and seizing sun’s chariot placed the blazing god under his arm and put the mountain on his head. Only after the application of the desired herb on the wound of Lakshmana, Hanuman permitted the sun to depart.
Hanuman accompanied Rama on his return to Ayodhya and Rama gave him the blessings of perpetual youth and deathless existence. He was so intensely devoted to Rama and Sita that once he even tore up his chest with claws and showed that images of Rama and Sita were in his heart.