Hanuman is the son of the wind god, Vayu (or Pavan) and the celestial maiden, Anjana. He is known by various appellations, such as Anjaneya. In fact, there are 108 Sanskrit names for Hanuman, each of which describes a particular virtue. Hanuman's name is correctly pronounced:
- HUN (as in the prefix for honey)
- oo (as in school)
- maahn (rhymes with John)
Another definition of Hanuman is "the destruction of self-pride". This is an apt name for Hanuman, as he embodies humility.
Hanuman is often depicted with a mace in one hand as it is a symbol of his mighty strength and vitality.
The Story of Hanuman
Hanuman is translated as "disfigured jaw." As a child, Hanuman used to think that the Sun was a mango. One day, he leapt up into the sky and tried to swallow the Sun. Lord Indra, the king of the Gods, became upset and threw his thunderbolt onto Hanuman, and thus injured his jaw.
Hanuman's father, Vayu, was very angered by Indra's harmful action and decided that he would withhold his powers. The world could not survive without wind. To placate Vayu, the Gods offered many blessings for young Hanuman. Indra made Hanuman stronger than his thunderbolt. Other gods gave him protection from water and fire, radiant health, invincibility, and the ability to change the size of his body.
Lord Rama, Hanuman's master, was the heir apparent of the kingdom of Ayodhya. He was banished by his stepmother and went into exile for fourteen years with his wife Sita, and his brother, Lakshman. They encountered Hanuman during this time, and Hanuman quickly became the servant of Lord Rama, helping him with all his endeavors.
This powerful God accomplished miraculous feats. They are detailed in the classic chant of the Hanuman Chalisa (40 stanzas to Hanuman), written by the poet saint Tulsidas. Reciting the Hanuman Chalisa is also an astrological remedy or upaya in Vedic astrology for individuals who are undergoing specific Saturn transits in their lives.
Some of Hanuman's brave acts mentioned in the Hanuman Chalisa include:
- Learning all vidyas (forms of ancient knowledge)
- When Lord Rama's brother, Lakshman, was wounded in battle, Sushena told Hanuman that the life-giving Ayurvedic herb, Sanjivani, would cure him. However, this herb was located in the distant Himalayan mountains. Hanuman flew there and disguised himself as a monk to find the correct mountainous region. When he could not easily locate the herb, he tore off an entire hillside from the mountain and brought it back to Lakshman, who was then cured.
- When Ravana kidnapped Sita Devi and took her to Lanka, Hanuman literally leapt to her rescue. He first found Lord Rama's lost ring. Then, he transported it to Sita to prove that he was her husband's true divine messenger.
- Hanuman slew demons, burnt down Lanka, and rescued Sita.
Sita was eternally grateful to Hanuman for his bravery. In verse 31 of the Hanuman Chalisa, Goddess Sita is said to have granted Hanuman 8 supernatural powers:
- Anima: the ability to shrink ones size
- Mahima: the ability to increase ones size
- Lagima: the ability to be weightless
- Garima: the ability to increase ones weight
- Brapti: the ability to travel anywhere and acquire anything
- Parakamya: an irresistible willpower
- Vastiva: mastery over all creatures
- Istiva: the ability to become godlike with the power to create and destroy
Sita also gave Hanuman the blessing of 9 treasures:
- Mahapadma: Great lotus flower
- Padma: Lotus/ a Himalayan lake with treasures
- Shankha: Conch shell
- Makara: Crocodile
- Kachchhapa: Tortoise or turtle shell
- Mukunda: Cinnabar/ Quick Silver
- Kunda: Jasmine/ Arsenic
- Nila: Sapphire/ Antimony
- Kharva: Cups, vessels baked in fire
Sita also gave Hanuman the great gift of immortality. It is said that whenever anyone repeats Lord Rama’s name with great focus and devotion, Hanuman will appear.
Hanuman's birthday is celebrated widely throughout India. It is known as Hanuman Jayanti. This festival falls on the full moon of the lunar month of Chaitra. This is typically in the month of April. It falls on the heels of Lord Rama's birthday, or Ram Navami.
Hanuman is thought to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. He is traditionally worshipped on Tuesdays and Saturdays, depending on whether people reside in North or South India. (Learn more in An Introduction to Shiva.)
Here are some ways to honor Hanuman in your life:
- Get a statue or a framed photo of Shri Hanuman and put it on your altar
- Have a framed photo of Hanuman and Rama on your altar
- Chant the Hanuman Chalisa on Tuesdays and Saturdays
- Offer sindhoor powder to Hanumanji
- Act bravely for righteous causes
- Be one pointed in your devotion
- Practice selflessness
- Do Hanuman asana
- Read the Ramayana, which describes the story of Lord Rama
The book, In a World of Gods and Goddesses, states that: "One-pointed devotion is required in order to attain perfection in the spiritual path of bhakti (devotion). Hanuman's exclusive service to Rama is an archetypal image of dedication and surrender to the will of God."