How I became Hanuman: My life & times

I was born Bajrang and became Hanuman. Many worship me, yet I worship only one. I didn’t ask the world to hail me. Yet people were kind enough to love and respect a vanara. I’m untouched by the devotion and adulation. Every fiber of my being worships Lord Rama. He is the purpose of my existence, the reason of my being. I came on this planet to offer my salutations and continue to be here to remind people of the Lord. 

My story is simple, and ordinary. At every step, I acted for my Lord. Yes, even before I was born as Bajrang. 

Every star is a seed of a fruit

I remember Lord Vishnu decided to incarnate on earth as Rama. I, Shiva, told him: I have to accompany you on this journey. Sati was concerned. How would she be with Shiva if I were to go away? So we decided – only a part of me (ansh) would go with Lord Vishnu. That ansh was me, Hanuman. 

I was not always Hanuman. My parents were Anjana and the vanara king, Kesari. I come in the illustrious lineage of Vayu. That’s why I’m also called Vayuputra or Maruti

Vayu is also one of the panchbhutas, the five elements of nature and creation. 

Owing to my strong body, I was called Vajrang, (vajra is the name for the hardest material known to man, the diamond). Later, it became Bajrang.  

People ask: Am I a monkey? Here’s some food for thought: usually the word vanaras is translated as monkeys. Vana is forest and nara, people or men. Vanara – ‘people of the forest’ – were forest tribes near modern-day Hampi who used the monkey as a symbol in their totem pole and flag. In my times, Hampi was known as Kishkindha, the land of the vanara. In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, vanaras were known as Rama Banta, a follower of Rama. Infact, people who lived in the Andhra forests were called Banjara

Back to my story: One day, I was sleeping. My father was away and mother had gone to search for some food. I woke up suddenly, hungry. I looked around, and all my little eyes could see was a delicious-looking red fruit, high in the sky. It looked so juicy! I sprang forward and leaped into the vast blue sky. Onward I climbed towards that fruit – powered by my natural ability to fly. Lord Vayu had blessed me. 

Suddenly I was struck! And listlessly floated back to earth. Later, I realized what happened. I now can only smile at the incidence. I shadowed the sun, thinking it’s my coveted fruit. It was to be an eclipse (grhan) that day and Rahu was upset at my antics. Grhan literally means to take possession of. Rahu was to ‘take possession’ of the sun for those few hours, but I was thwarting his plan. He complained to Lord Indra, who struck a blow with his Vajrayudha and disfigured my jaw. Lord Vayu was so upset with Lord Indra – He stopped blowing. The still air was becoming a curse for people. Finally, Brahma intervened. He made me open my eyes, while the devas showered blessings on me. Lord Vayu was finally appeased. From then on, I became known as Hanuman, the one with the protruding jaw. 

They say life has a way of unfolding to nudge one towards the purpose. This was mine. 

Echoes of a blessed curse

I was a naughty child, constantly annoying meditating hermits or harassing people with my antics. It was innocent fun, but mischief too must pay a price! 

And I had to. After one such mischievous prank, an annoyed hermit cursed me: You will forget your powers until someone reminds you about them. 

I laughed off those words with childlike abandon. But who knew the power of those words? Years passed by. In my mind, I bowed down to the rishi many times – my innocent fun was wrong. Yet can words once spoken be rolled back? The world would be a different place. 

And then, there we were. Standing before the mighty ocean and wondering how to reach Lanka. I was troubled looking at Lord Rama’s face etched with worry and angry with myself: Why couldn’t I do something? 

Then Jambavan spoke to me. “Why, O Son of the wind, do you doubt yourself so much? But it is the curse of all the greatest. Those who cannot do a tenth of what you can, those who haven’t a shadow of your strength, stand up and boast about their prowess, while you sit here listening to them and say nothing. Hanuman, we need a hero to leap across the sea and bring glory to the vanaras.”

His words echoed through my being, reminding me of who I was. I don’t know if the events would have unfolded differently had I not leapt across the ocean that day on September 12, 5076 BCE. But I do know for sure, I could never have faced myself. I have thanked Jambavan again and again. His words brought me back to myself. 

I can never forget the sight of my Sita Ma in Ashokavana. That day was a lunar eclipse and her forlorn look mirrored the dark of the night. Valmiki’s Ramayana so beautifully describes this: 

Hanuman found Sita looking like a full moon which was eclipsed by Rahu.

– Ramayana 5.10.14

Sita’s face looked like a full moon that had just been released from Rahu’s captivity (released from an eclipse).

– Ramayana 5.29.7

Sita’s face resembled the full moon released from the grip of Rahu.

– Ramayana 5.35.87

Even now the moments remain etched in my memory. My meeting with Goddess Sita, Her many questions about Lord Rama, her hopeful pious eyes. Even amidst her turmoil, She was so worried about me: Return safe, Hanuman! I will pray for you. Lord Rama must have smiled when He heard Her words. He knew both of us only prayed for Him. 

The name Rama beats with my every breath. Could Ravana have sensed it when He saw me in court that day? His eyes trembled with fear and rage as I willed myself to grow in size. Even when they tried to set my tail on fire, I simply took my Lord’s name and smiled. I was peaceful as the furious flames from my tail-lit Lanka ablaze. I was doing His work and was His messenger. I felt no hatred nor remorse for any of them. I only wanted justice for my Lord. I returned to Kishkinda on September 14. And the mighty vanara sena march began on September 19, five days later. I remember my fair Lord’s quiet voice as we wondered when to leave: 

“Today the sun has already risen to the middle of the sky and this is the famous Vijay Mahurath. In my opinion we must start our journey towards Lanka in this Vijay Mahurath, to win the battle against Ravana.”

– Ramayana 6.4.3

A promise – partially fulfilled 

Once again, I was on a mission. It was in the middle of the war. My dear brother, Lord Lakshman was fatally wounded. I was tasked to go to the Dronagiri hill in the Himalayas to find the sanjeevani and other life-saving herbs. I flew like my life depended on it. The chants of Lord Rama reverberated from my mind into the dark stillness of the night. Some of the herbs like Visalyakarani (remover of spikes and arrows) were easily found. The others were not so easy in the dark. I finally decided to do something I had never done before: with a bellowing Jai Shri Rama, I lifted a part of the hill with both my hands. Supporting the hill on my left hand, I humbly promised the mighty Himalayas to return with the Dronagiri. I flew toward Lanka without a moment’s haste. 

Sometimes it’s best to take the matter in your hands. As I reached the Lankan shores, the army gathered around me. I half-stood on one knee and watched the scene: the herbs being plucked, the potion was being made. Lord Lakshman’s ashen face while my Lord kept speaking words of comfort to His beloved brother. Finally, there was jubilation! Lord Lakshman opened His eyes. Even as Lord Rama hugged him, Lakshman’s eyes sought mine. He knew what I had done. I bowed to Lakshman, and when I looked up, My Lord was in front of me. Through happy tears, He hugged and thanked me profusely. How could He? What had I done? As I bent to touch my Lord’s feet, a new surge of energy flew through me. I have felt this many times in the past – it’s as though life was giving me a signal. You are fulfilling your destiny. 

Promises have to be kept. I returned the Dronagiri hill. Much as I tried, some parts of the hill crumbled from my hands as I flew back to the Himalayas. I’m told the local Dronagiri residents were not happy with this. In their eyes, I failed to keep my word, losing a part of the hill which their ancestors used to worship.  Though the residents offer prayers to Lord Rama, they don’t partake of the prasad at the annual temple festival. Even to this day. 

I humbly accept their decision. I cannot explain what happened that day, and my best efforts did not yield the result I wanted. Yet, I can say with all sincerity – it’s been one of the very few times.  

Liberation through devotion

I didn’t plan my life to be great. Perhaps people hail me because my intention and my life was one-focussed: Lord Rama. Many incidents narrate our relationship. Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas narrates: 

“Lord Ram gave Hanuman a quizzical look and said, “What are you, a monkey or a man?” Hanuman bowed his head reverently, folded his hands and said, “When I do not know who I am, I serve You and when I do know who I am, You and I are One.”

It is true. The only emotion I would feel with longing was devotion. Even my anger was tinged with devotion. I was once tricked by Narada to ignore Sage Vishwamitra. He was so angry and demanded Lord Rama sentence me to death. That was so! Yet when I stood in front of the barrage of arrows, I simply smiled and chanted the Lord’s name. The arrows fell away, one by one. Finally, to keep His word to His guru, Lord Rama picked up the Brahmastra. That too failed to touch me. Of course, everyone was stunned, and Narada then admitted to his wrongdoing. Lord Rama was pleased to know of my innocence, and me! I was pleased as always!  

Arjuna also once called upon me. He insisted I accompany his chariot during the Mahabharata war. He said: I will build a bridge similar to the famed Setu to win your trust! I was amused: Building the Setu bridge single-handedly? 

I watched as he built the bridge I asked for: one that could withstand my weight. And saw his disappointment as the bridge crumbled as I took my first step on it. Lord Krishna then blessed Arjuna to try again: and it held! I had to keep my word too. In the form of an emblem on his chariot’s flag, I was beside Arjun throughout the war. After the war, I took my original form, and blessed Arjuna before going away. As soon as I left, his chariot burned to ashes. Lord Krishna told the dazed Arjuna about my protective powers: Had it not been for Hanuman the celestial weapons would have burned the chariot long ago! Is this true? I leave that to you. 

Have I inspired devotion in other parts of the world?  The Aztec legends of Mexico speak of Echtill, the son of the wind. Is it me? I leave that to you. 

Am I a Chiranjeevi (immortal)? I can only say this: I live in devotion. 

The facts are based on inputs by @bharathgyan. This research team, led by a passionate husband-wife duo – Dr. DK Hari and Dr. Hema Hari, unearth some of India’s untold stories and make them contemporary. You can click here to buy any of their books on Indian civilization.

This article was first published on The Art of Living website.

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