Hanuman, the super-strong monkey-god is popular among Hindus to this day. He is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Hanuman is famous for his devotion to Lord Rama, his perseverance and physical strength. Hanuman’s story in the Ramayana, where he helps track down the abducted Sita in Lanka, is a saga of courage, that inspires Hindus to face and conquer obstacles in their way.
A Simian God
To help Rama in the Ramayana, Lord Brahma recommended some gods and goddesses be born as monkeys. These include: Indra as Bali, Surya as Sugriva, Vrihaspati as Tara, and Pavana as Hanuman.
Hanuman ‘s Birth
Vrihaspati’s attendant Punjikasthala was cursed to be born as a female monkey. This curse could only be reversed if she gave birth to an avatar of Lord Shiva. So, she prayed to Shiva, who, pleased with her penance, promised to get her rid of her curse. So, Lord Shiva incarnated as a monkey named Hanuman.
It is said that Hanuman got his swollen face by mistaking the sun for food. So, he rose to swallow it. To protect the sun, Indra struck down Hanuman with his thunderbolt. Hanuman fell down to the earth and his face got swollen on impact. The monkey-god became powerful, immortal and invincible because the gods wanted to appease his godfather, Varuna.
Hanuman’s guru was Surya, the sun god. Being a bright student he mastered the scriptures in just 60 hours. Hanuman also agreed to help Surya’s son Sugriva, as a way of thanking the sun god for being his guru.
Hanuman is known for his devotion to Lord Rama. He reminds us that unlimited power lies inside us. Though powerful, Hanuman was genial in nature. Many Hindus fast on Tuesdays and Saturdays to honor Hanuman. His birthday is celebrated with great fanfare and festivity. Hanuman shrines are common throughout India.