Hanuman Jayanti: Hindus worship monkey god, Vanara race

Statue of monkey in fancy cloak and attire, holding golden rod

A statue of Hanuman. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SATURDAY, APRIL 4: Elaborate Ramanavami celebrations began eight days ago in most Hindu communities, and today, many will mark the jayanti of an ardent devotee of Rama: Hanuman, the Vanara god known informally as “the monkey god.” On Hanuman Jayanti, Hindus visit temples at dawn—as it’s believed Hanuman was born at sunrise—and worship the deity. (Wikipedia has details.) Though dates for Hanuman Jayanti vary throughout India, most observe his jayanti today.

In Hindu legend, Hanuman is a symbol of strength, courage, self-control and humility. Hanuman is the greatest and most loyal devotee of Lord Rama, and because of this, Hindus believe that he was granted immortality. Hanuman is said to be able to assume any form, and he remains one of the most adored deities in Hinduism. Many fast on Hanuman Jayanti, or the day prior.

Why a monkey god? A few thousand years before Ramayan time—approximately 2 million years ago—Hinduism teaches that several divine souls came to earth and embodied ape-like creatures. The ape-like bodies became vehicles for the divine souls, and this uniquely modified group became known, in Hinduism, as the Vanara race. (Learn more from Hindu-blog.) Hanuman was born into the Vanara community. Today, all Hanuman temples bear the reddish-orange hue distinctive of the ape-like Vanara.

Hanuman Jayanti: Hindus worship divine courage, fearlessness

Tall orange building, a temple, three stories with a deck at the top, in dirt street of India

The Karmanghat Hanuman Temple in Hyderabad, India. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

TUESDAY, APRIL 15: In many regions of India, this is the annual celebration of the birth of a “monkey-god”—Hanuman Jayanti. Ever a steadfast and ardent devotee of Lord Rama, Hanuman often is honored along with Lord Rama; devotees of Hanuman hope to obtain his strength and energy. The Ramayana and other texts detail his crediting all superhuman powers to Lord Rama, labeling himself only as a servant of the deity.

It is believed that Hanuman can assume any form. Yet, most notably, Hanuman is known for his humility. (Learn more at Taj Online.) On his jayanti, Hindus across India flock to Hanuman temples, recite Hanuman Chalisa (song of Hanuman) and apply a reddish-orange tilaka to their foreheads, signifying the color of the monkey-god.

Festivities for Hanuman Jayanti begin early, with pujas, trips to the temple and special prayers. Prayers and hymns continue throughout the day, as devotees look to Lord Hanuman to avert evil, bring courage and deliver willpower. (Wikipedia has details.) Many Hindus fast and read the Hunuman Chalisa on his jayanti, before joining in Prasad—an offering of food distributed among devotees. (Read about this, and the many other holidays occurring in India this week, from Times of India.)

Did you know? Hanuman avatar is considered the 11th Rudra avatar of Lord Siva.

Sri Hanuman enjoys great popularity in India, and the monkey-god also is well known in Hindu communities worldwide. In Trinidad and Tobago, Hanuman statues reach 15-, 25- and even 85-foot. Newsday reports that devotees will sing Hanuman Chalisa 108 times, uninterrupted, for the ideal yogi and beloved deity.