Indian rendition of Hanuman   HANUMAN

Who or what is Hanuman?

Hanuman on a panel at the Royal Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
Hanuman at the Royal palace, Bangkok, Thailand

Hanuman is a monkey god, first heard of several thousand years ago and still a very popular deity among Hindus. He can be found in temple carvings across South-east Asia and is a character in legends retold in many languages through drama, dance, marionettes, shadow puppets or village storytellers.

The immortal (Chiranjeevi) son of Lord Vayu, he is a bachelor and a fiercely loyal devotee of Prince Rama. He is the only character that appears in both the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharat.

In India he is also called Maruti, Hanumanth, Vayuputra, Anjaneya, Mahaveera (the great hero ), Pavan-suta (son of air) or Bajarangbali. He is pictured as a robust monkey holding a mace (gada) as a sign of bravery and with a picture of Lord Rama tatooed on his chest as a sign of his devotion.

As a deity he is a provider of courage, hope, knowledge, intellect and devotion. Though considered a lesser god, Hanuman's popularity has steadily increased due to popular tales of his childhood, his great courage, and, in some cases, his sex appeal. Most Hindus pray to Hanuman for gifts of a somewhat banal nature, such as passing an exam or getting a job.

The Ramayana

In Kishkinda, the kingdom of the monkeys, there lived Hanuman the monkey warrior. He was a devoted follower of the ruler of the monkey kingdom, Surgriva, and the guardian of the gate. When Hanuman heard of the abduction of Sita from Rama he is sent by Surgriva to aid in the search. Hanuman was accompanied by a great monkey army. He divided his troops into four divisions; each division would go in search of Sita. One day as Hanuman and his men searched for Sita, they saw a great bird on a mountainside. The bird was asked if he knew about the whereabouts of Sita. The bird replied, "She is in the
Hanuman on the funerary carriage hall of Wat Xiang Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos
Hanuman on the funerary carriage hall of Wat Xiang Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos

Asoka garden near Ravana's palace, but you must cross the great ocean." When trying to decide how they would cross the hundred miles of water to get to the island, Hanuman declared, "I can do it. My father was the Wind God."

He braced himself against the side of a mountain, all the muscles coiled in his body, and leapt into the sky. Hanuman not only had the ability to fly, but to change his shape. To protect himself from the sea serpents he swelled himself up to the size of an elephant or shrunk himself down to the size of a sparrow. When he reached Lanka he searched all over the palace grounds for Sita. Just when he felt he had failed in his mission, he saw the most beautiful woman and knew it must be Sita.

Hanuman approached her and knelt at her feet. "Do not fear. I am Hanuman, Rama's servant and messenger. He has sent me to find you. He cries for your return." He then removed from his pocket a ring that Rama had given him and gave it to Sita. Sita, overcome with emotion, gratefully accepts the ring and asks Hanuman to return quickly and tell Rama that she would wait for his arrival.

Suddenly the demons appeared and attacked Hanuman. They bound him and took him to the demon king Ravana, who ordered that Hanuman be punished and commanded that his tail be set on fire. As the king's men wrapped Hanuman's tail in cloth to set it on fire he grew it longer and longer. The more they wrapped, the longer Hanuman grew his tail. Finally, Ravana ordered, "Set it on fire!"

With his long tail on fire, Hanuman flew into the sky. He decided to set the city of Lanka ablaze to punish Ravana, so he flew low over the city and set each building, temple, palace and garden on fire. Flames shot high into the sky. As he flew over Asoka garden he made sure Sita was safe. Then before he headed home, he put his tail in the ocean to put out the fire.

To read more about the Ramayana go to Syracuse University.

Hanuman helps Vishnu churn the sea of milk in a scene from the Mahabarat
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Hanuman and Indra assist Vishnu generate amrta, the elixir of life, after 1000 years churning

Hanuman, Laxman, and Jatayu
Bhatkal temple sculpture of 16th century A.D.
Laxman is the brother of Rama
Read a Precis of
The Life of Hanuman

(from the Sanatan Society).

Thai Theatre

Hanuman, the magical white monkey warrior in Rama's simian army, is probably the best known monkey character in Ramakien, the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana. He is featured in several episodes and has become a hero especially for Thai children who recognise him instantly in any artistic representation. In the khon masked dance drama, Hanuman sports a mask of white colour, wears a diadem, grins with an open mouth and, most important of all, has the symbol of a moon surrounded by stars affixed to the palate of his mouth.

1. Hanuman the Warrior
2. Hanuman the Almighty
3. Hanuman the Adolescent
4. Hanuman the Crown Prince
5. Hanuman the King
6. Hanuman the Hermit

Tony's Home Page Avolokitsevara