Hanuman, a mighty devotee ape of lord Rama and an incarnation of Lord Shiva, is one of the most interesting deities in the Hindu culture. The tales of Hanuman dates back to the time of Ramayana. Fairy tales from India are mostly based on the Hindu religion and the mythical characters associated with it. One has to thoroughly understand Indian culture to be able to identify with the culture’s tales. The values and beliefs presented in Hanuman cater to what is important to individuals of the Indian community.
Heroism, bravery, devotion, and musical talents are greatly valued in the Indian culture and most of the stories allude to these characteristics in the protagonist. The story of Hanuman is based on the mythical book Ramayana. Hanuman is the monkey deity in the Ramayana and there are many tales about his adventures. Hanuman is regarded as the eleventh incarnation of Shiva (Bulcke 1960:399) because in the early text of Ramayana, it was mentioned that Hanuman’s mother Anjana was impregnated by Shiva’s seed. Hanuman was born to the humanoid created called the Vanaras (Monkey).
His mother Anjana was born on earth as a female Vanara(Monkey) due to a curse. She redeemed herself from this curse on her giving birth to a son. Hanuman is often recognized as the son of deity Vayu (Air). Many of incidents from Hanuman’s childhood foreshadowed his great heroism and strength. As a child, Hanuman tried to eat the sun thinking it was a ripe mango. He later in this childhood attempted and succeeded in lifting a mountain to use it to protect his village from the extreme rainfall. Thus, Hanuman was considered a born Hero by his villagers because of his unusual childhood endeavors.
Unlike in most of fairy tales, most of tales from the Indian culture do not have an element of magic. For the most part, it involves worldly beings with supernatural powers. The tale of Hanuman is the prime example of an Indian Fairy Tale. One of the most striking features of Hanuman’s character is that he appears to be the essence of all diving power manifest in one form. He has the speed of the wind, the radiance of fire and immunity from water. As the essence of virility, he is able to bestow fertility on barren women and potency on men. He can tell the future and cure diseases. Hanuman was a master of music.
He was also an expert in dance and drama. So, he is worshipped with love and devotion by musicians and actors. He was also a great yogi or mystic. He was a sage interpreter of the shahtras, and a great grammarian (Bulcke 1960:397). He is a warrior par excellence: immortal, tireless, and strong beyond compare. He is also capable of fervent and absolute devotion. Essentially he is all-powerful and all-loving. Each of his manifold abilities is regarded in different instances as more or less important as others. It is together, however, that they constitute an aura of generalized supernatural power.
Hanuman’s role in the Ramayana is considered to be the most interesting and remarkable one that essentially created his image of the symbol of bravery in the society today. The image of Hanuman as the endless source of supernatural power emerged from the stories of Ramayana. Hanuman meets Rama during Rama’s 14-year exile with his brother Lakshmana, and wife Sita. In the course of their exile, Sita gets abducted by the evil king of Lanka, currently known as the country Sri Lanka. Rama’s search for his wife brings them to the vicinity of the mountain Rishkyamukha, where Sugriva, along with his followers. After earing the news of Sita’s abduction Sugriva sends Hanuman to help Rama in his search for his abducted wife Sita. Thus, as Rama’s devotee, Hanuman embarks on the most famous journey in the search of his devout Rama’s kidnapped wife Sita. The values of devotion and spirituality play a huge role in the Indian folk tales. The “spirit of self-forgetting aloofness of the Indian people”, which people in today’s India often talk about, is considered to be the ultimate truth they are pursuing, which requires that they exert their efforts to cultivate this spirit in order to work selflessly (Philip Lutgendorf 11 January 2007: Hanuman’s tale).
Valmiki, the writer of Ramayana used the tool of devotion and spirituality in many of his texts to send a message that the ultimate goal of Hindus is to find “Moksha”. Moksha is the final incarnation of the soul or consciousness from samsara and the bringing to an end of all the suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and rebirth. (Bhagvat Gita). Every human being has good qualities and bad qualities. Our ancestors have taught that everyone should develop his/her good qualities and go nearer God.
Divinity is only being full of noble qualities. In India some men and women have later come to be honored as divine beings, winning the reverence, the devotion and the love of the common people. Hanuman is one prime example of that. Valkimi shapes Hanuman’s character across the Ramayana as a loyal devotee to Rama. Someone possessing endless source power yet so humble. Hanuman emerges as an icon of the ultimate spiritual soul in today’s society which is unlike any other fairy tales across the world. A common misconception has been associated with the tale of Hanuman.
Hanuman is considered by many people in India as a children’s fantasy-land superhero. However, I believe that Hanuman is not just for kids. The message that Hanuman’s character sends to the society is not just restricted by the fantasyland hero connotation. Tales are an integral part of cultures because it is the mean of how values and morals are passed down from generation to generation. Valmiki succeeded in passing down the message of spirituality and devotion through the tale of Hanuman which is apparent since there are countless number of Hanuman devotees across the world.
Thus, a majority of the characters from Indian folk tales especially Hanuman’s has affected the Indian culture on a broader spiritual level than just a children’s fantasy-land superhero connotation. In conclusion, the characterization of Hanuman as the “ape with supernatural power” and the stories from his tale may seem a bit unreal and not logical in today’s world but the message that Valmiki the writer of Ramayana was trying to convey is definitely relevant to the society and culture today.
The image of Hanuman as the most loyal devotee that can win any battles with his spirituality and as well as strength emerges and directly affects the Hindu culture today. Hanuman is considered a role model for the generation today. His tales have influenced millions of people across the world. It makes them strive to be more loyal, heroic, educated and more importantly a better human being. Although, some of Hanumans supernatural abilities are unrealistic to most cultures, the strong roots of the Indian culture in religion make the story conceivable within the Indian culture.
Bulcke, C.1960 “The Characterization of Hanuman.” Journal of the Royal Oriental Institute 10, no. 4: 393–402 2. The Bhagavad-Gita, Translated by Sir Edwin Arnold. Vol. XLV, Part 4. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier ; Son, 1909–14; Bartleby.com, 2001. 3. Philip Lutgendorf (11 January 2007). Hanuman’s Tale: The Messages of a Divine Monkey. Oxford University Press. pp. 31–32. 4. Goldman, Robert P. (Introduction, translation and annotation) (1996). The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Epic of Ancient India, Volume V: Sundarakanda. Princeton University Press, New Jersey. 0691066620. pp. 45-47.