Hanuman: The Divine Messenger

Hanuman was the embodiment of peace, virtue, strength and wisdom. He had mastered the four Vedas and was well versed in the scriptures. Hanuman was a past master in etiquette and courtesy and went as an emissary to meet the brothers. Assuming the guise of a Brahmin, he began talking to them (Rama and Lakshmana at the foothills of Rishyamuka Mountain). He heard their story from the beginning to the end, and decided to take them to Sugriva, who lived on the mountain top. Hanuman volunteered to carry Rama and Lakshmana to the mountain top on his shoulders. There, Hanuman related to Sugriva the story of the two brothers.

When Sugriva heard about the abduction of Sita, he summoned a soldier to bring a bundle of ornaments that some monkeys had found in the forest. Rama asked Lakshmana to find out if the ornaments in the bundle belonged to Sita or not. Lakshmana opened the bundle and started shedding tears. He said, “O brother! I can identify only the toe rings that sister-in-law wore, since I always noticed them when I used to prostrate before her feet every day in the morning.” Lakshmana was the embodiment of purity and virtue. He is a worthy ideal to be emulated by students. Though he lived for thirteen years in the company of Rama and Sita, he had never looked at the face of Sita.

Rama would always praise Lakshmana for his great virtues, but Lakshmana would modestly say “Rama! I am Your servant. You are Lord Narayana Himself. This is the effect of Your company.” Virtuous people are always modest and humble. On the Rishyamuka Mountain, Rama and Sugriva set the seal of friendship. Rama promised to help Sugriva in exchange for the help he would render to Him in searching for Sita. Sugriva decided to test the strength of Rama, to find out whether He was stronger than his brother Vali. Once, Vali shot an arrow that pierced through five trees, one after the other. Sugriva asked Rama whether He would be able to emulate this feat. Rama felt pity for Sugriva, since he could not recognise Rama’s Divinity. Only equals can judge equals; small ones can never grasp the powers of the great. Since Rama needed Hanuman for His mission, and since Hanuman belonged to the clan of Sugriva, He agreed to face the trial of strength set by Sugriva.

Rama discharged His arrow. It not only pierced through five trees but even crossed the mountains beyond. Sugriva immediately felt repentant for doubting the strength of Rama and sealed his friendship with Rama, with fire as the witness. Rama assured him that He would stand by him and crown him as king. Rama felt that Sugriva was punished by Vali, for no fault of his. Vali had committed the most heinous act of appropriating the wife of Sugriva, when one should actually consider the wife of one’s younger brother as one’s own daughter. Hence, Rama decided to punish Vali for his unrighteousness. On the strength of the promise given by Rama, Sugriva dashed to the mansion of Vali and challenged him to a fight. But poor Sugriva had to flee, severely battered by the blows of Vali.

Rama persuaded Sugriva to challenge Vali once again, assuring him that He would definitely kill Vali this time. While the two brothers were locked in mortal combat, Rama, hiding behind a tree, discharged an arrow at Vali and killed him. Many denounce this act of Rama, asserting that it was not proper on His part to have killed Vali while hiding behind a tree. All said and done, Rama’s act can be justified on three counts: Firstly, hunters shoot an animal by hiding themselves. Secondly, no one could defeat Vali face to face, since he had earned a boon by which half of the strength of his opponent would flow into him in a face-to-face fight. Thirdly, if Vali were to fall at Rama’s feet when Rama appeared in front of him, Rama would be forced to give him shelter and consequently break the promise given to Sugriva. The justification for the act of Rama lies in these three reasons. Vali himself, while dying, caught hold of the hands of Rama, admitted his mistake, and said that what Rama did was justified. He prayed to Rama to crown his brother Sugriva as the King of Kishkindha and to make his son Angada the Crown Prince. Later, Rama fulfilled the promise given to Vali.

After Vali’s death, two months passed, but no action was taken by Sugriva to help Rama. Rama then sent Lakshmana to warn Sugriva. Lakshmana told Sugriva, “You have forgotten to honour your word after receiving help from Rama.” Sugriva humbly said to Lakshmana, “It is the rainy season now. The climate is not conducive for the monkeys to move about searching for Sita. I can never forget the help rendered to me by Rama. Very soon my emissaries will comb every forest and valley for Sita.”

Hanuman in Lanka

Sugriva sent the soldiers of his army in the four directions, in search of Sita. He selected Hanuman, who merited the titles Balavanta (the powerful one) and Dheemanta (the intellectual one), for the task of searching for Sita in Lanka. Hanuman had all the qualifications to be Rama’s emissary to Lanka since he was strong, steady and intelligent. He firmly resolved that he would find Sita at any cost and work on the task with one-pointed attention, devotion, and dedication. Nothing would deter the iron resolve of Hanuman to trace Sita’s whereabouts. He even looked into the bed chamber of Ravana, to find if Sita was held a prisoner there. Though, he moved in the bedrooms of the people in Lanka, his mind never wavered. He found women sleeping in all sorts of postures and positions, but never once did an evil thought enter the mind of Hanuman.

At one place, he found an extremely beautiful woman, sleeping in the bedchamber of Ravana. For a moment he thought that she might be Sita, for she was extremely beautiful. Immediately he regretted having had such a thought. He knew for certain that Sita would never agree to occupy the bedchamber of the evil Ravana. Hanuman then made a thorough search of Lanka to trace out Sita, but he failed. Deeply frustrated, he climbed to the top of a tree on the sea shore and he desired to commit suicide by plunging into the sea. The very thought that he was not able to perform the task assigned by Rama gnawed deeply at his heart. Then all of a sudden, he realised that he had not searched for Sita in the Ashoka grove, which he spotted from his vantage point. He leapt toward the grove.

While Hanuman was trying to enter the garden, he was captured by the eldest son of Ravana and brought to the court of Ravana, who sat on a high throne. Finding Ravana, who was full of evil, seated so high, Hanuman thought that being a devotee of Rama he should not be at a lower level. He increased the length of his tail, coiled it like a seat, sat on it, and rose much higher than Ravana’s throne. Hanuman then felt satisfied that he had occupied a pedestal higher than that of Ravana.

There then ensued a furious exchange of words between Ravana and Hanuman. 

Ravana: O monkey! Who are you? You have spoilt my grove. Who sent you to Lanka?

Hanuman: The great Rama, the King of kings, who had cut off the nose of your sister, has sent me.

Ravana: Why do you address me so disrespectfully?

Hanuman: I am the servant of Lord Rama. I am at liberty to address you, a sinner, thus.

Ravana felt frightened, looking at the power and prowess of Hanuman. He thought that when a mere monkey had so much courage and strength, the followers of Rama must be much greater than him. Ravana decided to humble Hanuman by setting fire to his tail, for the tail is very dear to a monkey. Yards of cloth were brought to wrap around the monkey’s tail, and it was set on fire. Hanuman leapt from mansion to mansion, setting fire to every house with his burning tail. After causing incalculable damage to Lanka, Hanuman plunged into the ocean to extinguish the flames on his tail.

When he surveyed Lanka burning furiously, Hanuman regretted his action. He thought that Sita might be burnt in the flames. Hanuman rushed to the Ashoka grove to find out if Sita was safe. Since he had never seen Sita before, he found it difficult to identify her amongst the numerous ladies in the grove. At last, he noticed a lean lady with downcast eyes under a tree. He wondered whether she was Sita. He then started reciting the story of Rama to check if the lady under the tree was Sita or not. While he was reciting the story, the lady under the tree looked up with tears streaming down her face.

Hanuman sees Sita

At that time, Sita was in the company of Sarama, the wife of Vibhishana, and her two daughters, Ajata and Trijata. Hanuman found that these three ladies were the only friends of Sita in Lanka. It was due to the solace and assurance provided by them that Sita survived. Hanuman then dropped Rama’s ring in front of the lady under the tree, to further confirm whether she was Sita. The lady grasped the ring with great ecstasy and showered a volley of questions at Hanuman. She asked him, “Are you the messenger of Rama, or are you a trickster sent by Ravana to deceive me? The demons here assume strange forms and indulge in strange deeds.” To impress upon Sita that he was indeed the messenger of Rama, Hanuman then ripped open his heart to show Rama installed there. Looking at the image of Rama imprinted on the heart of Hanuman, Sita fainted. Hanuman then became completely certain that the lady was indeed Sita.

Without wasting any time, Hanuman instantaneously leapt across the ocean to convey the message of Sita’s whereabouts, to Rama. While the monkeys were busy eating fruits in Madhuvana, Hanuman, forsaking food and sleep, hurried to Rama to convey the good news. He said, “Sri Rama! Sita is verily a jewel amongst women, chaste and virtuous. Her plight is like that of a parrot confined in a cage of arrows. She was surrounded by many demons, who were brandishing their swords to kill her. I found Sita trembling at the sight of these terrible women.” Hearing these words of Hanuman, Rama, overcome with emotion, wanted to rush to Lanka to fight Ravana at once. Hanuman and Sugriva restrained Rama and told Him that it would take some time to make arrangements for the battle against Ravana. All the great warriors then rallied together to hold deliberations and devise strategies to defeat Ravana.

Source: Divine Discourse on May 24, 1996 at Brindavan

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