Hanuman and Yoga
If yoga is the ability to control
one's mind then Hanuman is the quintessential yogi
having a perfect
mastery over his senses, achieved through a disciplined
lifestyle tempered by the twin streams of celibacy
and selfless devotion (bhakti). In fact, Hanuman
is the ideal Brahmachari (one who follows the path
of Brahma), if ever there was one.
He is also a perfect karma yogi since he performs
his actions with detachment, acting as an instrument
of destiny rather than being impelled by any selfish
Hanuman - The First to Teach Pranayama and the
Inventor of the Surya Namaskar
Pranayama is the ability to control one's breath
so that the inhalation and exhalation of air is
rhythmic. Vayu, the god of air and wind, first
taught pranayama to his son Hanuman, who in turn
taught it to mankind.
The Surya Namaskar (salutation
to the sun) too, was devised by Hanuman as a greeting
for his teacher
Hanuman and Sorcery
The villain of the epic
Ramayana was the mighty demon Ravana. When he
carried away Sita, her aggrieved
husband Rama, accompanied by Hanuman and a massive
army of monkeys laid siege on Lanka, the capital
of Ravana's empire. As the battle progressed, the
demon lost all his brothers and sons and it became
clear that he was headed towards defeat. Finally,
he sent for his only surviving son Mahiravana,
a powerful sorcerer who ruled over the underworld
(patala loka). Mahiravana was a great devotee of
Goddess Kali from whom he had obtained vital occult
secrets. Initially Mahiravana did not wish to join
the fight against Rama since he felt the latter's
cause to be just. But understanding his weakness
for ritual magick Ravana addressed him thus: "Think
of the powers the goddess Kali will grant you when
you offer to her the heads of two handsome and
virile youths like Rama and Lakshmana." Needles
to say, Mahiravana agreed.
The great sorcerer Mahiravana managed to kidnap
both Rama and his brother Lakshmana while they
were sleeping. He left behind, in place of their
bed, a dark trail stretching deep into the bowels
of the earth. Hanuman immediately dived into the
tunnel and made his way to patala, the subterranean
kingdom of Mahiravana. There he found the two brothers
tied to a post, their bodies anointed with mustard
oil and bedecked with marigold flowers, ready to
be sacrificed. Near them, Mahiravana was sharpening
the sacrificial blade and chanting hymns to invoke
Vaibhav Hanumana Yantra
Hanuman taking the form
of a bee whispered into Rama's ear, "When Mahiravana asks you to place
your neck on the sacrificial block, inform him
that being of royal lineage you have never learned
to bow your head. Tell him to show you how." Mahiravana
fell for the trap. No sooner had he bowed his head
in the ritually prescribed manner than Hanuman
regained his form, seized the blade, and decapitated
the sorcerer. Thus did Hanuman turn the tables
and sacrificed the demon himself to Mother Goddess
Kali. Impressed, she made Hanuman her doorkeeper
and indeed many temples of the goddess are seen
to have a monkey guarding their doorways. Further,
to this day, Hanuman is invoked in any fight against
sorcery, and amulets and charms depicting him are
therefore extremely popular among devotees.
Why Idols of Hanuman are Red in Color
After safely reaching Ayodhya, Rama in no time
settled down to a happy life of kingship and matrimony.
Hanuman continued to be a constant and devoted
companion with an unrestricted access to Rama.
Life went on normally. Many delightful episodes
from this period establish Hanuman as the ultimate
bhakta, and shed much light on his unique personality.
Every morning Hanuman
would observe Sita put a red mark on her forehead
and smear the parting
of her hair with vermilion powder, enacting a ritual
which is the exclusive prerogative of married women
in India. Being naturally of a curious bent of
mind he asked her the reason behind this daily
ritual. "For the well-being of my husband," replied
she. Hanuman, ever the humble well-wisher of his
chosen lord wondered: "If a virtuous woman
like Sita has to apply vermilion in this manner
for the good of Lord Rama, I, a mere monkey, need
to do more." Thus thinking, he took a bowlful
of the paste and smeared his whole body with it.
Needless to say, both Rama and Sita were moved
by the purity of Hanuman's heart. Since then, idols
of Hanuman are colored a rich vermilion red.
Why Hanuman is Shown Tearing Open his Own Chest
Tears Open His Chest
Once Sita gave Hanuman
a necklace of pearls. After a while, the residents
of the city observed him
breaking the necklace and inspecting each pearl
minutely. Intrigued they asked him the reason. "I
am looking for Rama and Sita," replied Hanuman.
Laughing at his apparent naivety the spectators
pointed out to him that the royal couple was at
the moment seated on the imperial throne. "But
Rama and Sita are everywhere, including my heart" wondered
aloud the true bhakta. Not understanding the depth
of his devotion, they further teased him: "So
Rama and Sita live in your heart, can you show
them to us?" Unhesitatingly, Hanuman stood
up and with his sharp talons tore open his chest.
There, within his throbbing heart, the astonished
audience were taken aback to find enshrined an
image of Rama and Sita. Never again did anyone
make fun of Hanuman's devotion.
The Five-Headed (Panchamukhi) Hanuman - An Intriguing
Vaishnavas believe that the wind-god Vayu underwent
three incarnations to help Lord Vishnu. As Hanuman
he helped Rama; as Bheema he assisted Krishna;
and as Madhavacharya (1197-76), he founded the
Humble and Powerful
It is interesting to note that
in his youth Madhavacharya distinguished himself
in physical exercises and
field games and is said to have had a wonderful
physique. Truly, physical prowess is an integral
aspect of the cult of Hanuman and he is the patron
deity of wrestlers and body-builders. He is most
popularly referred to as 'Vajra-anga-Bali,' meaning
the Powerful One (bali) with a body (anga) hard
as a thunderbolt (vajra).
The Vaishnavas evolved a syncretic form of Hanuman
with five heads and ten arms, incorporating in
the composite image five important Vaishnavite
At the center a monkey's face (Hanuman).
A lion's visage representing Narasimha gazing
An eagle's head symbolizing Garuda facing west.
A boar head of Varaha (north).
A horse's face for Hayagriva (facing the sky).
Each head signifies a particular trait. Hanuman
courage and strength, Narasimha fearlessness, Garuda
magical skills and the power to cure snake bites,
Varaha health and exorcism and Hayagriva victory
The Spiritual Significance of Hanuman
The goal of all mystical yearning is union of
the individual soul with the universal soul. In
the Adhyatma ('spiritual') Ramayana, a Sanskrit
text dating from the fourteenth or fifteenth century,
Sita represents the individual (jiva-atma), which
has separated from the universal (param-atma) symbolized
by Rama. In a beautiful interpretation, Hanuman
here is said to personify bhakti, which annihilates
the 'ahankara' or ego (Ravana), and re-unites the
The Enduring Relevance of Hanuman
In Hindu symbolism, a monkey signifies the human
mind, which is ever restless and never still. This
monkey-mind happens to be the only thing over which
man has absolute control. We cannot control the
world around us but we can control and tame our
mind by ardent discipline. We cannot choose our
life but we can choose the way we respond to it.
Hanuman, when he was a child, was tempted by the
sun and he rushed towards it thinking it to be
a delectable fruit. On his way however, he was
distracted by the planet Rahu and changed his path.
Thus Hanuman is the temperamental human intellect,
which is unquiet and excitable. It is only by diverting
it to the path of pure bhakti (devotion), that
it can be made aware of its profound and silent
According to the Hindu point of view, there is
no objective world 'out there.' The whole manifested
world is a subjective phenomenon created by our
own selves. We - as humans - have the unique ability
to condition our minds. In other words, we have
the power to change the way we perceive life. And
by changing our perceptions of life, we have the
power of changing our world. When Hanuman enters
Rama's life, he changes Rama's world. He transforms
a crisis (the loss of Sita) into an opportunity
(rid the world of Ravana). He transforms a victim
into a hero.
Thus, Hanuman is no ordinary
monkey. While embarking on the search for Sita,
the monkeys were confronted
by the vast ocean lying between them and Lanka.
They wondered how they would make their way across
this mighty obstacle. Someone suggested that Hanuman
jump and cross over the sea. But Hanuman was doubtful, "I
cannot do that," he said. At that moment,
one of his companions reminded Hanuman of the awesome
powers lying dormant within him. Instantly Hanuman
regained memory of his divine strength and he successfully
leaped across the ocean. Thus our mind too needs
to be reminded of its divine potential and of the
fact that it can achieve phenomenal heights provided
it believes in its ability to perform the task
in question. Truly Hanuman is symbolic of the perfect
mind, and embodies the highest potential it can
References and Further Reading
- Khokar, Ashish and
S. Saraswati. Hanuman: New Delhi, 2001.
- Nagar, Shanti Lal.
Hanuman in Art, Culture, Thought and Literature:
New Delhi, 1995.
- Pattanaik, Devdutt.
Hanuman an Introduction: Mumbai, 2001.
- Shri Hanuman Ank (In
Hindi): Gita Press Gorakhpur, 1975.
- Tompkins, Ptolemy.
The Monkey in Art: New York, 1994.