Lord Hanuman, the monkey god, is a very popular deity in Hinduism. He has a key role to play in the Ramayana epic, where he helps Lord Rama to defeat the demon, Ravana, and rescue Sita (Rama’s wife) from Ravana’s clutches. But there is a lot more to Hanuman than that. Here are 5 facts about Hanuman, which explain why he is such a special deity and an endearing personality.
He Embodies Loyalty and Devotion
During the quest to find Sita, Rama and his brother, Lakshmana, encounter an intelligent race of monkeys, the Vanaras. Hanuman is one of them. Hanuman proves to have astonishing powers, which he puts to good use while helping Rama. Speed, strength, courage, and wisdom are some of the traits he is blessed with. Rama trusts him implicitly. It is Hanuman whom he chooses to send as an emissary to Sita, who is a captive in Lanka. Rama has great trust in Hanuman and his abilities. And Hanuman rewards his trust by stepping up for him every time and delivering results.
As their bond deepens, his loyalty and devotion to Rama grow in leaps and bounds.
Hanuman is often depicted as kneeling with folded hands before Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana or tearing open his chest to reveal the images of Rama and Sita in the place where his heart should be. Hanuman is a true bhakti yogi who connects to God through his selfless service.
Rama’s Death Sentence to Hanuman
Once Sage Narada, who is known for his proclivity to cause mischief, told Hanuman that he need not greet Sage Vishwamitra because the latter had been a king before he became a sage. When Vishwamitra noticed that Hanuman did not greet him, he became very angry. In a fit of rage, he told Lord Rama to give Hanuman the death penalty for his impertinence. Vishwamitra was Rama's Guru, so Rama was unable to flout his order. Hence, he sent arrows to kill Hanuman. When he saw the arrows speeding towards him, Hanuman began to chant Rama’s name. So the arrows did not harm him. Then, Rama used the Brahmastra, but this time, too, nothing happened to Hanuman, who kept on chanting Rama’s name. Realizing Hanuman’s greatness and invincibility, Narada went to Vishwamitra and revealed that he was to blame for Hanuman not greeting the sage. On hearing this, the sage understood that it was not Hanuman’s mistake.
Hanuman’s Disfigured Jaw
Once, when Hanuman was a young child, he saw the sun and mistook it for a ripe orange. Hanuman leapt upwards with his hands outstretched in order to grab it. As he had the powers of his divine father, Vayu, the Wind god, he flew up like a bird and came very close to the sun.
On seeing this, Lord Indra, the ruler of the demigods in heaven, felt threatened. He sent his thunderbolt, Vajra, which struck Hanuman. Hanuman fell down and became unconscious. Enraged by Indra’s act, Vayu stopped functioning. As there was no air, it became difficult to sustain life in the universe.
Alarmed, all the demigods went to Brahma, the creator of the universe, seeking help. Brahma knew that Hanuman was destined to help Rama defeat Ravana. He revived the child, and all the Gods gave him special boons, which appeased Vayu. Hanuman got his name after his jaw became disfigured due to his fall ('hanu' means 'jaw', and 'man' denotes 'prominent'). His name warns us that uncontrolled power can have dangerous consequences.
Why Hanuman Forgot His Powers
Hanuman was a very mischievous youth. He had the habit of bothering the temple priests and sages by disturbing them during sacrificial ceremonies. They became annoyed with him and cursed him to forget his powers until someone else reminded him of them.
Many years later, when Hanuman was trying to find Sita, he regained knowledge of his powers. Sita was a captive in Lanka, the kingdom of the demon Ravana. The only way to reach Lanka was to leap over the ocean.
Jambavan, the bear king, was aware of Hanuman’s divine origin. He was also part of Rama’s army. Jamabavan described the powers of Hanuman to the others. When Jambavan finished speaking, the sages’ curse was lifted, and Hanuman remembered that he had many amazing abilities and powers. He then declared that he would leap over the ocean and reach Lanka. He grew to 50 times his normal height, squatted down, and then leapt up into the air.
Due to Hanuman’s strength and energy, he is the favorite deity of Kushti (a traditional form of wrestling in India) practitioners. Recalling his leap across the ocean, the science of Yoga has a pose called Hanumanasana (the splits).
Hanuman Can Control Shani (Saturn)
Hanuman and Lord Ganesha are 2 deities who are unaffected by Shani. It is believed that all the planets are controlled by Hanuman's tail. Those who worship Hanuman will be blessed with fortitude and strength.
Hanuman was in the good books of Shani because he helped Shani once. Ravana had conquered the 3 worlds and received a boon by which he was almost immortal. He also conquered the 9 planets and used them as a staircase to climb up to his throne. It gave him a perverse joy when he stepped on their backs to ascend his throne.
Hanuman rescued Shani from Ravana’s clutches. The boons from Lord Shiva and Brahma had made Ravana invincible. All the Gods were under his control and hence, powerless. But Shani offered to help them. Ravana was also a good astrologer. When his son, Meghanad, was born, Ravana cleverly placed all the planets in his 11th House. This made Meghanad also invincible and immortal. The Gods became alarmed at this. Shani then stretched his leg a little bit towards Meghanad’s 12th House. Ravana realized that this could cause Meghnad’s death. So he locked up Shani in a dark and tiny cell so that nobody would be able to see Shani's face again.
When Hanuman reached Lanka and began looking for Sita, he heard Shani's cries for help. Hanuman looked around and finally found Shani’s prison cell. Shani asked Hanuman to free him. Hanuman did so, and the grateful Shani promised Hanuman that people who worshipped him on Saturday would not have to endure the negative effects of Shani.
There are many Hanuman temples in India, which testify to his popularity. The hymn, Hanuman Chalisa, which is dedicated to him, is also very popular. People who lack self-confidence and courage chant it as it is believed to give them the strength to overcome all hardships.