Hanuman, the lord of monkeys, is one of the few gods in Hinduism to be worshipped across caste lines by followers of the Shaiva, Vaishnava and Shakta orders. He is admired for his strength, scholarship, wisdom, humility and celibacy.
This book is an attempt to understand the imagery, ritual and philosophy associated with Hanuman worship in our time. At its heart is a single narrative on the life of the monkey- god woven out of plots and ideas found in the Valmiki Ramayana, Mahabharata, various Puranas and several vernacular Ramakathas. Also included are tales found in Jain Ramayanas and the Ramayanas of South East Asia.
Highlights include lucid explanations, a map showing the traditional journey of Rama to Lanka through Kishkinda, the text and translation of the Hanuman Chalisa, and over 100 illustrations, many of them in colour.
Let me meditate on Hanuman, Rama's eternal servant, the embodiment of devotion, whose body is as strong as thunder, whose mind is as sharp as lightning, who holds in his arms the mountain of herbs and a mace, who crushes malefic demons under his feet, who solves problems, takes away worry, inspires strength, gives hope and confidence, and who helps the devotee make his journey to Godhead.
The Ramayana is a much-revered Indian epic that contains values most Hindus hold dear. The epic may be seen as bringing to life the eternal struggle between ritu and dharma.
Ritu is the impersonal and inflexible law of Nature. Dharma is the law of society created by man for man that changes with time (kala), location (desha) and the personality of people (guna). Ritu lets loose the instinct for sex and violence. Dharma uses intellect to tame these instincts. Ritu gives rise to matsya nyaya, the law of the jungle by which might is right and only the fit survive. Dharma forces man to live for others, gives rights to the weak and imposes duties on the strong. Ritu rotates the cycle of life, causing the sun to rise and set, the moon to wax and wane, the tide to rise and fall, the seasons to change, the plants to wither and bloom, the animals to survive and propagate. Dharma domesticates the wilderness to generate a civilized society where man can look beyond survival at the meaning of existence.
Man has a choice: to uphold dharma and create a civilized society or to reject dharma and live as a beast. The first choice demands overpowering one's instincts and urges and has the potential to transform man into god. The second choice indulges the senses, inflates the ego and makes man a demon.
Both the vanar-king Vali and the rakshasa-king Ravana are presented as villains in the epic as they succumb to ambition and lust. Both drive their brothers away in order to become kings. Both mock the sanctity of marriage. Both believe in coercion, not compromise. Both are rash, arrogant and self-serving.
By contrast, Rama, the protagonist of the epic, sacrifices everything as he goes about obeying his father, pleasing his subjects and remaining faithful to his wife. His selflessness makes him maryada purushottama, the supreme upholder of social values.
Besides Rama stands Hanuman, a handsome, strong and intelligent monkey, who chooses to be celibate and finds fulfillment in selfless service. Though animal, not bound by social law, he achieves what remains elusive to most humans - triumph over the senses and the ego. As a result, he becomes, like Rama, worthy of veneration.
Hanuman is widely worshipped in India for a number of reasons. This book weaves into a single narrative (occasionally taking some artistic liberty for the sake of coherence and simplicity) stories of Hanuman from various sources, such as the original Sanskrit Valmiki Ramayana, Indian vernacular translations as well as Jain, Thai, Balinese, Malay and Vietnamese versions of the epic.
In some of these works, especially the versions from South East Asia, Hanuman is described as having many amorous exploits. In keeping with the Indian tradition that has institutionalized Hanuman's celibacy, I have ignored these stories. But I have included in the narrative some of the female characters who fell in love with Hanuman, including the apsara Swayamprabha, the mermaid Svarna-matsya, the sorceress Benjkaya and some of Ravana's wives.
The aim of this book is to help the reader appreciate the many facets of this much-adored monkey-god. It must, however, be kept in mind that this book is only an introduction, not an intensive or an exhaustive look at the monkey-god. It is targeted at the general reader, not the scholar. For those interested in learning more about Hanuman, there is a select bibliography at the end of the book.
I hope this book brings to life the games gods play to amuse and uplift man. May it help readers fathom the mysteries of santana dharma, the Eternal Universal Truth. And may it please Hanuman who people believe still lives somewhere in the Himalayas chanting the name of Rama.
About the Author
Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik (b. 1970), MBBS, graduated in medicine from Grant Medical College, Mumbai, and went on to specialize in the field of medical writing and health communication.
With a passion for mythology, he topped the Mumbai University course in comparative mythology (PGDCM) and has published three books as part of the introduction series: Shiva: An Introduction; Vishnu: An Introduction; and Devi: An Introduction. His articles have been published in Parabola, journal of myth, tradition and the search for meaning; the Times of India 'Speaking Tree'; and in guest columns of the New Indian Express. His unorthodox approach has been widely appreciated.
As part of Sabrang, a cultural organization that demystifies the arts, Dr. Pattanaik has lectured extensively on the relevance of mythology to modern man.
Dr. Pattanaik lives in India.
|About this Book||vii|
|I||The Hanuman Heritage||1|
|II||Birth of Hanuman||11|
|III||Hanuman Befriends Sugriva||15|
|IV||Hanuman Meets Rama||23|
|V||Hanuman Leaps Across the Sea||37|
|VI||Hanuman Finds Sita||47|
|VII||Hanuman Builds the Bridge||57|
|VIII||Hanuman Battles Ravana||63|
|IX||Hanuman in Ayodhya||87|
|X||Hanuman After Rama||101|
|XI||Many Facets of Hanuman||109|
|XII||Attributes of Hanuman||117|
|XIII||Worship of Hanuman||121|
|XIV||Relevance of Hanuman Today||123|