AN ENORMOUS FORM OF PROFOUND LIBERATION: AN ODE TO THE HANUMAN
A friend recently told me about how she was so moved by the extraordinary stories that constitute the Harry Potter series that she drew inspiration from it, as if it were a living entity feeding her with energy and joy every time she stepped into Hogwarts’ magical world. I thought for a while if I had ever read about something or someone so mystic that I found myself lost, for all good reasons, within the pages of a book in a world that was created by the words that were inked in it.
Stay with me, I have a few thoughts to share.
Let me set the record straight, I’m not a religious person, let alone be a strong believer. I was born into a Hindu family and raised in an atmosphere where I was exposed to Hinduism but not shoved into it. I was allowed to question the customs and traditions that were being practiced before me, distancing myself from those that hadn’t met with convincing answers. I was given the privilege of being a spectator before plunging into the action.
From what I observed, a religious person treats religious texts and the mythology contained within them as reality. The Ramayana and Mahabharata, to them, is a chapter in the history of the universe. “Lord Rama set foot here”, my grandmother proudly said to me as she pointed towards the sanctum sanctorum of a reknowned holy temple. Around me were hundreds of people — men, women, young, old, hands pressed together in a Namaste as they mumbled holy chants with their eyes shut, only to open them to the sight of the very piece of land that the greatest ruler that mankind had ever seen had stepped on, a land that their Lord Ram had graced. I was asked to make a wish before the deity of the Lord only to wait and watch as my wish turned to reality. Like any innocent kid of my age then would do, I wished to pass an exam that I was sure I would otherwise fail. As I sipped the holy water that the priest poured into my palms, I felt him place a crown over my head. In my head, this little ceremonious ritual was confirmation that God and I had a deal.
I had failed the exam, miserably.
I remember not being blown away by the grandeur of what I saw in that sanctum sanctorum, until I noticed something unusual. My eyes were first set on Lord Ram, the noble ruler and I quickly shifted my gaze to his beautiful queen, Mother Sita to his right and his loyal brother, Lakshman to his left. What caught my attention was a creature sitting down on one knee, with his hands pressed together in a Namaste as he bowed down and gazed at Rama’s feet, who had one of his hands placed on this creature’s head, as if he were blessing him.
Was he a monkey that looked like a human?
Was he a human that looked like a monkey?
Was he neither? Was he both?
I made my curiosity known to my family and got a detailed explanation on our way back home. His name was Hanuman. He was an ardent devotee of Rama and spearheaded his war against the demon king Ravana to rescue mother Sita.
This creature fascinated me. I would spend a lot of time growing up listening to stories about him from my grandparents and reading about him in books and on the internet. For a long time, I was a devotee of this majestic beast. I would chant the Chalisa in times of distress or worry and would always find my nerves soothed as I neared the end of that beautiful piece of poetry. Religion, to those who understand it, is truly magical.
Today, despite my loosening beliefs, I adore Lord Hanuman, if not as a God, at least as the best character I have ever had the pleasure of reading about in what I believe is the greatest epic ever.
A prasad from a far away land was flown by the Lord of Wind, to fall onto the lap of a child-seeking meditating Anjana, who upon its consumption, gave birth to the Son of the Lord of the Wind. This heartwarming story of Hanuman’s origins taught me that when you really desire something from the heart and soul, all the universe conspires you to achieve it. He taught me to be hopeful in my patient waiting for desired results that may come to me disguised as miracles.
When Sita responded to Hanuman’s question about why she applied sindoor on her forehead by telling him that it was a sign of unconditional love and respect, he went on to apply sindoor on his entire body. How fortunate was the Lord himself to be able to look into the eyes of this creature and know that this was the purest form of love he could find on the Earth. He taught to me to love in a manner that would safely tuck whoever was subject to it in the blanket of warm comfort and security.
Being a mischievous kid, he flew to the world beyond the Earth to consume what he thought was a ripened mango and what actually was the burning sun. Not deterred by the heat of his scrumptious meal or the gigantism of its very being, he sped on to claim his sweet dripping dessert. He taught me to Just Do It, the way Nike never could.
What a beautiful place this world would be if we found ourselves a noble cause that just doesn’t remain on our lips, but gets enthroned in our heart and gives us exhaustless strength, like the cause that Rama was to Hanuman.
As I finish flipping through the pages of his story, all I am left with is the one who holds the thunderbolt, wearing the sacred thread across his shoulder, bowing down to a God while being, in every true sense of the word, a God himself.
— Revanth Vishnuvajhala