Hanuman or in sanscrit Hanumat; nominative singular Hanumān), known also as ‘Anjaneya’ (son of Anjana), is one of the most popular concepts of Devotee of God (devotion to God) in Hinduism and one of the most important personalities in the Indian epic, the Ramayana. His most famous feat, as described in the Hindu epic scripture the Ramayana, was leading a monkey army to fight the demon King Ravan
Hanuman was born to ‘Anjana’, a female vanara. Anjana was actually an apsara or a celestial being, named ‘Punjikasthala’, who, due to a curse, was born on the earth as a female vanara. The curse was to be removed upon her giving birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
Along with Kesari, Anjana performed intense prayers to Shiva to beget Him as her Child. Pleased with their devotion, Shiva granted them the boon they sought.
Different stories are told as to Hanuman’s birth. One is that at the time that Anjana was worshipping Lord Shiva, elsewhere, Dashrath, the king of Ayodhya, was performing the Putrakama Yagna in order to have children. As a result, he received some sacred pudding, to be shared by his three wives, leading to the births of Lord Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna. By divine ordinance, a kite snatched a fragment of that pudding, and dropped it while flying over the forest where Anjana was engaged in worship. Vayu, the Hindu deity of the wind, delivered the falling pudding to the outstretched hands of Anjana, who consumed it. Hanuman was born to her as a result. 
Being Anjana’s son, Hanuman is also called Anjaneya (pronounced Aanjanèya), which literally means “arising from Anjani”.
Hanuman, in one interpretation, is also considered as the incarnation of Shiva or reflection of Shiva. Others, such as followers of Dvaita consider Hanuman to be the son of Vayu or a manifestation of Vayu, the god of wind. When Ravana tried to enter the Himalayas (the abode of Shiva) Nandi stopped him and Ravana called Nandi a monkey. Nandi in return cursed Ravana: monkeys would help destroy him. In the process word monkey along with panchaksram “Om Namashivaya” hit Shiva. Shiva, to give respect to his devotee, took the form of a vanara, Hanuman.
References to Hanuman in classical literature could be found as early as those of 5th to 1st century BC in Panini’s Astadhyayi, Abhiseka Nataka, Pratima Nataka and Raghuvamsa (Kalidasa).
The CHILDHOOD , EDUCATION AND CURSED
As a child, assuming the sun to be a ripe mango, he once took flight to catch hold of it to eat. Indra, the king of devas observed this. He hurled his weapon, the Vajra (thunderbolt) at Hanuman, which struck his jaw. He fell back down to the earth and became unconscious. Upset, Vayu went into seclusion, taking the atmosphere with him. As living beings began to get asphyxiated, to pacify Vayu, Indra withdrew the effect of his thunderbolt, and the devas revived Hanuman and blessed him with multiple boons. However, a permanent mark was left on his chin (hanuhH in Sanskrit).
On ascertaining Surya, the Hindu deity of the sun to be an all-knowing teacher, Hanuman raised his body into an orbit around the sun and requested that Surya accept him as a student. But Surya refused, claiming that as he always had to be on the move in his chariot, it would be impossible for Hanuman to learn effectively. Undeterred by Surya’s refusal, Hanuman enlarged his body; he placed one leg on the eastern ranges and the other on the western ranges and with his face turned toward the sun, made his request again. Pleased by his persistence, Surya accepted. Hanuman then moved (backwards, to remain facing Surya) continuously with his teacher, and learned all of the latter’s knowledge. When Hanuman then requested Surya to quote his “guru-dakshina” (teacher’s fee), the latter refused, saying that the pleasure of teaching one as dedicated as him was the fee in itself. But Hanuman insisted, and it was then that Surya asked him to help his (Surya’s) spiritual son Sugriva. Hanuman’s choice of Surya as his teacher is said to signify Surya as a Karma Saakshi, an eternal witness of all deeds.
Hanuman was mischievous in his childhood, and sometimes teased the meditating sages in the forests by snatching their personal belongings and by disturbing their well-arranged articles of worship. Finding his antics unbearable, but realising that Hanuman was but a child, (albeit invincible), the sages placed a mild curse on him. By this curse Hanuman forgot his own prowess, and recollected it only when others reminded him about it. It is hypothesised that without this curse, the entire course of the Ramayana war might have been different, for he demonstrated phenomenal abilities during the war, despite the curse. The curse is highlighted in Kishkindha Kanda and Sundara Kanda when Jambavantha reminds Hanuman of his abilities and encourages him to go and find Sita. Hanuman accomplishes his task.
RAMAYANA and HANUMAN
The Sundara Kanda, the fifth book in the Ramayana, focuses mainly on the adventures of Hanuman and the story is as follows.
Hanuman meets Rama during the latter’s 14-year exile in the forest. With his brother Lakshmana, Rama is searching for his wife Sita who had been abducted by the rakshasa emperor Ravana. Their search brings them to the vicinity of the mountain Rishyamukha, where Sugriva, along with his followers and friends, are in hiding from his elder brother Vali, the Vanara emperor with whom he had a serious misunderstanding. Refusing to listen to Sugriva’s explanation, Vali had banished him from the kingdom while holding Sugriva’s wife captive in his (Vali’s) own palace.
Having seen Rama and Lakshmana, Sugriva sends Hanuman to ascertain their identities. Hanuman approaches the two brothers in the guise of a brahmin. His first words to them are such that Rama says to Lakshmana that none could speak the way the brahmin did unless he or she had mastered the Vedas. He notes that there is no defect in the brahmin’s countenance, eyes, forehead, brows or any limb. He points out to Lakshmana that his accent is captivating, adding that even an enemy with sword drawn would be moved. He praises the disguised Hanuman further, saying that sure success awaited the king whose emissaries were as accomplished as he was.
When Rama introduces himself, Hanuman reveals his own identity and falls prostrate before Rama, who embraces him warmly. Thereafter, Hanuman’s life becomes interwoven inextricably with that of Rama. Hanuman then brings about a friendship and alliance between Rama and Sugriva; Rama helps Sugriva regain his honour and makes him king of Kishkindha. Sugriva and his vanaras, most notably Hanuman, help Rama defeat Ravana and reunite with Sita.
In their search for Sita, a group of Vanaras reaches the southern seashore. Upon encountering the vast ocean, every vanara begins to lament his inability to jump across the water. Hanuman too is saddened at the possible failure of his mission, until the other vanaras, and especially the wise bear Jambavantha begin to extol his virtues. Hanuman then recollects his own powers, enlarges his body and flies across the ocean. On his way, he encounters a mountain that rises from the sea, proclaims that it owed his father a debt and asks him to rest a while before proceeding. Not wanting to waste any time, Hanuman thanks the mountain and carries on. He then encounters a sea-monster who challenges him to enter her mouth. When Hanuman outwits her, she admits that it was merely a test of his courage. Finally on killing Simhika, a shadow-eater rakshasa, he reached Lanka.
Hanuman reaches Lanka and marvells at its beauty. He also regrets that it might be destroyed if Rama has to do battle with Ravana. After he finds Sita sitting depressed in captivity in a garden, Hanuman reveals his identity to her, reassures her that Rama has been looking for her, and uplifts her spirits. He offers to carry her back to Rama; but she refuses his offer, saying it would be an insult to Rama as his honour is at stake. After meeting Sita, Hanuman begins to wreak havoc, gradually destroying the palaces and properties of Lanka. He killed many rakshasas, including Jambumalli and Akshaa. To subdue him, Ravana’s son Indrajit uses the Brahmastra. Though immune to the astra (weapon), Hanuman, out of respect to Brahma, allows himself be bound by the weapon. Deciding to use the opportunity to meet the renowned ruler of Lanka, and to assess the strength of Ravana’s hordes, Hanuman allows the rakshasa warriors to parade him through the streets. He conveys Rama’s message of warning to the powerful rakshasa, and demands the safe return of Sita. He also informs Ravana that Rama would be willing to forgive him if he returns Sita honourably. Enraged, Ravana orders Hanuman’s execution. However, Ravana’s brother Vibheeshana intervenes, pointing out that it is against the rules of engagement to kill a messenger. Ravana then orders that Hanuman’s tail be lit instead. As Ravana’s forces attempted to wrap cloth around his tail, Hanuman begins to lengthen it. After frustrating them for a while, he allows it, then escapes from his captors, and with his tail on fire he burns down large parts of Lanka. After extinguishing his flaming tail in the sea, he heads back to Rama.
Lifting a mountain
Sculpture of Hanuman carrying the Dronagiri mountain
When Lakshmana is severely wounded by Indrajit during the war against Ravana, Hanuman is sent to fetch the Sanjivani, a powerful life-restoring herb from the Dronagiri mountain in the Himalayas to revive him. Ravana realises that if Lakshmana dies, a distraught Rama would probably give up, and so has his uncle Kalnaimi tempt Hanuman away with luxury. However, Hanuman is tipped off by a crocodile (actually a celestial being under a curse) and kills the Rakshasa. When he is unable to find the specific herb before nightfall, Hanuman again displays his might by lifting the entire Dronagiri mountain and bringing it to the battlefield in Lanka, thus helping others find the herb to revive Lakshmana. An emotional Rama hugs Hanuman, declaring him as dear to him as his own beloved brother Bharat.
A Hanuman painting from Bali (1880)
After the victory of Rama over Ravana, Hanuman went to the Himalayas to continue his worship of the Lord. There he scripted a version of the Ramayana on the Himalayan mountains using his nails, recording every detail of Rama’s deeds. When Maharishi Valmiki visited him to show him his own version of the Ramayana, he also saw Lord Hanuman’s version and became very disappointed.
When Hanuman asked him the cause of his sorrow, he said that his version, which he had created very laboriously was no match for the splendour of Hanuman’s, and would therefore, go ignored. At this, Hanuman took those rocks on one shoulder and Valmiki on the other, and went to the sea. There he threw his own version into the sea, as an offering to Rama. This version, called the Hanumad Ramayana, has been unavailable since then.
Maharishi Valmiki was so taken aback that he said he would take another birth to sing the glory of Hanuman which he had understated in his version. Later, one tablet is said to have floated ashore during the period of Mahakavi Kalidasa, and hung at a public place to be deciphered by scholars. Kalidasa is said to have deciphered it and recognised that it was from the Hanumad Ramayana recorded by Hanuman in an extinct script, and considered himself very fortunate to see at least one pada of the stanza.
After the Ramayana war
After the war, and after reigning for several years, the time arrived for Rama to depart to his heavenly abode. Many of Rama’s entourage, including vanaras like Sugriva decided to depart with him. Shunning the heavens, Hanuman however, requested to remain on earth as long as Rama’s name was venerated by people. Sita accorded Hanuman that desire, and granted that his image would be installed at various public places, so he could listen to people chanting Rama’s name. He is one of the Chiranjivins of Hinduism.
The monkey symbolism of Lord Hanuman is related to the notion that a human being’s mind is ever active and never restful, hence the depiction of a human being with the face of a monkey. Furthermore, Lord Hanuman symbolically stands for pure devotion, complete surrender and absence of ego or the lower self. As the son of Vayu, symbolically he also stands for the subtle body consisting of the breath body, the mental body and the intelligence body. Here we explain Hanuman as the mental body in a human being.
The mind, being ever fickle, jumps from place to place, obtaining everything in its path and engaging in numerous activities that brings no peace to the surroundings. The mind can travel to any place and fly anywhere and cross to other parts of the world such is the power of the mind.
The mind can also expand or contract, and if it remains under the control of animal passions and sensory activities, it will become unstable and devious. Hence, the mind of Hanuman is always under this fluctuation.
However, once surrendering occurs to the inner self and the mind becomes devoted unconditionally, the mind can obtain miraculous powers and perform stupendous feats like that of Lord Hanuman. When one’s mind reaches this state in working for the divine, it helps the lower self (Sita) and Soul (Rama) to come together and become united.