Sunday, January 6, 2008
Hanuman's Life & Education
Hindus believe in ten avatars of Lord Vishnu and millions of gods and goddesses. One of Vishnu's avatars is Rama, who was created to destroy the evil Ravana. In order to aid Rama, Lord Brahma commanded some gods and goddesses to take the avatar of "Vanaras" (or monkeys). Indra was reincarnated as Bali, Surya as Sugriva, Vrihaspati as Tara, and Pavana, the god of wind was reborn as Hanuman, the wisest, swiftest and strongest of all apes.
The Birth of Hanuman
The story of the birth of Hanuman goes thus: Vrihaspati, the preceptor of the gods, had an attendant called Punjikasthala. She was cursed to assume the form of a female monkey — a curse that could only be nullified if she would give birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Reborn as Anjana, she performed intense austerities to please Shiva, who finally granted her the boon that would cure her of the curse.
When Agni, the god of fire gave Dasharath, the king of Ayodhya, a bowl of sacred sweet food to share among his wives so that they may have divine children, an eagle snatched a part of the pudding and dropped it where Anjana was meditating, and Pavana, the god of wind delivered the drop to her outstretched hands. After she took the divine dessert, she gave birth to Hanuman. Thus Lord Shiva incarnated as a monkey, and was born as Hanuman to Anjana, by the blessings of Pavana, who thus became Hanuman's godfather.
The birth of Hanuman released Anjana from the curse. Before she returned to Heaven, Hanuman asked his mother about his life ahead. She assured him that he would never die, and said that fruits as ripe as the rising sun would be his food. Mistaking the glowing sun as his food, the divine baby leapt for it. Indra, the king of heavens struck him with his thunderbolt and hurled him down to earth. But Hanuman's godfather Pavana carried him to the nether world ("Patala"). As he departed from the earth, all life panted for air, and Brahma had to beg him to return. In order to appease him they conferred a lot of boons and blessings on his foster child that made Hanuman invincible, immortal and super powerful.
Hanuman selected Surya, the sun god as his preceptor, and approached him with the request to teach the scriptures. Surya agreed and Hanuman became his disciple, but had to face his constantly moving guru by traversing the sky backwards at equal pace, while taking his lessons. Hanuman's phenomenal concentration took him only 60 hours to master the scriptures. Surya considered the manner in which Hanuman accomplished his studies as his tuition fees, but when Hanuman requested him to accept something more than that, the sun god asked Hanuman to assist his son Sugriva, by being his minister and compatriot.