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.