Most of us are familiar with the ten avatars or incarnations of Lord Vishnu. But, did you know that the monkey god, Lord Hanuman, who played an important role in the Ramayana, had nine incarnations? Hanuman, says the Valmiki Ramayana, was an incarnation of Lord Shiva.  

Hanuman is one of the Chiranjeevis or immortals. Some people believe that he is still alive. He was born to an apsara called Anjana, who was cursed by a sage to become a monkey. She married Kesari, the king of a region named Sumeru. Brihaspati, the guru of the gods, was supposedly Kesari’s father. 

The story goes that Anjana could be free of the curse only if she gave birth to an incarnation of Shiva. How she conceived is an interesting story. 

When King Dasharatha was distributing the divine kheer given by Agni (Fire God) after conducting a Putrakameshti Yagna for an heir, a kite snatched some of the kheer and flew away. When the kite dropped the kheer, Vayu (Wind God) ensured that it fell into Anjana’s hand. After eating it, she conceived and gave birth to the monkey-faced Anjaneya (son of Anjana). 

When he was a child, Anjaneya was blessed by all the gods. So no weapon could harm him. Lord Indra also said that he would be immortal or a Chiranjeevi and would henceforth be known as Veera Hanuman or Veera Anjaneya. 

Hanuman’s Powers

Hanuman has great powers, thanks to the boons he received from the gods. One such power is the ability to become bigger or smaller. This served him in good stead when he leapt over the ocean to reach Lanka in order to look for Sita. He is as fast as the wind, knows all the Vedas, and has enviable mental powers. 

He could become very heavy or very light, and he could acquire anything. He could give any boon that he wanted. No curse could affect him. He could become invisible and reach anywhere in a second. He had the power to control fire, wind, sun, water, and poison. He could not be conquered. Thirst, hunger, and other cravings of the body would not disturb him. He could hear and see things that happened far away from where he was. 

He could travel at any speed and possess all the weapons of Shiva. He could shapeshift and reduce fear in his friends. He had knowledge of the past, present, and future. He could read people’s minds, and he was free of sins. He could enter the bodies of other people and turn one material into another. He had the power to achieve whatever he wanted. He could give a person a long life. 

He could not be tempted by the opposite sex. He possessed the Nava Nidhis. He could even resist sleep. He possessed tremendous courage. He could make time go slower or faster. There was an invisible ring that protected him always. He had the power to see what was happening in all the 3 worlds. He was free of illusions but could create strong illusions. He could be in two places simultaneously.

All his powers were the gift of the gods and goddesses including Brahma, Indra, Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Yama, Naga Devi (queen of the Nagas or snake gods), Nidra (Goddess of sleep), Agni, Varuna (Rain God), Vayu, Vishwakarma, Kaala (God of Time), Maya, Kama (god of love), and Kubera (god of wealth). Little wonder, then, that he was invincible. 

Like Vishnu, Shiva, and Durga, he took many incarnations to destroy evil and protect the innocent.  

Let us find out more about the 9 incarnations of Veera Anjaneya.

1. Prasanna Anjaneya Swamy/Prasanna Hanuman

This is the first incarnation of Hanuman. He was worshipped by Vijaya, a Kshatriya king, to get rid of his earthly bonds. In this form, Hanuman freed him from his bondage to materialistic pursuits and pleasures. One can find the story in Parashara Samhitha’s 15th chapter, ‘Vijaya Charitham’. This form has a peaceful face and gives us peace of mind.

2. Veeranjaneya Swamy/Veera Hanuman

This is his 2nd incarnation. He holds a gadha or mace with a battle-ready expression. Since the form expresses strength and valor, he is called Veera Hanuman. The story is found in the Mainda Charitra in chapter 35 of Parashara Samhita. This powerful form expresses ‘rajo gunam’ that annihilates enemies. 

3. Vimshati Bhuja Hanuman (20-armed Hanuman)

In this form, he appears with 20 hands, and displays his great power and energy. Lord Brahma and the Sapta Rishis were in awe of this powerful form and prostrated before him. He bestows power and energy to his devotees.

4. Panchamukha Hanuman (5-faced Hanuman)

A story in the Ramayana says that Hanuman took this avatar to kill Ahiravana, the king of Patala, who was an ally of Ravana. Ahiravana disguised himself as Vibhishana, Ravana’s virtuous brother, and lured Rama and Lakshmana to accompany him to Patala. Hanuman went to Patala in search of them. He discovered that Ahiravana’s life was concealed in 5 lamps placed in different directions. To kill him, all the 5 lamps had to be extinguished simultaneously. For this purpose, he took this avatar which has 5 faces. apart from his own, the other 4 faces are Narasimha, Hayagriva, Garuda, and Varaha. With the help of his 5 faces, Hanuman blew out the 5 lamps at the same time and killed Ahiravana. This form can protect one from evil spirits, black magic, and other occult actions.

5. Ashtadasa Hanuman (18-armed Hanuman)

This form is one of the most prominent and revered Hanuman avatars. Each hand of this avatar carries a powerful weapon. This form signifies power, courage, and vitality. This form appeared before Sage Durvasa, who was dissatisfied with the powers he obtained from many Mantras. He worshipped Hanuman to gain peace, satisfaction and bliss. 

6. Suvarchala Sahitha Hanuman

This form of Hanuman appeared to a poor Brahmin named Dhvajadutta. A sage called Pushkara, who was a great devotee of Hanuman, gave him a Mantra called Hanuman Dwadasakshari Mantra to help him overcome his problems. Though he recited it, nothing happened. This was because he failed to meditate on his guru before the recitation, and he also lacked enough faith. But he blamed the guru for the failure.

Later, a sick tribal man approached Dhvajadatta for a remedy. Dhvajadatta narrated his own woes and told him not to approach sage Pushkara. But the tribal man did so, and the sage advised him to recite the Hanuman Dwadasakshari mantra with proper faith. He did so and was cured. Dhvajadatta realized his folly. He resumed his sadhana with firm faith in his guru. Anjaneya, along with his consort Suvarchala, seated on a camel, appeared to him and blessed him with prosperity.

7. Chaturbhuja Anjaneya (4-armed Hanuman)

This form has 4 hands. It is in a state of worshipping or meditation. Lord Hanuman blessed a poor Vedic scholar named Kapila in this form. One hand shows Abhaya mudra, another shows Varada mudra showering boons. The third holds a fruit, and the fourth rests on his consort.

8. Dwatrimshath Hanuman (32-armed Virat Hanuman)

This is a giant form of Hanuman and is also known as the Virat form. In the Ramayana, Hanuman appeared in this form before Sita to gain her confidence. This 32- armed form has 32 weapons. It is a fierce or ugra form. An ancient king Somadatta worshipped this form and recovered his lost kingdom. This form can change his size as and when he likes.

9. Vanarakara Hanuman

This is the simplest of his 9 forms and shows Hanuman as a normal monkey. The Parashara Samhitha says that Hanuman appeared in this form before Galudu, a tribal who had leprosy. He blessed him with good health and moksha. This is a docile form that is depicted sitting at the feet of Rama.

By performing Maha Veera Anjaneya Homam, one can get the blessings of Lord Hanuman. It gives one courage, strength, and the confidence to overcome problems. It also protects one from enemies and evil forces.

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