Those of you who follow or are at least familiar with some Hindu practices know that Tuesday is a day when we worship and remember Hanuman.
Hanuman, to be all too brief, is Rama’s great, devoted servant. A vanara, a monkey-like race, Hanuman is the one who (spoiler alert!) finds Sita after she has been abducted by the demon Ravana. That story is from the Ramayana, a version of which Bobbie talks about below.
Often, I think, we have an image of Hanuman that emphasizes his “monkeyness.” Yes, we know he’s brave, we know he’s a great warrior, but he’s still just a monkey — not even a more powerful looking ape.
In Ramesh Menon’s Ramayana, however, when we first meet Hanuman, he easily picks up and carries both Rama and his brother, Lakshmana. Menon describes him as “tall as a tree.” The monkeyness isn’t downplayed, but it is clear that the description is really just our — humans’ — best approximation of what a vanara is. We are, after all, hearing a story from two yuga ago — the treta yuga, when things weren’t nearly as messed up as they are now. How are we supposed to grasp the nuisance of Hanuman’s nature and being?
That’s one of our great challenges, of course: to understand the meaning of those ancient stories.
For me, thinking of Hanuman as much more than just a monkey, but certainly not as an ape, helps mightily with grasping the complexity of his devotion, his faith, his service and, yes, his strength.
And his strength is awfully attractive come Urdhva Dhanurasana.