Sree Hanumat Pancharatnam
BY: K.N. ANANTHARAMAN
Aug 30, MUMBAI, INDIA (SUN)
The story of Rama and Sita as detailed in the great epic Ramayana is well known. It has been told and retold over a period of thousands of years in India and its influence has spread even to far away countries like Thailand and Indonesia. In more recent times, it has had great appeal in the West also. Sri Rama is worshipped as God in several households. The word ‘Rama’ itself is a sacred mantra and is revered and recited as such. The first person who knew its greatness and imparted it as a life saving mantra was Hanuman. The recipient of the life saving mantra was none other than Sita herself.
The Ramayana of Valmiki which is the original version and the foundation for the later versions by Tulsidas and Kamban consists of seven cantos or kandas, each named because of the location of the events or the nature of the events described in the canto.
Thus, the first canto is the Bala Kanda relating to the birth and childhood of Rama and his brothers; the second is called Ayodhya Kanda as it details the events in Ayodhya, the capital of the kingdom ruled by Dasaratha, the father of Rama; the third is rightly called Aaranya Kanda, as the events take place during Rama’s stay of nearly 14 years in the forest (Aarayna); the fourth is called Kishkindha Kanda as the events take place in Kishkindha, the kingdom of Sugriva, the King of the Vanaras, who befriended Rama, and promised aid to him in his search for Sita; the sixth is called Yuddha Kanda because it deals mainly with the battle between the Vanara army led by Rama and the Rakshasa army led by Ravana ending with the triumph of Rama and his return to Ayodhya to be crowned as King of Ayodhya; and the seventh and the last called Uttara Kanda deals with events taking place after Rama became King. The fifth kanda is however called ‘Sundara Kanda’ or the beautiful Kanda even though the events take place in Lanka. This special name is because it describes the super human and unparalleled exploits of a great devotee of Rama, Hanuman, who imparts the life giving message of Rama to Sita in the form of ‘Ramanama’ (name of Rama) embossed on a ring sent by Rama through Hanuman.
With unswerving devotion of Rama in his heart, Hanuman is proud in proclaiming the greatness of Rama and attributes all his powers and courage to Rama. We see in Hanuman a humble devotee who is spurred on to great deeds because of his Bhakti and unshakeable faith in Rama. No wonder that the worship of Hanuman has become popular.
Hanuman is believed by the devout to be a Chiranjeevi, one without death, alive though not visible to us. Several thousand years after the period of Rama, at the time of the next incarnation of Narayana, as Sri Krishna, Hanuman is mentioned as living. Thus it is believed that Hanuman is not somebody who is dead but who is alive and therefore ready to help any devotee. The great Acharya Adi Sankara Bhagavad Pada, who has composed devotional verses on several deities to facilitate worship, has therefore composed this beautiful piece of five slokas on Hanuman and this is rightly called a Pancharatna. Compositions by Sages like Sankaracharya have a special value and efficacy. He has composed them for our benefit. We should take every opportunity therefore to study, understand and worship Hanuman, so that we not only get the blessings of Hanuman but Rama and Sita as well.
I contemplate with reverence on the son of Vayu (Hanuman) who is first among the messengers of Sri Rama. Free from all worldly passions, he sheds tears of joy because of his whole-hearted devotion to Rama.
Notes: Hanuman is known by several names. Appellations like Vataatmaja, Vayuputra, Anilaatmaja. Pavamananandana, etc. mean the same thing, viz., that he is the son of the Wind God, Vayu. When Vishnu was to be born on this earth as Rama, the various Gods promised that they will, each one of them, lend support to Rama in his fight against Ravana by causing part of themselves to be born, as monkeys through their will and power. Thus Vayu, the Wind God, fathered Hanuman; Agni, the God of Fire, caused the birth of Neela; Surya or the Sun fathered Sugriva; and soon they became the leaders of the army of monkeys which helped Rama in his fight against the hordes of Ravana. Of these, Hanuman having the characteristics of Vayu or the wind God could assume a small or big form as he wished and could travel at great speed like the wind.
Hanuman was the specially chosen the representative of the monkey contingent which went forth in search of Sita, to go over to Lanka where Sita had been taken by Ravana. "Wind-powered" Hanuman crossed the sea in a giant leap, over-came all obstacles and saw Sita and gave her Rama’s message of consolation and carried back her message to Rama. In his confrontation with the Rakshasa hordes who came to attack and capture him, he proclaimed triumphantly that he is a messenger and servant of Rama. By using the word, the author Sankaracharya conveys the meaning that Hanuman was the first emissary between Sita and her husband. If the word (Seetapati) is taken as one word, it means the Pati or husband of Sita and the word could be taken to mean not merely as ‘first’ but also as ‘foremost’.
The word ‘Dhoota’ means a messenger. Here Hanuman is depicted as Rama’s messenger to Sita and Sita’s messenger to Rama and his devotion to both was so great that he is always depicted as shedding tears of joy through whole-hearted devotion, implicit obedience to the will of God (Rama) and surrender to Rama, freed from all worries and troubles, passions and attachments of the world which make us shed tears of sorrow. Hanuman thus shows us the way of being in a state of constant bliss by surrendering at the feet of Rama and leaving everything to Him. It is such a Hanuman who should be enshrined in our hearts because he has Rama and Sita enshrined in his heart. The Acharya says that Hanuman is eminently fit to be meditated upon.
Let me praise (sing the praise of) that darling son of Anjana. He is endowed with pink lotus-like face, pink like the early dawn, and eyes which overflow with feeling filled with compassion. His greatness is indeed to be extolled as he is verily a life-giver.
Notes: The beauty of the face of the devotee of Rama, Hanuman, is enhanced by its pink color. The pink color of a lotus and the rosy pink of the rising sun at dawn are mentioned by the author-poet as comparison to show the happy face of Hanuman. The lotus blooms and opens at dawn when the rising sun spreads a glow and cheer all around. Likewise, the face of Hanuman deeply devoted to God dispels the devotee’s misery and darkness and brings him joy. The lotus like face of Hanuman is further to be contemplated because the eyes of the son of Anjana are not angry, red eyes frightening away the good and the pious, but they are filled over flowing with compassion, ready to help them in overcoming their sorrows. It is this face of Hanuman that gladdened the heart of his mother, Anjana, who used to look at it when Hanuman was a child. Hence, she regarded him as Bhagya or wealth and lucky possession. But Hanuman not only gladdened his mother’s heart, but he brought back to life thousands of Vanaras belonging to Sri Rama’s army who lost their life in battle. He brought joy to Rama who was grieving over Lakshmana, lying unconscious like dead, by bringing back Lakshmana to renewed life. For achieving this, he literally sped to the Himalayas, lifted a whole hillock containing the rejuvenating, life-giving herb, ‘Sanjeevani’, and brought it to where Lakshmana and others lay on the battle-field of Lanka. With the help of this herb, those who were considered dead were restored to life, their wounds of battle healed and they were fit to fight again. Thus, the great deeds of Hanuman are worthy to be extolled and therefore the Acharya calls Hanuman ‘Manjula Mahiman’. Long life and good health will be the benefits that accrue to the devotees of the incomparable Hanuman, because he is the dispenser of ‘Sanjeevani’, the life-giving herb.
He who is the son of Vayu, is beyond the reach of the love-arrows of Manmatha, the God of Love (because he is free from passions and desires). His eyes are wide and beautiful like the petals of the lotus. His neck is shapely and his lips are red like a ripe fruit. It is he, who is the one without parallel, that is my unfailing support.
Notes: The complexion of Hanuman, his expressive and handsome face and his shapely neck etc, are described by the Acharya to show that such a person endowed with physical strength, beauty of form and complexion was however not an easy target for the arrows of the God of Love, meaning thereby that Hanuman was a Jitendriya, one who has conquered the senses. The Acharya considers that it is such a person who can protect the devotee, and he, therefore says that He is the only support he has and that too an unfailing support.
Purato Mama Bhaatu
May the resplendent form of Hanuman always shining, manifest itself in front of me. The same form (Hanuman) was responsible for banishing the sorrows of Sita, for proclaiming the greatness of Rama and for destroying the Kirti (fame) of Ravana.
Notes: The story of Rama and Sita is well-known. Sita had been imprisoned in the Ashoka forest in Lanka, guarded by a band of fearsome Rakshasis whose very mis-shapen, but strong bodies made ordinary humans tremble. These Rakshasis constantly taunted Sita and asked her to give her consent to marry, the ten-headed king of Lanka, who had abducted her. Ravana even threatened Sita that she will be killed and her flesh cooked for breakfast, if she did not accede to his wishes. In this predicament seeing that there was no way of escaping from Lanka and reaching Rama or even to send a message to Rama, she decided to commit suicide by hanging herself from the branch of a tree when the Rakshasis who guarded her were sleeping. Hanuman, after searching the whole of Lanka had come to the place where Sita was held prisoner and watched Sita’s plight from atop a tree, concealed behind the leaves. He was cogitating in his mind as to how to prevent Sita from taking her life, how to console her, and how to convey the message that Rama was already on his way to free her. After thinking about it, he came to the conclusion that recitation of the story of Rama itself was the best way of dispelling Sita’s misery and ensuring that she does not commit suicide in a fit of depression. Thus, he started the recitation of the story of Rama and hearing this, Sita looked up at once. Slowly Hanuman came down from the tree, introduced himself as the messenger of Rama, won her confidence and gave her Rama’s precious gift of a ring. Thus, the sorrow of Sita was assuaged by Hanuman and he brought glad tidings to Sita. This is referred to in the first line of this Sloka.
After assuaging the grief of Sita, Hanuman decided to proclaim his presence, in Lanka and extol the greatness of Rama, whom Ravana, the mighty, had alienated by his wrong actions. He, therefore, began destroying the gardens and the forests in Lanka to invite attention to himself. Ravana deputed several Rakshasa hordes to capture him but Hanuman overcame them all easily and after vanquishing each of the onslaughts by Ravana’s forces, he used to get on top of a high gateway arch and loudly proclaim that Rama was his master and that Rama was invincible. He proclaimed this before Ravana himself when he was taken before Ravana after allowing himself, to be captured by Indrajit, son of Ravana. Thus he showed great courage as well as pride and all along proclaimed that he was only a humble servant of Rama. This is brought out by the Acharya in the second line of the Sloka.
The destruction of Ravana’s gardens and forests, the vanquishing of his Rakshasa hordes, the defiant and courageous way he faced the mighty Ravana when taken to his Darbar, and thereafter setting fire to Lanka, when the evil Rakshasas wound a cloth round his tail and set fire to it, all these belittled Ravana’s fame as being invincible and terrible, and Hanuman was able to show to the world at large, that Ravana was not so great afterall. This is brought out in the third line of the Sloka. It is this Hanuman, bringing comfort to the sorrow-stricken Sita, serving the noble Rama and striking terror in the heart of the evil Ravana, that one must conjure so that one’s sorrows are removed by him and further those who do inimical acts against one and who are evil are also punished by him.
He (Hanuman) is the leader of the Vanara forces and the Sun who makes the water-lily of the Danava race droop. He is unswerving in the protection of the poor and helpless and he is the very embodiment of the fulfillment of the great penance of the Wind God, Vayu. Him I have now seen in person.
Notes: In the first sloka, the author, the great Acharya has mentioned that he has visualized the form of Hanuman and is meditating on him. In the next Sloka, he extols the greatness and in the third, he considers him to be his unfailing support. In the fourth, he prays that the divine form of this incomparable devotee of Rama should manifest itself before him in all glory. The desire is fulfilled and therefore in this final fifth Sloka of the Pancharatna, the author says that he has been vouchsafed the grand sight of the worshippable and adorable Hanuman’s form in person. His prayers have not been in vain and Hanuman has answered his prayer and has given him Darsan.
Hanuman is likened to the sun’s rays here. Whereas the lotus opens at sunrise, the lily which blooms at night, droops in the morning when the sun rises. The Danavas or Asuras are likened here to the lily which droops when the sun’s rays fall on it. Hanuman caused the evil Asuras and their kith and kin to wail and weep and hang their heads in shame, when he destroyed single-handed hundreds of them who came to attack him, and further he also set fire to their houses and rendered them homeless. The great beneficial result of the worship of Hanuman is also indicated by the Acharya when he says that Hanuman is steadfast in the matter of protecting his devotees and all allevating the miseries of the poor and the weak. The Acharya also points out that if one sincerely prays to Hanuman, his heart’s desires will be fulfilled. The Acharya prayed that he be granted Darsan of the Divine form and this was granted. The strength of one’s devotion and prayer, the goodness of one’s intentions and the purity of one’s life will secure for one, the ready blessings of the compassionate Hanuman, the great devotee of Rama.
Bhuktva Sri Rama Bhakti
He who recites this Pancharatna Stotra of the son of Vayu, will enjoy in this world all happiness and prosperity and become a true devotee of Sri Rama.
Notes: ‘Phala Sruti’ is usually given at the end of a composition to tell the reader that a recitation of the composition will entail particular benefits. To become a true devotee of Rama, Rama’s grace is necessary and this will be easily vouchsafed, if one is devoted to Hanuman, because he is the prince among Rama’s devotees. The devotee will also be blessed with happiness and prosperity, the Pancharatna composition on Hanuman is therefore recommended for recitation. Needless to say the recitation should be with devotion and faith in order to yield results.
Hanuman is a hero in his own right in the Ramayana. Great physical strength (he is known as Bajrangbali - meaning, strength of the body which is hard like a diamond), a sharp mind, good analytical power, persuasive speech, undying and unparalelled devotion to Rama, undaunted courage which could meet great odds, great personal humility and strict Brahmacharya (which means (i) pursuit of absolute knowledge of God; (ii) celibacy and freedom from passions and desires; (iii) personal humility) are some of the important traits and qualities of Hanuman. These are epitomized in one of the Dhyana Slokas at the commencement of any recitation of Ramayana thus:
Sri Rama Dhootam
I bow down to the messenger of Rama who is swift like the mind with speed like the wind, having absolute mastery over the senses, foremost in intelligence, who is the son of Vayu and the leader of the Vanara forces.
A mere remembering of Hanuman and thinking about him before starting any venture or when one is in difficulties is enough to bring an end to the difficulties and crown one’s efforts with success.
An oft repeated sloka which gives the beneficial results of remembering Hanuman can be mentioned here for the benefit of all devotees of Hanuman:
Ajaadyam Vaak Patutvam
Intelligence, strength, fame, courage, freedom from fear, good health, freedom from dullness of intellect, eloquence in speech and learning, result by remembering Hanuman and thinking about him.
The worship of Hanuman is imperative before even a study of Ramayana and recitation of Ramayana or worship of Rama. Hanuman is widely worshipped in Maharashtra. Saturdays and Tuesdays are normally days observed as auspicious for Hanuman. In Southern India, especially Tamil Nadu, an offering of a garland of Vadas (main ingredient ‘udad dal’) is considered specially efficacious. This tradition is followed in some of the temples even in Bombay where South Indians offer worship. In Maharashtra, Hanuman is referred to as Maruti (meaning, son of Marut or Vayu). The worship of Maruti, who is the foremost Ramdas or servant of Rama, was in the past popularized in Maharashtra, by the renowned Samartha Ramdas Swami who made the worship of Hanuman the rallying point for revitalizing Hindu Dharma and vigor with accent on not only mental and spiritual vigor, but physical strength as well.
It is hoped that this Pancharatna on Hanuman composed by the great Acharya, will give the devotees of Hanuman a greater insight into the greatness of Hanuman. May their devotion increase. May those who have not yet become devotees become his devotees and thus become more happy, bright, strong and prosperous.
© "dilip", published by Sudakshina Trust (Regd.) and printed at Colour Publications Pvt. Ltd., 126A, Dhuruwadi, AV Nagvekar Marg, Prabhadevi, Mumbai 400 025. Reprinted with permission.