In Hinduism, Hanuman is a god who aided Rama (an avatar of Vishnu) in rescuing his wife, Sita, from King Ravana of the Rakshasas. He symbolizes for the Hindu the pinnacle of bhakti, or selfless and loving devotion, and the bravery of a morally upright individual. He is seen by some to have also been an avatar of Shiva. He is most popular in the north of the Indian subcontinent.
Hanuman is the son of a cursed apsara, a celestial, named Punjisthala, who by curse becomes Anjana, a female monkey. Hence Hanuman is also called Änjanèya. She is the wife of Kèsari, a mighty monkey who once killed a mighty elephant that caused trouble to sages and hermits. He therefore got the name of Kèsari, namely the lion, and is also called kunjara südana, the elephant killer.
One day when Anjana is on a mountain peak, Vayu Deva, Wind-god, came nearby, and generated a forceful blow of air, so that her clothes slipped off from her body. The Wind-god was incited by her charm and possessed her, with her consent.
She thus gave birth to Hanuman. Hanuman grew up and inherited his father's activities of quick flying, forceful travel, and mighty strength. Soon after his birth he saw the Sun, thought it to be a ripe fruit and took flight to catch hold of the Sun to eat.
Indra, the administrator of universal laws, observed this. He hurled his weapon, the Thunderbolt, which struck Hanuman on his cheeks. Hanuman fell down on earth and swooned. The Wind-god, Hanuman's father, resented this and went into seclusion. This caused choking deaths and asphyxiation to all the living beings.
To pacify Air-god, Indra withdrew the effect of his Thunderbolt, which had cut Hanuman's two cheeks. Thus he is called Hanuman, for hanuhH in Sanskrit is the word for cheek.
Brahma blessed Hanuman with a diamond-like body, even invincible to a brahma-astra, a super missile, and made him immortal. That is why when Ravana’s son Indrajit uses a brahma-astra, in Sundara Kanda Valmiki Ramayana says… “Though Hanuman knows the release from brahma-astra, he was silent due to his respect for Brahma…”
He is deathless, a chiranjeevi. He can leave his mortal body whenever he desires to do so. This is called icchaa maranam, dying at will. This is what Bhishma pitamaha does in Mahabharata, when he wants to live up to some time on the bed of sharp arrows in the war field itself.
At one point, Rama ends his exile by eliminating Ravana and is crowned as emperor. He and Sita then give gifts to all of their friends. When it is the turn of Hanuman to choose a gift, he asks to live in this mortal world as long as the name Rama is audible, shunning the heavens or other higher planes.
Sita accorded Hanuman that gift, saying “ Oh! Hanuman, wherever you are, there will be plenty of fruits and eatables, and further, in villages, public shelters, temples, houses, gardens, cowsheds, cities, and at riversides, crossroads, pilgrimages, water tanks, trunks of banyan trees, and on mountains, caves, peaks and wherever people stroll, your image will be installed, so that you can listen Rama’s name, uttered by the people from all corners of the earth…”
Thus Hanuman is also called an old monkey living from ages till now. This is also reflected in Mahabharata, when Bhima could not lift the tail of this old monkey, during a forest journey. This incident was a leela of Hanuman just to control Bhima's rising ego. He wanted to humble Bhima, who had come to believe that he was strongest. Bhima was taught a lesson, since he couldn't even lift the tail of an old monkey. By being egotistical, Bhima had been forgetting his basic duty as a warrior (kshatriya - The warrior caste) to be humble. Bhima and Hanuman are half-brothers, sons of the same father, The Wind God. Even today one can see huge images of Hanuman at all these places, either installed ages ago or recently.
Hanuman is the student of a guru no less than Sun. On ascertaining that Sun is an all-knowing teacher, Hanuman raises his body to solar orbit and requests that Sun accept him as a student. Sun declines, saying, “I am ever on my wheels. Where can I be at a standstill to teach you leisurely? I have my unending duty to perform…” and he continues His celestial journey.
But Hanuman, undeterred by Sun’s travel, enlarges his body. He places one leg on the eastern range and the other on the western range, face turned toward the travelling Sun, and again makes his request. “My face will always be towards you, in whichever orbit you go, but teach me…oh! God…” says Hanuman. Pleased by his pertinence, Sun teaches all of His knowledge to Hanuman. It may be asked why Hanuman chose Sun alone as his teacher, for which it is said, Sun is karma saakshi, an eternal witness of all deeds/doings.
So Hanuman is also a witness to all the happenings in Ramayana, and performs whatever duty is assigned to him. This well-read one is instantaneously recognised by Rama on the very first appearance of Hanuman before Rama, in Kishkindha kaanda. Even today, any student is asked to adore Hanuman, to obtain such a stubborn health, enduring education, and above all a reverential scholarship.
But Hanuman’s monkey nature is not tolerable by some sages and hermits during his childhood. Hanuman teases and tickles the sages by snatching away their personal belongings, by spoiling well arranged worship articles, and more. Knowing that Hanuman is invincible by the blessings of all the celestials, and also he happens to be simple monkey, the sages give him a minor curse. It is that Hanuman does not remember his might on his own, but only recollects it whenever others remind him about it.
If Hanuman were to be aware of his own might, the course of Ramayana would have been otherwise. He would have simply enlarged his body and brought whole of Lanka island before Rama, as he has lifted sanjivini mountain, to enliven Lakshmana in the war with Ravana’s son, Indrajit. So this was a necessary curse upon Hanuman.
A monkey group that is sent to search for Sita reaches the southern seashore. There, upon seeing the vast ocean to cross over, every other monkey pleads his own inability to jump over the sea. Hanuman is saddened at a possible failure of his mission to search for Sita. Then all the monkeys around him start eulogising Hanuman and reminding him how he got Sun's attention during his student days. Hanuman remembers his own prowess, enlarges his body and jumps over the sea.
Sundara Kanda is an exclusive treatise about Hanuman. The whole of Ramayana is one side and Sundara Kanda on the other. Hanuman, after his entry into Lanka, and finding Sita , conveys the message as a teacher ordained by god. His character is said to be that of a divine Teacher, and Sita, the taught. Here, Rama is the Supreme God.
God communicates through eligible teachers only. The teacher not only enlightens the student, but also teaches humility. This teacher wanted to teach a lesson to the proud Lanka, who are thriving on stolen wealth. Lanka is built with golden towers, palatial buildings, and has he richest of the rich. This preternatural existence of Lanka would be a precedent to other evil forces so, it is to be damaged.
Then Hanuman suddenly dons his monkeyhood, and starts the destruction of prideful items one after the other. When Ravana’s son Indrajit uses brahma-astra Hanuman obliges that missile to tie him down, and be dragged to the court of Ravana. Hanuman wilfully enters the court of Ravana to assess the strength of the enemy of Rama.
This is another duty of a faithful emissary, teacher and minister, which Hanuman is. Ravana orders lit the tail of Hanuman, with which fire alone Hanuman burns down the whole of Lanka, turning their pride to ashes. Readers of Sundara Kanda may not give it a cursory or superficial reading, but an in-depth scrutiny may be conducted since it has many latent meanings and derivations.
A parable is told that Hanuman originally scripted the entire Ramayana on clay tablets, recording each and every detail of what Rama did, and brought them to Rama, to bless that narrative. Rama humbly said to Hanuman, “I have not done anything that great, to be recorded and narrated to people…I have done my righteous duty…that’s all” Then Hanuman was upset.
Dejected by the slighting of his great deeds as simple acts of duty by Rama, Hanuman brought those clay tablets to seashore, recited each verse, broke each tablet on his knee and threw it into the sea. This is called hanumad ramayana. This is unavailable from then on.
But one tablet came ashore floating on the sea, which is retrieved during the period of Mahakavi Kalidasa, and hung at a public place to be deciphered by scholars. There on that tablet only one foot of a stanza is available. That foot says “Oh! Ravana, those your ten heads, on which you lifted of Mt. Kailsha, the abode of God Shiva, are now bumped by the feet of crows and eagles, know what has happened to your high-headed pride, at the hands of virtue…”
Kalidasa deciphers it and informs everyone that it is from hanumad ramayana recorded by Hanuman, but an in extinct script, and salutes that clay plate for he is fortunate enough to see at least one foot of the stanza.
It is said that none can conclusively narrate about Hanuman, for he is many faceted. He is symbolic for his unwavering dedication to righteousness, unstinting performance of entrusted duties, and unfailing talents in serving his master, namely Rama.
One very important fact about Hanuman is: He is the fourth and the only other person in the Mahabharata to have heard The Gita from the mouth of Sri Krishna himself. The other four being Arjuna, Sanjaya and Dhritrashtra. He heard it by settling on the flag of the chariot of Arjuna which carried the Hanuman picture. It is also said that it was a boon that he asked Lord Vishnu of. He wanted to be of some assistance to the next avatar(incarnation) of Vishnu and he was granted the permission to be on Arjuna's chariot of whom Krishna was the charioteer in the war of Mahabharata.
- Wikipedia (2004). Hanuman (http://www.wikipedia.org/Hanuman). Retrieved Oct. 19, 2004.