MONDAY, APRIL 18: Today is the birthday—the jayanti—of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman. Millions of Hindus have a special devotion to this divine figure, but the most famous writer celebrating Hanuman in American literature is Cheeni Rao, whose “In Hanuman’s Hands” tells a dramatic story of his own struggle with drug addiction. In 2009, we published an in-depth interview with Rao in which he talked about his family’s devotion to Hanuman’s tenacious power to help even endangered souls like Cheeni himself.
In the inteview, Cheeni described Hanuman’s popularity this way: His mythology has spread throughout southeast Asia. One reason is that unlike these gods who are so distant, who are these perfect beings way up on high—Hanuman is part animal. He has these weaknesses, but he also has prodigious strengths. And, most important, there’s this idea that Hanuman is eternally here on Earth with us and always will be. He has this tremendous compassion. He is the bringer of cures. And that was something for me that really resonated. My mother would tell me: “Say the Hanuman Chalisa,” this prayer that’s at the end of my book. I did and it was such a powerful idea to me that the divine is present around you and loves you—and all you need to do is ask for help.
Indian newspapers describe plans for exhuberant celebrations and processions to temples. Wikipedia has much more on the monkey god of India.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.