Tag Archives: Ramayanam

Hanuman – The Monkey God in Hind Epic `Ramayanam’

Here is the extended version of what I recently wrote on my facebook wall, about Hanuman.  He is a monkey – who is supposedly an incarnation of Lord Shiva.  Hanuman is the  son of of Vayu (God of Air) and a mortal Lady Anjana.    He can also fly.. well he’s a monkey and is able to leap over mountains and stay up in the air.. (Son of Vayu..god of Air). Another ability that Hanuman has is to grow into a giant form.

Photo is from facebook page Astro Ulagam . Photo Credits : Justin Tiew
Photo is from facebook page Astro Ulagam . Photo Credits : Justin Tiew

In the epic story Ramayanam,  Lord Raman and his brother travel through the various forests looking for Rama’s wife Sita who has been abducted by a Demon King called Ravanan.     Raman comes across a Monkey-Prince who is living in fear in a cave with his close ministers and confidants (one of whom is Hanuman).   Once the brutish and most powerful Monkey Lord Vali has been defeated by Rama,    Hanuman and other monkeys choose to help Rama help with the search for Sita.

It is Hanuman who leaps across the oceans, lands in Lanka (kingdom ruled by the demon King Ravanan) and eventually finds Sita ..who is imprisoned in a forest prison.     Hanuman manages to meet Sita, pass message from Raman, takes a message from Sita, and eventually returns to Rama..  Great war ensues and Raman & his army defeat Ravana and free Sita.

Three events that are worth highlighting..  

1.  Burning of Lanka:  After secretly meeting Sita in the forest prison, Hanuman causes problems and is caught (he allows himself to be caught) by Ravana.  When his tail is wrapped in fabric and it is set on fire by the demons,  Hanuman escapes…takes up his giant form..and using the lit tail as a burning torch, he sets flame to many parts of Lanka…  before leaving….(to go back to Rama & Lakshman and tell them he has located Sita).

2. Carrying the healing mountain:  During the war itself, at one point, due to magical trickery, both Raman & his brother Lakshman are mortally hurt and appear to fall in battle and die.    A special healing herb was required to help them..  So Hanuman leaps off to find the herbs that only grow in a certain mountain range.  As he was unsure which was the correct her, he uproots the entire mountain..carries it to the battle zone…where upon the essence of the herbs waft over the fallen Raman & Lakshman…and they awake.  (Hanuman then returns the mountain to its proper place).

Hindus  worship Hanuman as a powerful demi-god in his own right, and Hanuman is often depicted as flying with the mountain in his hands.

3. Giant Chariot in War:  In another moment during the war,   Raman’s chariot is destroyed by the demon king Ravanan.    And Raman is left standing on the grounds of the war zone.   Hanuman immediately assumes his giant form, and carries Raman and Lakshman on his shoulders, so that they may continue to fight the war on equal footing.who helped Raman & Lukshman win the war against Ravanna the Demon. In one of the stories, Hanuman opens up his chest to reveal his heart..where an image of Rama & Sita could be found. Hanuman is the Son .

Hanuman and Sani (Shani) or Saturn:

It is also said that Hanuman rescued Sani (Saturn) from the clutches of Ravana (when Hanuman was bound up by Ravana and set fire to his tail..)

Perfect Devotee of Raman :

In one of the chapters of Ramayanam, Hanuman opens up his chest to reveal his heart..where an image of Rama & Sita could be found.   In another section, (after Raman & Sita return to their kingdom),  Hanuman is given a gift of pearl necklace.  He then set about pulling the necklace apart, and breaks each pearl.  When asked why he was destroying the pearls, Hanuman answers that he was merely looking to `see’ if he can find Raman & Sita inside each pearl.

These two incidents illustrate Hanuman’s devotional nature towards Raman & Sita.  All he wanted to do ..during and after the war was to worship and serve Raman & Sita.

Tale of monkey tail (meeting Beeman) 

In the other great epic Mahabharatham,,   one of the pancha-pandavas (5 brothers on the side of good) was going through the forest when he comes upon an old monkey sleeping on the side of the path..with his tail across the path.  Beema (being the strongest man in that story) demands the monkey move.   The monkey refuses but says that Beeman may pass if he can move the tail aside.  Aggravated,  Beeman tries to brush aside the monkey’s tail..then lifting it..  He fails…and realises his own ego..  And the monkey reveals himself to be none other than Hanuman.  It transpires that Beeman is also the son of Vayu (God of Air). So the brothers embrace.    Beeman then asks Hanuman to help the pandavas in the coming war.  Hanuman says he is tired of wars and will not fight again, but promises to watch over their welfare.

Monkey Flag:

The lead archer Archunan (one of the 5 brothers, the Pandavas) rides in a chariot (piloted by none other than Lord Krishnan himself..another long story). This chariot flies a flag that has the image of Hanuman..   and this is the `blessings’ that Hanuman had promised Beeman.

Well,  I grew up reading the Hindu epics Ramayana (and Mahabaratham) ..so Hanuman is one of my favourite Gods.. The above are things I have written from a long term memory ..(it’s been over 30+ years since I read the hindu epics).

It is worth saying, that I am now starting work on an art/ writing project  connected to hindu epics, and so will be re-reading Ramayanam & Mahabharatham (in tamil) soon..  Watch my blog for updates in the coming months 🙂

Bright Blessings

-Mani Navasothy

ps.  I have used when possible, the Tamil pronunciations for the various Hindu epics and characters. Tamil versions usually end with an `m’ or an `n’..where as the Hindi / English way of writing ends with an `a’.  For example,  Ramayanam (Ramayana), Mahabharatham (Mahabharatha), Raman (Rama), Ravanan (Ravana).

Links

Hinduism – links to all my blogs & write-ups

Hindu ritual dates & festivals in 2015

My Hindu-Pagan path

Facebook: Astro Ulagam

Avatars of Vishnu

youtube video: Hanuman chants

Diwali – Day of Light and the slaying of Demons?

Ramayanam bannerOn this day of Diwali, Hindu festival of light, my best wishes to all.. I think if we keep focusing on the beauty and creativity within, and not the monsters, we might just find that the monsters are just protective shells of yet more vulnerable and wonderous creatures within…waiting to be loved.. and lost inside their own shells, unable to break out! 

Bright Stellar Wishes

-Mani

For more blog posts on Tamil & Hindu cultures, follow this link https://quantumphoenix.net/category/tamil-hindu-culture/

Childhood ideals & the Warrior codes in Hindu myths

I was in the middle of another post, when these thoughts started to pour out. It concerns some of the Hindu pics and my childhood ideals – that have do still stay with me  – on matters of loyalty, duty and the warrior code!

Although most people are familiar with my magical and spiritual workings with the western pagan god-form `Hern the Hunter’ – that is a recent development (well, in the last 10-15 years…if you can call it recent).   My mythology and spiritual learning began much much longer – probably around 6 or 7 years of age ( I say that because I can’t quite remember anything much before that age).

Raman defeats the demon Ravannan
(Hindu epic `Ramayanam’) Art (c) Mani Navasothy 2012

I was taken to Hindu temples and became involved in long rituals …at such young age – .  way back in Sri Lanka, by my Uncle Raveenthiran & aunt Ratna (I call them Periyappa and Periyamma- meaning big-father and big-mother in Tamil). And at those ages, and through them, through those temples, and through reading Hindu epics and mythologies such as the Mahabharatham & Ramayanam, I have learnt so many ideals and morals…  that they still flow and glow in my soul.  In school, I only learnt the basics. But at home, I started reading a whole set of Hindu mythology books and epics – in detail. That was my hobby – reading.  I don’t ever recall anyone – parent, teacher or a priest – teaching me codes of behavior  values and ideals. Am sure they did – but  not in the way we see it done in some  heroic  film – where a young person / warrior is taught some deep mysteries and secrets and ideals by a powerful sage-like priest, in some ashram or a woodland retreat or a secret cave.

No, what I learnt came from those books..  those Hindu myths and epics..  and here were a lot of wars in them. And families, friends, Kings & Queens, Empires and Armies were often divided by their ideals and loyalties. Conflicts and challenges ensued. And true Heroes were tested to breaking points – and made sacrifices for sake of genuine duty..and progress (They never made compromises!).

A warrior has a duty and it is okay to do battle with even your own kind- as long as it is for a just cause, and one is doing his or her duty – says Lord Krishna through Bhagavathgeeta, and  yes it is okay to fight demons who have taken your loved ones, or done injustice to those under your protections – says Ramayana.

These have taught me to never be afraid – to face adversity, or engage in battles – if it becomes necessary. And that makes it necessary?  Justice of course – and fairness!   And sometimes, as I have found in recent years, that involves fighting for personal justice or to be treated fairly. And that means having a genuine hearing of facts and evidence, not just circumstantial or contrived. It also means being given the benefit of the doubt. And if none of these are forthcoming- then what remains is a battle for delivery of justice.

 

And sometimes – just sometimes- people need to be reminded what Justice is..  That was a noble cause for ancient Kings and mythical Heroes of religious epics.  I think that still stands – in a world of games and changing loyalties.

-Mani Navasothy

Hindu festival of Navarathri – Nine nights of the Goddess

Navarathri (meaning `nine nights’ ) is an annual Hindu Festival that takes place in late Autumn.   I wrote the following feature article in Issue#2 of Gaian Times eco-magazine last year (Sept’11). Here’s the full article again.. reproduced to mark this special Hindu festival..  -Mani

Three Goddesses of Navarathri – Saraswathy, Luxmi & Durga
Photos (c) Mani Navasothy.2012

Navarathri  celebrates and worships three of the many aspects of the Hindu goddess `Shakthi’, which means quite simply `Power’.  She is the power and energy that permeates and moves the planets, stars, moon and all the worlds within and without. Navarathri means, `nine’ (nava) `nights’ (rathri) in Tamil language of the Indian continent. The dates are determined according to the lunar calendar. It begins on the new ( Libran) moon, often at the end of September and continues for nine nights and ten days. It is a period of purification and introspection, as well as spiritual depth. Devotees seek the divine gifts of  protection, health, wealth and wisdom from the Goddesses. Navarathri is traditionally an auspicious time for starting new ventures for many Hindus.

Kolu – the stepped altar

This an altar  construction  of 3 or more steps,  either specially created with wood, or in most households formed by placing varying sizes of boxes. A cloth is covered over them, and the whole steps then highly decorated with ritual and artistic implements – such as statues of deities, lights, small lamps, small plants and other items of special religious significance. It is a display of divinity and beauty. This `Kolu’ is kept in the altar room for the duration of the `Navarthri’ and special prayers (poojas) are conducted infront of it every night for the worship of the triple deities Durga, Lakshmin & Saraswathi.  Names have power and important, especially when they are used to invoke energies and qualities, and as such the deity names of these should be properly pronounce  as  `Do-r-ga’,  `Luck-sh-me’ and `Sa-ras-wha-thee’.

Nights 1-3:  

This is where the goddess Durga is worshipped. She is power and the spiritual force or energy that animates all of life. In a more darker aspect, she is also known as Kali, a naked Goddess of sheer ferocity who destroys our impurities. In the western world, people seem to treat Kali as a force they can just call upon, refer to and such. However a devote Hindu would take extreme preparations prior to working with Kali-energy, keeping body & mind pure, fasting or only eating vegetabls and fruits, meditating, vanquishing all personal thoughts of ill- before een beginning any sort of Kali `pooja’ (prayer).  Kali is often shown with 10 or more heads, having 20 or more arms, each carrying tools and weapons, wearing a garland of severed demon-heads, with blood dripping from her mouth, and riding a Lion.   In these aspects, she is seen to have similarities with the Egyptian lion-headed war Goddess Sakhmet, who was also supposed to have drunk the blood of many she had slain.

Nights 4-6:

Durga in river Thames
photo (c) Mani Navasothy

The divine force Shakthi is seen as giver of wealth and love, in her Goddess form Lakshmi.  She is the consort of the protector God Vishnu, and is often seen seated on a red lotus flower, flanked by elephants in the same pond, showering her with gold. Gold coins are also seen emanating from Lakshmi’s hands. Symbolically, it is best to have an imagery where the coins coming from her hands fall and collect in a plate at her feet. Thus wealth is said to be held, rather than just disappear.  Lakshmi originated from the froth of the divine sea that was churned by Demons (Ashuras) and Devas (souls who inhabit Heaven) when they used a mountain and a giant serpent as churner, in search of the elixiar of life. Many weapons were said to have spring from the sea which various deities procured, and Vishnu (protector God) married Lakshmi.  In this respect, Lakshmi has close similatrities with the western deity Venus / Aphrodite.

Nights 7-9: 

The final 3 nights of worship and adoration belong to Saraswathi, goddess of wisdom, arts and education. She is seen dressed in white, seated upon a white lotus, with a peacock or Swan as her vehicle, and holding  a musical instrument `Veena’ (similar to the Indian `Sitar’). She is the wife and consort of the creator God Brahma. Ninth night is dedicated to  `Saraswathi pooja’ (prayer for Saraswathi).

Hinduism has many hundreds of deities, and so many of them are aspects or incarnations of one another. But Durga, Lakshi & Saraswathi are worshiped as a divine trinity of feminine energies, when devotees seek the blessings of power, protection, wealth and wisdom.  Navarathri is dedicated to the worship of these deities.

10th Day:  Vijayathasami & Weapons Pooja. 

The 10th day is the day of victory, and culmination of all the prayers and festivities.  Such deeply significant religious festivities have variations of purpose and underlying mythology, as India is a vast land with many religious sects (even within Hinduism – which is a collective name, and not a specific one).

Ramayanam- Hindu epic of Lord Rama (shown here slaying the demon Ravanan)
Ramayanam- Hindu epic of Lord Rama (shown here slaying the demon Ravanan)

Myth of Ramayana: As such, some celebrate the return of mythical Hero Rama (crown Prince) who was exiled with his wife Sita into the forest for 14 years, by some trickery of his step-mother.  In his time in the forest, Rama’s wife Sita is abducted by a demon (Ravanan) and taken to an island and kept in prison. Rama gathers an army of forest beings – monkeys, apes, wild boars and even squirrels, constricts a mighty bridge to travel to the island of Lanka (now known as Sri Lanka) to wage war, defeat the demon and rescue his wife from her prison.  By this time the 14 years have passed (supposed terms of the exile) and Rama returns to his father’s Kingdon, and takes up his rightful place on the throne. `Vijayathasami’ (great tenth day) symbolises this day of Victory and return to power.

Either on the ninth night or 10th day (morning) a special prayer / pooja called `Ayutha Pooja’ (Prayer for weapons) is conducted. This is when tools of the trade for all those of a household – pens, books, pencils, cheque books, house keys, financial ledgers, as well as the mote traditional items of agricultural equipments, machinery are symbolically decorated, placed on the foot of the stepped altar and worshipped. The idea is to seek the blessings of the Goddess Shakthi upon those tools of trade and life.  Then those are taken and used. Many teachers/Schools in India / Sri Lanka  (southern Indian nations) start teaching Kindergarten children on that day- first by taking them to the temple, and having the priest guide their fingers in writing the alphabets on a plate of rice grains!

About `Pooja’:  

This is a Tamil / sanskri name meaning Prayer. Hindu formal poojas in temples and homes take on highly ritualistic procedures. The statues / idols or pictures of Hindu deities –kept on the Altar (some simple tables, others highly elaborate)  are decorated with fabric, fresh flowers and garlands, and flanked by oil lamps and incense sticks. During Pooja, a small bell is continuously rung to dispel any and all negative/ evil energies from the space. The conducting Priest or person(s) recite powerful chants and  power words in the Sanskrit language. Observers stand in prayer positions, with palms touching to the chest (heart) and occasionally at key moments of Pooja, raise hands to their foreheads or over their heads in reverence and adoration, saying `Arohara’. In extensive festive poojas at temples, the statues of deities in the various central and sub-altars are given a ritual wash (called `Maha-abishekam’) with water, honey, milk and fruit juices. The idols are then dried, dressed in fine fabric, jewellery of gold, gems and garlands.  Then the main pooja commences.  The used milk, honey and fruits are then carefully collected with reverence, and shared amongst devotees as a token elixir/ blessings of the gods!

Temple Altar arrangements:

Hinduism is an ancient form of pagan religion found in the eastern world, originating from the Indus valley, and dated to over 12,000 years ago.  It pre-dates pagan religions and civilisations of ancient Incas & Mayas, Egyptians and other such.

The Hindu Temple designs vary enormously, but have an underlying esoteric principle with which they are based on. Most large temples have 3 layers or boundaries. The outer walls & gates, middle temple space & sub-altar rooms, and a main altar room that is granite or painted black, where the dedicated deity statue of that temple resides. The layers represent the pathways to the Womb! And Hindu temple designs manage and lead the attention of the devotees from the outer world into the womb of the Great Divine.  Only the Priest may enter the inner sanctum of the temple and conduct temple poojas. But during poojas, a screen covering it is removed so that devotees may witness and worship the deity in the altar.

Animals & Hindu processions:

Most temples with grounds will have a sacred animal living freely and taken care of by the temple priests or devotes. These can be Cows, Goats to Swans, Peacocks or as large as an Elephant! Many Hindu deities have an associated animal, some poets, or defeated forms of demons, and so their particular animal is seen as a sacred link to that deity, honoured, fed and even worshiped.  At special festivals, these animals are decorated with luxurious cloths, and taken on a parade around temple grounds or indeed the village or town roads where the temple is located. Often these animals `carry’ a small altar and an idol of that deity on their back during festive processions.

– Manivannan Navasothy