Hanuman is a Hindu god, and a great devotee of Rama according to Hindu legends. He is a central character in the Hindu epic known as Ramayana and its different versions. Also mentioned in various texts, including the great Mahabharata, the various Puranas, and some texts from Jainism. He is a vanara (humanoid ape), who participated in Rama’s war against the demon king Ravana. Various texts also present him as an incarnation of the god Shiva. He is the son of Vāyu (wind god), who according to various accounts, played a role in his birth.
Punjikastala, the Apsara, mother of Hanuman
Hanumans birth was a destined one. One day in the heavens of Indra, Punjikastala was playing around until she looked down and saw a monkey sage meditating. She thought it was hiliarious and taunted the monkey sage by throwing fruits and rocks at him. Eventually the sage saw her and cursed her to take form of a monkey. She was really sorry and the sage saw it, however curses can not be taken back. He did mention the curse would be broken when she gave birth to the avatar of Shiva. No longer a beautiful Apsara, she left the heavens and hid in a village on earth.
Defeating Sambasam & marrying Kesari
The village she has reached was being tormented by a demon Sambasadam and the locals were afraid. Minding her own business, she set up a shrine in Shivas name and prayed. During her prayer, she heard “Sambasadam can only be destroyed by his own blood”. She was confused, and baffled when the demon decided to attack the village, she immediately prepared to defend herself until a man showed up. Looking closely at the face, she saw the man had a monkey face! – This was Kesari – a warrior. They both took arms and fought the demon. When the demon Sambasadam started bleeding, she dipped some arrows in his blood and fire them back. Kesari saw it was working & they both defeated the demon.
Her prayers answered, a monkey god born
The village was greatful and requested her to marry Kesari, to which they both accepted. They both lived happily honouring Shiva & Parvati as their gods. One day, the King Dasharatha of Ayodhya was praying to have kids, he was granted a serum by Agni, the fire god to give to his wives, leading to the births of Ram, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna. By divine ordinance, a fragment of that serum was snatched by a bird who then dropped over the forest where Anjana (the mother of Hanuman) was engaged in worship to Shiva. The wind god Vāyu transported the falling serum by orders of Shiva to the outstretched hands of Anjana. She heard “take this serum, it has the power of the wind and the essence of Shiva. She consumed it, leading to the birth of Hanuman.
Note – That bird who snatched the serum was no coincidence. That bird was Suvarchala another apsara who had been cursed to become a bird by Brahma for wrongdoings. Her curse would be lifted if she touched the lord Agnis serum. When she snatches the serum, she immediately regains her form which results in the serum to fall toward the forest, where Vāyu transports it.
There are two stories however both concur with Hanuman being hungry or bored and leaping towards the sun thinking it was an apple or a ball to play with. In one version, he is struck down by Indra’s thunderbolt and killed. His father Vayu is very sad and removes all air from earth. This bothers all creaturs and to restore the order, Shiva intervenes & revives Hanuman. As the mistake was done by the supreme lord Indra, all gods intervene and offer him boons, making him the powerful god he is.
In the second version, he leaps, falls & dies. His parents pray to the sun god Surya to resuscitate him. After which he is sent to the kingdom of Kishkindha to learn the way of life.
In both accounts, after sometime after the event, Hanuman uses his powers as simple pranks, until one day he pranks a meditating sage. In fury, the sage curses Hanuman to forget the vast majority of his powers. The curse remains into effect, until he is reminded of his powers in his adulthood during the Ramayana.
Role in Hinduism
The great monkey hero Hanuman, also called Maruti, helps Rama in his battle against Ravana to rescue Sita, who was kidnapped by Ravana. Hanuman symbolizes the qualities of an ideal devotee of God, who can be represented by the letters of his name, as follows:
H = Humility and hope (optimism)
A = Admiration (truthfulness, devotion)
N = Nobility (sincerity, loyalty, modesty)
U = Understanding (knowledge)
M = Mastery over the ego (kindness, compassion)
A = Achievements (strength)
N = Nishkama-karma (selfless work in the service of God)
After his coronation for the victory in the battle against Ravana, Rama distributes gifts to all who had helped him in his battle. Turning to Hanuman, Rama said, “There is nothing you can give that would correspond to the service you have rendered to me. All I can do is give you my own self” Hearing these words, Hanuman stood next to Rama, in all humility, with his hands clasped in front of his mouth, and his head slightly bent, he settled into the pose to serve Rama. To this day, the image of Hanuman, as a humble devotee of the Lord, is the most popular among the admirers and worshippers of Hanuman.
The Hanuman prayer, therefore, symbolizes the worship of the Supreme Lord, for the acquisition of knowledge, physical and mental strength, truthfulness, sincerity, generosity, humility, loyalty and deep devotion to the Lord.