We all broadly know the outlines of Ramayan. Nearly every Indian would know about Lord Rama and his greatest devotee Hanuman. The epics of Ramayan and Mahabharat are sacred and timeless and as none other than Brahma himself proclaimed to Valmiki – “would remain as long as there are rivers and mountains”. One can’t help wondering are there any other epic or stories that inspire people even after thousands of years.
Typically physical strength and wealth go hand-in-hand with a certain arrogance. For, example, in Mahabharat, Bhima was most of the time proud about his strength. Furthermore, strength doesn’t always combine with wisdom and intelligence. We are still in awe of Hanuman’s strength as well as his intelligence, wisdom, humbleness and complete devotion to Lord Rama. I doubt that many would have got to read about their first interaction, which occurs in the third Sarga in Kishkinta Kand in the Valmiki Ramayan.
As many of you would know, the great epic of Ramayan is divided into Kand (volumes) or what is also known as Cantos. Towards the end of Ayodhya Kand, Lord Rama leaves Ayodhya to live in forest for 14 years. Sita Devi and Lakshmana were not decreed to go to forest, but out of their own volition, Sita and Lakshmana both decide whole-heartedly to accompany Rama to the forest. That’s the beauty of Ramayan. It’s all about relationships and values.
The experience of Rama and the trio in the forests is dealt in detail in the Aranya Kand. Initially they go through some horrendous experience, but in the later years they live in peace for the most part. Come the 14th year and destiny raises its head as Lord Rama has to fulfil the purpose of his mission down to earth. The cunning Ravana, figures that he was no match for Rama’s prowess and would not stand a chance in a direct encounter. He meticulously devises and executes a plot to remove Rama and Lakshmana away from the scene and deceitfully abducts Sita. This occurs towards the later portions of the Aranya Kand. A desperate Rama accompanied by Lakshmana sets out in search of Sita.
An awful monster creature, gigantic and fearsome known as Kabandha attacks the duo and ends up being chopped off and dies in their hands. As it turns out, the fearful monster, in reality, was a celestial being, who underwent this ordeal due to a curse by Indra. Kabanda assumes the form of a handsome man, (a celestial being rather) and thanks Rama and Lakshmana for putting an end to his misery. He reveals to Rama and Lakshmana their next steps and advised them to proceed to Rishyamukha Parvata (mountains) and befriend Sugreev, who would assist in their endeavour to search for Sita. Thus ends the Aranya Kanda and paves the way for Kishkinta Kanda.
This should set a context for our immediate chapter on how Hanuman comes across Lord Rama.
A few days passed by and Rama and Lakshmana walked in search of Sugriva and reached the river Pampa, which marked the beginning of Kishkinta region. Sugriva and his entourage are hiding in Rishyamukha mountains as Sugriva’s own brother Vali had turned into his enemy and was looking to put an end to his life. (That is quite a detailed story and we are not visiting that story for now). Sugriva grew very suspicious at the turn of events and assumed that the new visitors had been despatched to finally see him off by Vali. Sugriva decides to depute his trusted Minister and the man for all seasons, Hanuman.
Hanuman had received several boons as a child and one among those was the ability to take whatever form he wished. Hanuman takes the form of a Brahmin pandit and reached Rama and Lakshmana. As one would see in several places in Ramayan, Valmiki delights in describing time and again the outstanding form, divine beauty and personality of Ram, which is beyond words to describe. The moment anyone looks at the two brothers, the immediate reaction is awe and who could these men be? Rama and Lakshmana had such a rare and unmatched personality, an aura beyond anything one can get to see on earth and they both wore a majestic appearance that was unearthly. In fact, Hanuman wondered that Lord Rama looked like Vishnu, who just landed from Vaikunth and the duo looked like Sun and Moon and appeared to be visiting earth on a certain purpose.
Hanuman seeks to interact with them but the duo is not answering so he goes one step further and explains who he really is. In fact, the charm and aura of Rama is so disarming that Hanuman reveals right at the outset that it is not his real form defeating his own attempt to disguise. He introduces himself as Vayuputra and as a servant of ex-King Sugreev and asks them on what purpose they had come. He further reveals that he is a Vanara disguised as a Brahmin and deputed by Sugreeva..!! There are subtle things to note here. The aura and presence of Lord Rama must have been so overwhelming and compelling that any deception and the individual personality traits just melt and lose their value in his presence.
At this point, Rama interjects and addresses Lakshmana. Ram goes on to state that the man who just arrived in front of them is no ordinary person and the words that just came from the mouth of Hanuman could have only come from someone who has arduously learned all the three vedas. Such was the erudition of Hanuman and it took only seconds for Rama to decipher it. (It’s relevant to mention here that Hanuman was educated in all the vedas by none other than Sun God or Surya Bhagawan). Rama goes on to tell Lakshmana that a king cannot have a better spy or messenger than the one they just came across.
Lakshmana responds to Hanuman and reveals who they were and on what purpose they are traveling. He also goes on to mention Sita’s abduction by someone who is capable of taking different forms and had apparently abducted through a deceitful appearance and a wicked plot. It should be remembered that at that point, both Rama and Lakshmana are not aware that it was Ravana that abducted Sita. Hanuman goes ahead and assures the duo of Rama and Lakshmana that Sugriva will dutifully assist them both in their endeavour to trace Sita’s location and rescue her from the hands of whoever the abductor turned out to be.
Hanuman deduces in his mind instantly that he has just met with two people who one cannot normally meet even if one were to go in search of them. He figured in an instant that it was Sugriva’s fortune that such great men of aura and valour have come in his search and further rejoices that Sugriva’s good times have finally begun and it was only a matter of time that he would win his lost kingdom from his own brother Vali with the help of this invincible duo.
Hanuman then takes the duo on his shoulders and takes off in the air to the Rishyamuka Parvat top where Sugriva and other accomplices were hiding. The rest of the epic story progresses and we are not about to go into it immediately. I think the following conclusions can be safely made from the first interaction.
- Lord Rama deciphered in those few moments the capability, strength, intelligence, erudition and dedication of Hanuman. This was sufficient for him to ensure that later on they assign Hanuman as a key member of the team that goes out towards the South in search of Sita.
- Hanuman figured in moments that the two people he was interacting with were no ordinary men and would not be possible to find if you searched for ages. It was their fortune that Rama and Lakshmana were in search of them and came asking for their help.
- Lord Rama explains the subtle art of communication in one of the verses of Valmiki. In hindsight, one knows the story and it looks matter of factly. But, it’s not. Imagine the desperation of Rama who had already lost his kingdom and banished to forest and now lost his wife to an unidentified abductor in the middle of a forest. There was no implicit reason to trust a person who changed his appearance at will and Valmiki beautifully explains how Rama assessed Hanuman instantly. Rama explains that communication must come from three parts of the body. In other words, the three parts of a person – heart, throat and head – have to be in sync in a genuine communication. When a person is lying or deceptive, one of these will not be in sync. Rama was able to assess that all the three were in perfect sync when Hanuman spoke thereby proving he was completely reliable and genuine.
There is a lot of subtlety in Ramayan, which one starts noticing after sometime. These epics stood the test of time for good reasons and they are a fountainhead of learning. Our Sages and Rishis knew how to impart wisdom in a different world in the ages to come and they were compassionate and wise enough to leave behind abundant resources, which one could learn from.