Hanuman: The God of Strength, Knowledge, and Devotion
Hanuman is one of the most beloved deities of South Asia.
As the god of strength, knowledge, victory, and devotion, as well as the destroyer of evil and protector of devotees, Hanuman represents both the external struggle against oppression and evil as well as the internal struggle to master one’s own emotions and weaknesses.
Read on to learn more about this fascinating deity and find inspiration in these gorgeous Hanuman tattoos!
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A Being as Old as Time
The earliest mention of a ‘divine monkey’ appears in the Rigveda, between 1500 and 1200 BCE. Indra and his wife, Indrani, in conversation, mention an energetic and strong monkey, Vrisakapi, and his wife, Kapi. Indrani worries this being is causing people to forget Indra, but Indra states that this being is to be considered a friend that they shall coexist with peacefully.
Together, they share the wealth of the people’s offerings and live in harmony.
There are some theories, however, that an earlier version of the monkey god existed in earlier Dravidian religions as ‘Anumant’, which is thought to stem from ‘ana-mandi’ or ‘male monkey’.
This theory is not as widely accepted, with some scholars pointing out that the word ‘mandi’ refers to a ‘female monkey’ and the compound word ‘ana-mandi’ thus makes no linguistic sense and would not be used for a male deity.
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The tale of Hanuman has gone on to inspire stories in various other parts of Asia. The monkey hero in the Chinese novel Xiyouji (Journey to the West), for instance, is said to have been inspired by Hanuman owing to the Buddhist monk Xuanzang’s travels through India.
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“The One Who Destroys False Pride”
Though he was not a primary figure in earlier literature, he has become one of the most revered of the Hindu deities over time. In modern writing, Hanuman is also depicted as the patron god of martial arts (including wrestling and acrobatics), as well as meditation and scholarship.
While the exact origins of Hanuman and the meaning of his name are sometimes debated, the most accepted version comes from the Sanskrit interpretation: ‘Han’, ‘killed’ or ‘destroyed’, and ‘maana’, or ‘pride’. He is often thought to be a ‘remover of obstacles and difficulties’.
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Another interpretation is that his name stems from ‘hanuma’, ‘one having a jaw’, and ‘mant’, or ‘prominent’. This is linked to the story in Puranic legend where the baby Hanuman, thinking the sun was a fruit, tries to reach it, wounding and disfiguring his jaw in the process.
As one of the seven immortal beings known as ‘Chiranjivi’, Hanuman’s long tale has revolved around his selfless devotion and loyalty, particularly to Rama and Sita.
Hanuman is thought of as the perfect yogi, having mastered his senses through discipline and will alone. He carries out the divine order without any self-serving motives, performing his duties with true detachment.
Hanuman tattoos popularly feature the Hanuman chalisa or other devotional hymns and writings from the sacred literature that Hanuman first appeared in.
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Hanuman’s strength is legendary. His ability to shapeshift allows him to be as small as the smallest creature and larger than the largest, granting him unimaginable powers.
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In one tale, where Lakshmana is wounded and in need of a herd found in the mountains, Hanuman, who was unsure which herb to bring carries the whole mountain in his palm as he flies across India, and saves Lakshmana’s life.
Hanuman’s strength and wit were depicted in the tale of Sita’s rescue when Hanuman’s captor, by order of Ravana, light his tail on fire. However, Hanuman uses his strength to break free and jumps from rooftop to rooftop, setting the whole city of Lanka ablaze.
This tattoo of an angry Hanuman over Lanka captures his ferocious strength beautifully!
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In addition to his strength, Hanuman also represents knowledge and enlightenment due to being a philosopher, poet, polymath, grammarian, singer, and musician.
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Balance in all Things
With strength beyond imagination and discipline greater than any temptation can shake, Hanuman is seen as the ideal balance between heroic strength and emotional and spiritual devotion.
We could all stand to learn something from the mighty Hanuman!
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