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His basic hymn, comprising forty couplets, lauds him as one possessed of unfathomable knowledge, immeasurable virtues and unparalleled might. Lustrous his name, with it illuminates all three worlds. An emissary of Rama he is the bridge between his devotees and his Master, and thus, a redeemer from worldliness as also from the cycle of birth and death. In the entire Hindu pantheon Hanuman is not only the most widely worshipped divinity but also has dedicated to him a far greater number of shrines than has even Rama, his master. He protects his devotees always and everywhere, as also all premises that he enshrines – valleys, river crossings, descents and ascents of hills, forts and village-boundaries, and from all evil influences, maladies, ghosts and evil spirits. Fire being his body-colour, he is as strong and penetrating as vajra – thunder-bolt. The legendary courier of the herb Sanjivini that cured Lakshmana of his swoon, mere commemoration of Hanuman’s name is ever since the curer of all ailments.
Whatever the blend of human and animal forms into his being suggests – cosmic unity, oneness of existence or else, Hanuman does not have associated with him a philosophy or dogmatism, and mysticism in the least. In the huge body of Indian myths Hanuman does not have any of his devotees indulging in rigorous penance. A word uttered for summoning him assures his presence and his presence assures that an evil shall not prevail around. This son of Vayu, the Wind-god, is like wind a perpetual company to a devotee, always and everywhere an impenetrable wall between him and an imminent misfortune or danger. His mere name is the supreme ‘mantra’ capable of dispelling every evil and leading to success in all walks of life.
His Master’s servant always eager to serve Him, or move for accomplishing a devotee’s prayer, Hanuman is always in a posture of readiness, and hence more often the tradition has visualized his images as standing – a posture reflecting readiness, invariably with a mace in hand, and sometimes also the Mount Dron with herb Sanjivini on it. However, not warfare or weapons, his dedication to his Master is the essence of Hanuman’ being. He has Rama in his bosom when he carries his weapon but also when he does not carry any. Thus, Hanuman’s form as engaged in meditating on Rama is his more fundamental form, and the same the artist of this piece has sought to reproduce.
A votive image of a mythical being, in this wondrous portrayal Hanuman is so life-like, in physiognomy, body-colour, naturalness of posture, expression on the face, and in discovering each body-hair that one feels that he might get up any moment and begin walking. In its aesthetic beauty, too, the figure of the monkey-god, as represented in this painting, is unsurpassed. Even his monkey-face protruding a little has been amazingly balanced with a white silken beard, Vaishnava ‘tilaka’ mark on the forehead and a rich towering crown. Besides a Vaijayanti – garland of celestial flower that Lord Vishnu and his incarnations wore, gems-studded gold ornaments and red loincloth and a green sash with golden border, the artist has made a delightful use of the monkey-god’s long tail. Supported on his right shoulder it looks like a rounded muffler made of fur. The figure of the monkey-god has been rendered against a background having a river immediately behind him, a distant landscape and a temple. The depth perspective reveals quite powerfully.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.