Category: Spirituality

Hanuman Jayanti, an occasion to find out your latent strengths

Hanuman
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Today is Hanuman Jayanti, the birth day of the greatest devotee of Lord Rama, on the full moon day of the first month (Chaitra) on Hindu calendars. Legends say Hanuman has remained immortal, even though his Lord exited the planet earth when it was time to end the Avatar of Rama.

One of the most popular deities for Hindus, faith in Hanuman goes beyond the religious boundary. The famous example in recent times is Barak Obama’s devotion to the “monkey god” as came out in media, when he visited India a few years ago.

Hanuman is an epitome of strength, courage, devotion and service. His life is full of symbolism that should inspire mortals like us at all times. One such symbolic narration goes as below:

He was born to forest dwellers of Vanara (monkey) tribe, Kesari and Anjana, by the grace of the God of wind (Vayu). When he was a toddler, his parents left him in the cradle and went out to collect food. The baby Hanuman woke up to an intense feeling of hunger, and saw a rising red ball on the eastern horizon. Hanuman mistook it for a fruit and leapt out to grab it. In no times he was zipping across the sky in the speed of wind.

At the same time, Rahu, the deity of eclipse, was rushing to swallow the sun (to create an eclipse). Hanuman felt Rahu was after his red fruit and tried to catch hold him. A frightened Rahu fled to Indra, the God of the heavens, and pleaded for his life. Indra became angry and collected his weapon (thunderbolt). He mounted his vehicle (Airavata, the white elephant) and went in search of Hanuman.

Hanuman though got excited to see the elephant and sought to play with it. As he leapt onto the back of Airavata, Indra struck him with the thunderbolt, sending him down to the earth, grievously injured. But his spiritual father, the wind god, rushed in and caught him in mid-air.

As Hanuman remained lifeless in his arms, a distraught wind god sucked in all the air from cosmos to cause death to all those who had harmed his spiritual son. And the airlessness created havoc in the cosmos forcing the gods to approach Vayu. To pacify the wind god, each of them granted a power to Hanuman.

So, the child of Vayu received eternity from Brahma, devotion from Vishnu, immunity against weapon injury from Indra, protection against fire from Agni, and protection against death from Yama. He was already endowed with strength and speed that none could equal, from his spiritual father.

However, as he grew, Hanuman started playing with his immense powers. He would spoil the ritual arrangements made by rishis with alacrity. He would break ladles and vessels used in Yajna and interrupt the offerings into the sacrificial fire. Eventually, he earned the curse of sages from Bhrigu and Angira clans, which made him forget his powers until it was necessary to remember.

As a result, Hanuman was blissfully unaware of his magical powers. He forgot that he could even fly. However, this power got awakened in him aeons later, when Jambavan, the bear king reminded him.

Jambavan was a trusted advisor to Vanara king Sugriva, who wanted to help Rama get back his wife Sita. But Sita was lodged on the Lankan island by Ravana. And there was a big ocean between the land of Sugiva’s kingdom and Ravana’s island. It turned out that none in his monkey army was able to fly the distance of the ocean. Sugriva then sought a solution with Jambavan.

Jambavan, another great devotee of Ram was endowed with deep knowledge. He knew Hanuman has the ability to fly across the ocean. However, when told, Hanuman refused to believe it. Then Jambavan had to reveal the secret of Hanuman’s strengths, leading the latter to fly across the ocean with ease.

Similarly, most of us may have been blissfully unaware of our own strengths. It would be fine if we meet Jambavans to make us wake up to them. Else, we need to dig in and find out on our own.

Advertisements

Maha Shivaratri, a great night of Shiva to gain self knwoledge

Nataraja
A bronze idol of Shiva as Nataraja (Sculpted during Chola Dynasty’s rule)

Shivaratri comes once in a month just the night before every new moon day. The night is dedicated to Sadhana (sacred practice) that puts the Sadhak (practitioner) on the path of realizing the truth about oneself and the universal self.

And the Sadhak is expected to reach a culmination point of his or her year-long Sadhana, an upward milestone on the path, on the night of Maha Shivaratri.

Maha Shivaratri falls on the night before the new moon day ending the month of Magha and beginning of Palguna on Hindu calendars.

Background:

Right from the Vedic age, the ancient Indians had placed a high importance on self knowledge. Unlike rishis, who dedicated their entire life to gain this knowledge, others needed to be engaged in myriad other tasks to keep the wheel of life rolling. But the wise didn’t want them to be left behind in the pursuit of higher knowledge. They prescribed the night before new moon day for their Sadhana as total absence of celestial light would be most conducive for the inward journey.

Month after month, ordinary folks kept themselves away from all kinds of indulgence and focused their mind on Shiva, the god of destroyer of distinctions, or the lord of the principle of oneness. And on the night of Maha Shivaratri, or the great night of Shiva, they sought to experience the merging of their individual self with the universal self, Shivoham or ‘I am Shiva’ knowledge.

Over time, as the appetite for higher knowledge was on the wane, observations began to get more and more symbolic, but more and more celebratory. And Shiva too appeared in many formations. Now though few observe Shivaratri that occurs every month, many people go on a fast, and keep themselves awake in the night by gathering in Shiva temples or other places marked to celebrate Maha Shivaratri, listening to Vedic chanting and devotional songs.