Tale of Hanuman from the Ramayana
Hanuman, the mighty ape that aided Lord Rama in his expedition against evil forces, is one of the most popular idols in the Hindu pantheon. Believed to be an avatar of Lord Shiva, Hanuman is worshiped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance, and devotion.
Hanuman’s tale in the epic Ramayana—in which he is assigned the task of locating Rama’s wife Sita who was abducted by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka—is known for its astounding ability to inspire and equip a reader with all the ingredients needed to face ordeals and conquer obstructions in the way of the world.
Birth of Hanuman
According to the legend of Hanuman’s birth, Vrihaspati, the ruler of all the hymns and prayers addressed to the gods, had an apsara, a female spirit of the clouds and water named Punjikasthala. Punjikasthala roamed the heavens, where we mocked and threw stones at a meditating monkey (rishi), breaking his meditations. He cursed her, turning her into a female monkey who had to wander the earth—a curse that could only be nullified if she gave birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Punjikasthala performed intense austerities to please Shiva and renamed herself Anjana. Shiva eventually granted her the boon that would cure her of the curse.
When Agni, the god of fire, gave Dasharath, the king of Ayodhya, a bowl of sacred dessert to share among his wives so they may have divine children, an eagle snatched a part of the pudding and dropped it where Anjana was meditating, and Pavana, the god of wind delivered the piece into Anjana’s outstretched hands. After she took the divine dessert, she gave birth to Hanuman. Thus Lord Shiva was incarnated as a monkey born as Hanuman to Anjana, by the blessings of the lord of the winds Pavana, who thus became Hanuman’s godfather.
Worshiping the Monkey God
Traditionally, Hindu people keep fast and give special offerings in honor of Hanuman as a weekly ritual week, on Tuesdays and, in some cases, Saturdays.
In times of trouble, it is a common faith among Hindus to chant the name of Hanuman or sing his hymn (“Hanuman Chalisa”) and proclaim “Bajrangbali Ki Jai” —”victory to thy thunderbolt strength.” Once every year—on the full-moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (April) at sunrise—Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated, commemorating the birth of Hanuman. Hanuman temples are among the most common public shrines found in India.
In this manner, Hanuman perfectly exemplifies ‘Dasyabhava’ devotion—one of the nine types of devotions—that bonds the master and the servant. His greatness lies in his complete merger with his Lord, which also formed the base of his genial qualities.