This standing statue of Hanuman, an unusual posture only rarely seen in his imagery, represents him as praying his Lord Rama with folded hands for giving him strength to defeat Ahiravana and free him and Lakshmana, his brother, from his custody in the Patala Loka – nether world. On his face reflects his determination, in the gesture of his hands, his vow, in his posture, readiness to move and accomplish his goal, and in his robust build, a confidence that nothing is beyond him. Not a formal representation, as in leisure, or sheer attendance in a durbar, or elsewhere, a warrior, he is collecting himself, invoking his spiritual powers and all inherent energies, in his readiness to strike at the foe. So vigorous and vibrant is his image that while beholding it the blinking eye wonders, or rather feels restless, why the folded hands do not unfold, lift the mace in them and move to his target.
As the evolution of the divine iconography over centuries suggests, a deity’s better known exploits or legends have been primarily responsible in determining such deity’s votive forms or rather the entire imagery. Most of Hanuman’s legends relate to his role as redeemer in crises the foremost example of which he presented as the courier of Sanjivini herb that saved Lakshmana’s life. As the legend has it, not able to identify the herb he uprooted the entire Mount Dron, a Himalayan range, where the herb grew, and brought it to Lanka, thousands of miles away. This legend gave to the Hanuman’s imagery its most popular image which in the course of time not only occupied most of the Hanuman shrines across the country, or even beyond, but also drove away his other forms. Most of the Hanuman shrines have installed in them a flying form of Hanuman carrying over his left hand the Mount Dron with numerous shrubs growing all over it, and in the right, his mace.
Though not much illustrated in visual mediums, no less significant is the event when he rescued Rama and Lakshmana from a far greater crisis imperiling the lives of both at the hands of Ahiravana, a Ravana’s friend. Ravana had in the Patala Loka two friends, Ahiravana and Mahiravana. On Ravana’s request to destroy Rama they went to Rama’s camp but when they found Rama and Lakshmana resting on the Mount Suwela under impenetrable security cover from every side, they reached the sky and jumped from there direct on the mountain and along with the mountain carried them to Patala Loka. Finding them missing Hanuman rushed after them and reached the town Nirkumbhila. Here he learnt from the discourse of a pigeon-couple that Ahiravana had carried away Rama and Lakshmana to Patala for offering them to the Devi in sacrifice. Hanuman rushed to Patala Loka the gate of which a Vanara – monkey, exactly his own form, guarded. He was Makaraddhwaja, his own son born of a female crocodile by a drop of his sweat that she had swallowed when he jumped across the ocean in Sita’s search. With his help and with the help of Ahiravana’s wife, a half serpent and half woman, forcibly made captive, Hanuman rescued Rama and Lakshmana almost when Ahiravana was going to behead them for sacrifice. He also killed Ahiravana and his entire army.
Hanuman’s posture in the statue reveals his determination and readiness to proceed on his mission which essentially involved use of arms. He had other occasions, too, demanding such urgency : when he was required to jump across the ocean and search Sita; or, when he was required to assure Bharata of Rama’s arrival before Bharata, after Rama failed to reach Ayodhya before sun-set, was going to end his life by immolating himself, but none of them inspires such readiness with his mace in hand, as reveals in this statue. From the pedestal to his crown every part of the statue has been ingeniously conceived and cast. To his strong anatomy and robust build his delicately carved ornaments, finely incised, designed and conceived loincloth and elegantly worked crown present a befitting contrast.
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.