The Birth and History of Hanumān
As told to Rāma by Agastya Ṛṣi
There lived on Mount Sumeru a powerful Vanara leader named Keshari. His wife, Anjana, was beautiful beyond compare. One day Vāyu, the wind god, saw her standing alone and he desired union with her. After uniting with her in his mystical yoga form, she conceived a child who was named Hanumān. He cried out in hunger and Anjana placed him down amid some reeds while she went to collect forest fruits. Hanumān looked up from where he lay and saw the sun. Thinking it to be a large fruit he sprang upwards with outstretched hands. Gifted with the power of his divine father, he soared through the heavens toward the sun. Vāyu went with him, covering him with a cool breeze so that he would not be burned by the sun. The sun-god also withheld his blazing rays as he understood that Hanumān was a great servant of Viṣṇu who would later assist Him on earth.
As Hanumān went swiftly upwards through the skies, a demon named Rāhu was also approaching the sun with a view to envelop him. It was the day ordained for that demon to swallow the fiery sun-god, thus creating an eclipse, but Hanumān saw him and pushed him aside. Afraid of the mighty Vanara, Rāhu sped away toward Indra’s abode in the heavens. Going before the deity he said, “O king of the gods, having allotted to me the sun and moon as my regular food, how is it that you have now given over my share to another? See how another Rāhu has appeared in the sky, intent on consuming the sun.”
Indra immediately left his seat and, mounting his celestial elephant, Airāvata, he rose up into the heavens. He approached Hanumān, who was streaking through the sky like a blazing meteor. When the Vanara saw the effulgent god nearby, he considered him to be another fruit and he turned toward him. Indra then released his thunderbolt, which struck Hanumān and caused him to drop back down to earth.
The Vanara fell onto a mountain top and lay there apparently dead. Seeing this Vāyu became angry and he caused all creatures to begin to suffocate. Interrupting the flow of the vital life airs in all beings, Vāyu created a great disturbance in the universe.
Indra and all the other gods quickly approached Vāyu, who stood by the fallen Hanumān, and prayed to him to desist from causing so much suffering. Brahmā also appeared there and asked Vāyu what was the cause of his actions. Vāyu replied, “It is on account of my son being slain. See now how that innocent child lays here motionless, struck down by Indra’s terrible thunderbolt.”
Brahmā then reached out and ran his hand over Hanumān. The Vanara immediately sat up and looked around. The relieved Vāyu again began to move in the bodies of living creatures, and Brahmā said, “Listen, O gods, as I tell you about this Vanara. He will accomplish your purpose on earth and become a famous servant of Viṣṇu. You should therefore all grant him boons.”
Pleased to hear Brahmā’s words, Indra took off his garland and placed it around Hanumān’s neck, saying, “From this day on he shall be invulnerable to my thunderbolt.”
The sun-god then said, “I shall bestow upon him a hundredth part of my brilliance. Also, when he begins to study the scriptures I shall enable him to quickly learn all aspects of knowledge. None shall exceed him in scriptural understanding.”
Yamarāja granted him invulnerability to his rod and freedom from ailment. Kuvera also blessed him that he would remain unwearied in battle. Śiva said, “He shall be immune to my weapons and from death at my hands.” Viśvakarmā added, “This Vanara shall be invulnerable to all celestial weapons forged by me and he shall be long-lived.”
Finally, Brahmā said, “O wind-god, your son shall be invincible in battle. He will prove the terror of his foes and the shelter of his friends. This jewel among monkeys shall be able to change his form at will and go wherever he pleases at any speed he likes. No Brahmin’s curse will be able to kill him. His movements shall be unimpeded and he will become glorious. In war he will accomplish tremendous feats which make one’s hair stand on end, thus causing the destruction of Rāvaṇa and the pleasure of Rāma.”
After this the gods departed and Vāyu took Hanumān back to his mother. He began to grow up like a god. Overflowing with the exultation of his own power, and being possessed of the mischievous nature of monkeys, he started creating trouble for the ṛṣis in the forest, knowing that they could not harm him. He would playfully throw about and break their sacrificial ladles and vessels, and tear to shreds the piles of soft bark they kept for making garments. Despite the efforts of his mother and father to check him, Hanumān continued with his pranks and went on harassing the ascetics.
Eventually the ṛṣis, not wanting to harm the playful young Vanara, found a way to stop him. Touching sacred water, their leader uttered an imprecation. “As this one makes trouble for us depending upon his celestial strength, he shall forget his own power. Only when someone reminds him again by reciting his glories will he recall his strength.”
Bewildered by that curse, Hanumān forgot about his might and began acting like an ordinary Vanara. He formed a strong friendship with Sugrīva, going with him into exile when he was banished by Vāli. He finally again remembered his power when Jambavan reminded him at the time of searching for Sītā.