‘Jaya Hanuman jnana guna sagara, jaya Kapisha tinhu loka ujagara,Ramaduta, atulita baladhama, Anjaniputra, Pawanasuta nama.’
Victory to thee, O Hanuman, thou art the ocean of knowledge and virtue. Victory to thee O Lord of Monkeys, thou art known in all three worlds. O Emissary of Rama, thou art the home of unparalleled might; Anjaniputra – Anjani’s son, and Pawanasuta – son of the wind god, art thy names.
This Hanuman, who possesses ocean-like unfathomable knowledge and virtue, incomparable might and earth-like steadfastness, is known and worshipped primarily as the redeemer in crisis : ‘Ko nahi janat hai jaga mein Kapi Sankata-mochana nama tinharo’ – who knows not in the world, O Monkey-god, redeemer in crisis is thy name. And, the laudation is least exaggerated. In theology or tradition of devotion, no god of any pantheon in India is venerated so much for redeeming in crisis as Hanuman. As occasions of misfortune outnumber those of happiness in life, mankind looks more to him who redeems from misfortune rather than him who bestows happiness. Hanuman, the redeemer, is hence more widely worshipped and has a larger number of shrines dedicated to him than even Rama, his master. Hanuman’s power to redeem is not a mere theological conceptualisation or a believer’s hypothesis, his life, as it reveals in different sources, is its example. In Rama-katha – story of Rama’s life, which is broadly also the story of Hanuman’s life, this emissary and servant of Rama often rises above his master at least in the face of a crisis.
Whatever Rama’s attributes as the supreme God or Vishnu’s incarnation, when broken hearted he wandered in search of Sita, Hanuman came to his aid. He not only pledged to his cause himself, Kishkindha’s monkey king Sugriva, his entire army and ministers, and discovered Sita but also initiated efforts for her recovery by waging a psychological war against Ravana. He put Lanka into flames leaving Lankans panicky, and brought to Rama’s fold Ravana’s brother Vibhishana without whose aid Rama’s victory over Ravana would not be so easy.
When struck by the ‘shakti’ – divine weapon of Meghanatha, Ravana’s eldest son, Lakshmana swooned and helpless Rama only wailed, Hanuman not only brought Ravana’s personal physician Susena competent to cure Lakshmana along with his house but also the mountain Dron from the Himalayas with Sanjivini on it, and Lakshmana’s life was saved. He rescued Rama and Lakshmana from Ahiravana’s custody almost when Ahiravana was going to behead them for sacrifice. Bharata had pledged to end his life by immolating himself if Rama did not return to Ayodhya before sun-set on the day his fourteen years of exile ended. Rama was delayed, but before Bharata entered the pyre in full flames and immolated himself Hanuman rushed to Ayodhya, assured him that Rama would reach there in minutes and saved Bharata’s life. ‘Rama jasu jasa ap bakhana’ – true that Rama himself narrated Hanuman’s glorious deeds, but more notably, he recalled him specifically for redeeming him and his brother from crisis. When Ahiravana asked Rama and Lakshmana, before beheading them, to commemorate anyone they held in reverence, Rama asked Lakshmana to invoke Hanuman who alone could rescue them.
This redeemer of scripts is the protector of common folks. He is invoked by common masses also for redeeming them but more often to protect them from everything untoward. His images are installed and worshipped invariably as the protector and patron deity having power to ward off misfortune. He is Kherapati, the patron deity of ‘khera’ – village, and Ghatoria, the protector of ‘ghats’ – valleys, to include river-crossings, descents, ascents, forts and village boundaries. As Balaji, he keeps evil spirits and maladies away and exorcises ghosts and ills from within. His name by itself has the status of the ‘mantra’ – hymn, which, being commemorated, dispels evil, evil spirits, ghosts : ‘Bhuta pishacha nikata nahin abein’ – ghosts and evil spirits dare not come around. As Bajaranga – with body made of ‘vajra’, or Bajrangabali – having ‘vajra’-like strength, he presides over gymnasiums and wrestlers’ rings infusing into wrestlers’ bodies his own might, and in the bodies of gymnasts and acrobats, his own agility and swiftness.
It is only Hanuman who wards off adverse influence of planets like Saturn and Rahu, protects from business failures, failure in examinations, politics, sports and other fields. In a strange fusion of the machine and the faith, which reveals when a road-roller, truck, locomotive engine, or a ship, painted with an icon of Hanuman or simply his name, passes across, Hanuman is believed to avert mishap at sea, rail-track and roads, and protect machine and treasures it contains.
Except that Hanuman was born to Anjana and that Anjana was married to Kesari, the monkey king of Sumeru, there is hardly any unanimity in regard to the circumstances, date and day of his birth, pre-birth and childhood days. Despite that Kesari was Hanuman’s father, the legends of his birth evolves in such a way that Shiva and the wind-god Maruta, too, seem to be vitally, sometimes even directly, responsible for his birth. In hymns devoted to him Hanuman is often lauded with epithets alike Kesari-Nandana – Kesari’s son, Maruti-Nandana – son of Maruta, or Pawana-Suta – son of Pawana, another name for wind-god, and also as Rudra-rupa – Shiva manifest.
Kesari is alluded to unanimously as a mighty monkey possessed of exceptional wisdom. However, such unanimity is not seen in regard to Anjana. In one of her accounts she is said to be the daughter of Kesari, a demon. The childless Kesari underwent great austerities to appease Shiva for getting a son. Shiva, however, granted him a daughter who would give birth to a mighty and wise son. She is sometimes identified as Indra’s celestial nymph Punjikasthala. Exceptionally beautiful but as much playful and naughty Punjikasthala one day provoked a sage to curse that she would be born on the earth as a female monkey whose nature she shared. Shaken with fear Punjikasthala entreated the sage to forgive her but the words announced could not come back. Punjikasthala was later born as the daughter of the saintly monkey king Kunjara who named her Anjana. When she was in her youth, she was married to Kesari. As per yet another account, Anjana was born to Ahilya by sage Gautam. Drawn by her bewitching beauty one day Indra in disguise came to Anjana to seduce her. Sage Gautam saw them together and cursed that she would remain unmarried her whole life. However, realising his error he later blessed her to have a son with extraordinary might and wisdom. The curse was thus averted. Jain texts identify Anjana as an erstwhile celestial nymph born as the princess of Mahendrapur. Here both, Anjana and her husband Pavanajaya are alluded to as absolute human beings.
Accounts of Hanuman’s birth and parentage in the Ramayana, Skanda Purana, Bhavishyottara Purana, Brahmananda Purana and some other texts are almost identical. The myth in the Brahmananda Purana begins with Anjana’s father Kesari, a demon. The childless Kesari underwent rigorous penance for a son. Pleased by it Shiva appeared and asked him to name anything he wanted. Kesari asked him to grant him a son who was unparalleled on warfront and in might, wisdom and steadfastness. Shiva showed his inability for Providence had not allowed him a son. He, however, granted him a daughter who would bear a mighty son. In due course his wife bore a girl with exceptional beauty. Kesari named her Anjana. When fully grown, she was married to a mighty monkey, also named Kesari. For quite long they had no child. One day, Dharma, god of Righteousness, disguised as a low-born woman adept in astrology, came to their place. She told Anjana that if she performed penance for seven thousand years on mount Venkatachala, she would have a mighty son. She underwent seven thousand years long penance. Afterwards she bore a son with no one like him in valor, wisdom and might.
Some other texts also allude to Anjana’s journey to Venkatachala for a son but on the advice of sage Matanga, not Dharma. Sage Matanga saw Anjana engaged in rigorous austerities at mount Kishkindha. He asked her the object of her penance. A sad Anjana revealed her heart and entreated the holy saint to tell how she would get a son. Sage Matanga advised her to go to Venkatachala. There she should first worship Venkateshvara and then take a holy dip at the sacred Akashaganga and drink a handful of its water. So purified she should stand and pray the wind-god who would bless her with a son invincible against men, gods and demons. Anjana did as advised. When she was engaged in rigorous penance, the wind-god appeared. She asked him for a son as mighty as him. The wind-god thereupon assured her that he himself would be born to her as her son. Thus, Anjana’s son was born by wind-god and was himself the wind-god. Hanuman is hence lauded as both Maruti and Maruti-nandana.
Here the legend has two variations; one presenting a rationale as to why Hanuman’s love and devotion for Rama was such as between two brothers born of the same womb, inspiring the all-knowing Rama to say : ‘Tuma mama priya Bharatahi sama bhai’ – you are as dear to me as Bharata; and other, indicating his birth direct from Shiva’s part. Ayodhya’s illustrious ruler Dasharatha, being childless, performed ‘yajna’ for a son. On its completion the fire-god appeared with ‘havya’ – sanctified offering, and gave it to Dasharatha to distribute it among his wives. Dasharatha gave a part of it to each of his wives Kausalya, Sumitra and Kekeyi. But, when they yet held their parts of the ‘havya’ on their palms, a kite dived and snatched away from Kekeyi’s palm her part and shot back. It occurred exactly when at Venkatachala Anjana with her full stretched hands was praying the wind-god. While flying southward over Venkatachala exactly where stood Anjana, the grip of kite’s beak loosened and the ‘havya’ it carried slipped and dropped on Anjana’s palms. Taking it as the wind-god’s grant of her prayer Anjana ate it. She soon conceived and bore a son almost when at Ayodhya Dasharatha’s queens bore theirs. Significantly, Rama equated Hanuman with Bharata, not Lakshmana, perhaps because Hanuman was born of Kekeyi’s share of ‘havya’, and thus Bharata and Hanuman were born of the same source, if not same womb.
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