Hanuman is one of the most beloved figures in the Hindu pantheon of gods. He is the symbol of utter and selfless devotion to his Master and god – Sri Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Hanuman’s entire strength came through the repetition of the name of Rama, the greatest mantra for this age of Kali, which if chanted with devotion is said to give liberation from the coils of mortal life. Every photo of Rama has Hanuman seated at his feet bowing to him. Wherever the Ramayana is recited a seat is left vacant for Hanuman since it is believed that he is always present at the reading of the story of his beloved master.
Vaishnavites believe that the wind god underwent three incarnations to help Lord Vishnu. As Hanuman he helped Lord Rama, as Bhima he assisted Krishna and as Madvacharya (1197-76) he founded the Advaitic sect known as “Dwaita”.
According to legend Hanuman is the son of the Wind God, Vayu. Air sustains all living beings. One can exist without food, spend days without water but it is impossible to exist even for a short time without air. Therefore Hanuman is also known as “Pranadeva” or the god of breath.
In Hindu symbolism a monkey signifies the human mind which is ever restless. We cannot control the world around us but we can control our mind by strict discipline. Hanuman is symbolic of the perfect mind which has achieved its highest potential. His name gives a clue to this. “Han” means to annihilate and “man” means mind, thus indicating one who has controlled his mind. He is the true picture of the Sthitha Prajna (liberated man) of the Bhagavad Gita.
Hanuman had no desire for name or fame. He preferred to live in mountains and caves. He practiced total brahmacharya which was a very strange thing for a simian. Even when he lived with Sri Rama in the palace he lived like a hermit without indulging the senses. This was what gave him so much spiritual power. If yoga is the ability to control the mind, then Hanuman was the perfect yogi, having perfect mastery over his senses, achieved through a disciplined lifestyle and strict adherence to celibacy and undeviating devotion to his master. He had absolute faith in his master. Every event in his life was a gift from his master to be accepted without question. His life is a classic example to be followed by all devotees of God in any form. He shows us how a devotee should spend his or her life so as to reach the Supreme. It is said that Narada once asked Brahma to tell him who he considered to be the greatest devotee of Vishnu. No doubt the sage thought his own name would be first in the list. However Brahma directed him to Prahlada, king of the Asuras for whose sake Vishnu had taken the avatara of Narasimha. Prahlada with his characteristic humility told him to approach Hanuman who was the greatest devotee of Vishnu since he chanted the name of Rama constantly.
Hanuman spent his entire life in the service of others. First he served Sugriva, then Rama. Hinduism gives many types of devotion to God. He practiced bhakti through the “dasya bhava” or the attitude of the servant. This type of devotion is perfect for destroying the ego. He performed his duties humbly and modestly and with utmost devotion. Hanuman was a perfect Karma Yogi since he performed his actions with detachment, dedicating everything to Rama. He was totally free from any desire for personal aggrandisement. In the whole of the Ramayana there is no incident in which he did anything for himself. All his feats were for the sake of others. When he narrated the tales of the war to his mother, she chided him for not killing Ravana and rescuing Sita by himself, which would have made him more famous than Rama. Hanuman replied that his life was not given to gain fame for himself but for serving Rama. His utter selflessness comes into prominence when he saw how dejected Valmiki was after reading Hanuman’s version of the Ramayana which he thought to be far superior to his own. Without a thought Hanuman threw his own immortal classic into the sea to save Valmiki from shame.
He is noted for his mighty intellect and is supposed to be the only scholar who knows all the nine vyakaranas (explanation of the Vedas). He is supposed to have learnt the Vedas from the sun God himself. He is the wisest of the wise, strongest of the strong and bravest of the brave. He is the epitome of wisdom, continence, devotion, faith, valour, righteousness and strength. His indispensable role in reuniting Sita with Rama is likened to that of a teacher helping an individual soul to realise the divine.
Rama describes Hanuman thus, “Heroism, cleverness, strength, firmness, sagacity, prudence, power and prowess have taken up their abode in him.”
He is easily reachable, just by chanting the mantra “Rama” he will come running to our aid. Conversely it is held that the easiest way to attain Rama is to worship Hanuman.
He is worshipped on Tuesdays and Saturdays which are associated with the planets, Mangal and Shani – Mars and Saturn. Both these planets are associated with death and war and known to disrupt human life by their malefic influence. Only Hanuman is capable of reducing their baneful influence on our lives.
The two scriptures which are read by all Hanuman devotees are the “Sundara Kanda” of the Ramayana where he discovered Sita in Lanka after a hard and desperate search by all the monkeys, and the forty verses of the Hanuman Chalisa by Tulsidas, which declares categorically that there is no blessing that Hanuman cannot bestow. Sita granted him the power to bestow the eight siddhis and nine types of wealth to his devotees. However the greatest boon one can ask of Hanuman is the uplifting of the spiritual qualities that he himself is known for.
“Having polished with the dust of my master’s feet, the mirror of my heart,
I narrate the pure fame of Raghupati, which bestows life’s four desires.
Considering myself to be devoid of intellectual merits,
I invoke Sri Hanuman, the son of the wind god,
Bestow on me strength, intelligence and knowledge.
Remove my bodily ailments and vicious qualities
And allow me to write this book.”