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My Hanuman Is Bigger Than Yours
by Philip Lutgendorf
My Hanuman Is Bigger Than Yours
History of Religions
Updated: September 6th, 2012
Philip Lutgendorf MY HANU MAN IS BIGGER THAN YOURS
On the third of August, 1989, just a week after I arrived in Delhi to begin a year of research on the apparently ever expanding worship of Hanu- man1-the monkey companion of Ram and hero of the Ramayan-a front page article in the Times of India reported that the divine monkey had himself arrived in the capital. Whereas I had come by air, Hanuman
(widely revered as the "son of the wind"-Pavan-kumdr, Mdruti, Vayu- putra, etc.-and renowned for his aerial exploits in the epic) arrived by train; moreover, he made the journey lying down. Although Hanuman is known to be physically immortal-one of the traditional seven or eight "long-lived ones" (ciraiijivi) of Hindu mythology, who has been around for at least 900,000 years and was already complaining of fatigue in his conversation with his half-brother Bhima in the epic Mahdbharata-old age did not account for his supine posture and slow mode of transport. Rather, the explanation was aesthetic and pragmatic: Hanuman arrived,
My research was funded by a senior research fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies, and 1 owe special thanks to the institute's staff in New Delhi and Vara- nasi, especially to Dr. Pradeep Mehendiratta, Mr. L. Suri, Mr. Arora, and Mr. V. R. Nam- biar, for assistance in facilitating my work. I received valuable comments on an earlier draft of this essay from Sheldon Pollock and Peter van der Veer.
Throughout this essay I transliterate names (without diacritics) based on their Hindi pronunciation; e.g., Ram rather than Rama. Exceptions are made for certain widely used spellings, e.g., Ganesha, Shiva. I use "Ramayan" to refer to the broad tradition of retell- ings of the Ram story, and Rdmdyana for individual works so titled.
O 1994 by The Unlverslty of Chicago. All rights reserved. 001 8-27 10/94/3303-0001S01.00
this time, in the form of a forty-five-foot monolithic granite image weigh- ing some 1,300 tons. Hewn by artisans near Mangalore in South India, the rough-cut and unconsecrated image was loaded onto railroad cars for the long journey north, arriving at Tughlakabad station in south Delhi, where it was transferred by crane to a special flatbed trailer to begin the final fifteen-kilometer leg of its journey to Vasant Gaon, a western suburb on the road to Indira Gandhi International Airport. Although Hanuman is hailed as a master of the eight siddhis or occult powers associated with advanced hatha yoga practice, including the power of expanding one's body to immense size and weight (garimd) and of contracting it to infin- itesimal dimensions (laghumd), only his garimd was evident on this oc- casion, and the monkey's progress was slow indeed: ten days later, the Times reported that the tires of his trailer had been flattened under his im- mense weight and had sunk to earth (like the wheels of Yudhishthira's chariot when he uttered a lie on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, signaling, some say, the onset of the Kali Yuga and our present moral confusion), leaving the world's largest monkey stranded and obstructing traffic for more than three days on busy Ring Road. While two one-hundred-ton jacks labored to raise him in order to change the tires, thousands of wor- shipful commuters made (according to the paper) "full use of the un- scheduled halt to seek Hanumanji's blessings."* Eventually the journey was completed, and the image delivered to its final resting place, where a team of sculptors, likewise brought from Mangalore, worked to put the finishing touches on it. By January 1990, the image had been set up fac- ing east, on a high plinth near a tank and several pipal trees, just off Palam Road. This rustic setting, lying (at that time) at the westernmost edge of the ever-expanding metropolis, was one of the ashrams of Prabhudutt Brahmachari, an influential sadhu who had his principal establishment in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, and who was reputed to be 120 years old. Brahmachari had selected this site for the monumental image, which was to serve as centerpiece for a complex which would eventually include a Sanskrit college, a training school for priests, and a charitable dispensary, and he had envisioned the stone image (according to a disciple) standing for all time as a gatekeeper (dviirpal) of India's capital, "so that the Pakistanis and so on cannot atta~k."~
For years, Prabhudutt had solicited donations to finance the carving and transport of the statue, and in March 1990, with the image at last in place, the guru had peacefully breathed his last "at Hanuman-ji's feet," having realized, it was said, his lifelong dream of having "the biggest Hanuman in ~ndia."~
* Times of India (August 3, 1989). p. I, captioned photo; and "Hanuman Stranded,"
Times of India (August 13, 1989).p. I, captioned photo. Interview with priest at Vasant Gaon, May 1990. Ihid.
There had been, to be sure, other contenders. During the mid-1970s, a group of residents of Mahalakshmi Layouts, a prosperous new suburb of Bangalore, commissioned a sculptor at a cost of Rs 20,000 to carve a three-quarter relief image of Hanuman on a naturally standing black monolith on a local hilltop. The project attracted attention and support from throughout the city and beyond, and the completed image was consecrated in a lavish ritual in June 1976, presided over by such digni- taries as the Jagadguru of Udipi and the Shankaracharya of Shringeri. Christened "Shri Prasanna Veeranjaneya Swamy" (the "delighted hero, Lord Anjaneya"; the latter-meaning "Anjana's son"-being the god's most common epithet in his reputed home state of Karnataka) and shel- tered by a soaring reinforced concrete dome, this hilltop image became the center of an impressive religious complex, including shrines to Ganesha, Ram and Sita, and the goddess Lakshmi (for whom the sub- division is named), a huge plastic-roofed pavillion (mandap) for yoga classes and other activities, a multiacre park, and a subterranean medi- tation hall featuring walls sheathed in black marble and a seated image of Hanuman rapt in contemplation. Endowed with such amenities, the site soon became a magnet for the citizens of India's "high-tech capi- tal," and, appropriately enough, its central image was eventually pro- vided with (what the temple manager proudly claims to be) "India's only permanent motorized scaffold for abhi~eka ceremonies." These ob- lations of water, milk, yogurt, ghee, or other substances may be per- formed in the sponsor's presence or commissioned from a distance, in which case the sponsor receives, by airmail, a silver coin stamped with the deity's image and a basket of consecrated sweets (prasad); many devotees pay to have an abhi~eka performed monthly or annually on an auspicious or personally significant date (e.g., a birthday), and the temple boasts such subscribers throughout India and oversea^.^ Its im- age (which was inspected by several of Prabhudutt Brahmachari's disci- ples in the course of their planning) depicts Hanuman "just landing" in Lanka, bearing the mountain with the healing safijivani herb to revive the wounded Lakshman and displaying delight at the prospect of Ram's warm welcome. According to a brochure available from the trust office, the terminology of the name prasanna vira alludes to the deity's dual aspects: "Shri Prasanna Veeranjaneya Swamy remains smiling to his devotees and a warrior to evil men." The same publication declares that the image was "acclaimed to be the highest Maruthi Idol in the whole of ~ndia."~
Interview with Shri Narasimhamurthy, manager of Shri Prasanna Veeranjaneya Swamy Trust, Bangalore, January 26, 1989.
"Shri Prasanna Veeranjaneya Swamy Trust" (temple brochure, n.d.), p. 1.
Not for long, though. On October 10, 1982, another elaborate conse- cration ceremony involving numerous costly oblations was performed more than 1,000 miles to the north, to inaugurate the worship of a Ha- numan image at Sidhabari in Himachal Pradesh. The guiding genius be- hind this project was Swami Chinmayananda, a Keralan sannyasi of the Dasanami (Shankaracharya) order, who has acquired all-India fame. At thirty feet, Chinmayananda's monkey easily topped that of the burghers of Bangalore; moreover, it was placed on a Himalayan hilltop in an "open-to-the-sky temple," was described as seated in viriisan-the alert posture of an armed warrior-and was said to be performing austerity (tapas), "ever diligent and alert in guarding the Hindu culture of the en- tire Aryavarta." A reconsecration ceremony was held in November 1987, for which Indian and foreign devotees on Chinmayananda's extensive mailing list (the Swami sponsors summer "Vedanta Camps" in the United States and Canada which attract large numbers of Indian families) were invited to commission one of 408 consecrated pots (kalai) made of gold, silver, stainless steel, brass, copper, and clay and filled with milk, turmeric, yogurt, saffron, and vermillion at costs rang- ing from US$20-$1,950. These pots, consecrated with mantras by "er- udite and scholarly pundits from the South," would be carried up a specially built ramp by the donor or a designated proxy, to be poured over the image in its "sky-covered" (digambar) temple enclo~ure.~
Raising such impressive sums of money from the nonresident com- munity is not the only benefit that having the largest Hanuman in India can provide, however. In the years following 1987, Chinmayananda be- came a key figure on the religious advisory committee of the Vishva Hindu Parishad ("World Hindu Council") and took an active role in the campaign to construct a temple at Ram's alleged birth site in Ayodhya, a movement that precipitated the downfall of a central government, ma- jor electoral victories for the Bharatiya Janata Party, and bloody riots in many parts of the country. However, as I have already noted, the Kera- lan Swami's Himalayan hero enjoyed a statuesque reign of less than eight years before he had to surrender his mukut (crown) to Prabhudutt Brahmachari's New Delhi colossus, measuring in at a full fifteen feet higher and, with his immense weight, returning the center of gravity to the nation's capital-where heroes are made and unmade, nowadays, with the swiftness of the wind.
Alas, would the pious Vrindavan sadhu have died so contented had he known that his own lifetime achievement would be eclipsed-nay,
'"Abhisheka Aradhana, Sacred Re-consecration Ceremony at Sidhabari for Veera- Hanuman" (brochure issued by Chinmaya Tapovan Trust, Sidhabari, Himachal Pradesh; undated but bearing a message from Swami Chinmayananda dated November 1, 1986).I am grateful to Frances Pritchett for sending me this brochure.
dwarfed-in less than a year? On November 23, 1990, an estimated 500,000 devotees of South Indian godman Sathya Sai Baba, including the President of India, R. Venkataraman, several Supreme Court jus- tices, and some twenty-five thousand foreign pilgrims, gathered at his ashram at Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh to celebrate their guru's sixty- fifth birthday. To mark the occasion, Sathya Sai Baba gave darian (vi- sual audience) and a speech to the immense crowd from the stage of a giant ampitheater, the central focus of which was a seventy-foot con- crete image of Hanuman, bearing the Drona mountain in his left hand and a mace in his right, completed just in time for the event (see fig. 1). As their guru made his appearance against the backdrop of this new record holder of the mountain holder, the sea of devotees ecstatically chanted their distinctive mantra, "Sdi Rdm! Sai am!"^
The examples cited here do not exhaust the account of recently erected monumental images of Hanuman throughout ~ndia.~
They rep- resent especially dramatic statements by individuals and groups mak- ing a bid for regional, national, or even international prominence, but their significance must be appreciated in the light of many thousands of more modest images and temples that have been erected or reno- vated during the past few decades, dedicated to a deity whose star, ac- cording to devotees, has been steadily rising throughout the twentieth century. The sponsors of these shrines include villagers and urbanites, farmers, wrestlers, merchants, industrialists, sadhus, and government servants, and of course the dcdryas or preceptors of an eclectic, cos- mopolitan, and aggressively assertive Hinduism-often styled Sanatan Dharm or the "eternal faith"-not all of whom appear, on the surface, to have a primary interest in the Ramayan tradition. Thus, Chinma- yananda calls himself a Vedantin and is best known for his exposition of the Upani~ads and the Bhagavad Gita; his rarer discourses on the Ramdyana (offered in English) favor a "scientific" and allegorical in- terpretation of its story that appeals especially to the university edu- cated. Sathya Sai Baba, who claims to be the reincarnation of an eclectic Mahrashtrian ascetic (died 1918) who lived in a mosque in Shirdi and may indeed have been Muslim by birth, utilizes both Shaiva
Reported in Hinduism Today (international ed.), 13, no. 2 (February 1991): 1, 9.
A second monumental image of recent construction occupies another hilltop temple in a second Bangalore suburb, and a third is found along a main street at Kothi Banda (where, I was told, people perform ceremonies to bless new motor vehicles). Another huge image was under construction in 1990 at Mohan Saray along the busy Vindhyachal road on the outskirts of Varanasi, and, in July of that year, Frederick Smith reported to me by letter that he had found three apparently recently erected images, each roughly twenty-five feet high, along the national highway between Vijayawada and Rajahmundry in West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh (letter, July 19, 1990). One of these depicted a five-faced (paiicmukhi)Hanuman, concerning which, see below.
and Vaishnava themes in his highly successful ministry. Prabhudutt Brahmachari had his principal ashram in Vrindavan, the headquarters of Krishna bhakti. Yet each of these men chose Hanuman as the vehi- cle for a powerful public statement. Why? What meanings does this deity encode for these and countless other religious patrons and for their intended audiences, and how has he come to do so? What factors explain the tremendous appeal of the divine monkey, who has come to be regarded by many as the preeminent "personal deity (isladev)of the Kali Yuga"?
A LONG AND WINDING TAIL
Even a casual visitor to India, who is unlikely to visit any of the sites mentioned above, rapidly encounters Hanuman's muscular form with its distinctive simian face and tail in many banal contexts: placed at the feet of pipal trees, adorning garish teashop calendars, or standing pluckily on the dashboard of countless buses and trucks; one of his epithets-Maruti ("son of the windm)-now designates the Indo-Japanese sedans which choke all urban thoroughfares. Yet despite Hanuman's visual ubiquity, textual sources for the study of Hinduism rarely accord him more than passing mention (if they mention him at all) as one of "the lesser deities of the Hindu pantheon . . . the monkey-king whose devotion to Rama is held up as a model of what human devotion to God should be.'"' Scholarly neglect of Hanuman, reflected in the paucity of published research, is indicative of the lingering classicist and text-oriented bias of Indolog- ical research, for the Hanuman cult has been justifiably termed "a rela- tively late and marginal phenomenon within ~ai~navism,"" and nothing turned off the old-school Indologist more quickly than the discovery that a phenomenon lacked an authoritative body of (preferably pre-Gupta) textual underpinning. Of course, Hanuman has his textual sources, and some of them are venerable indeed, but these are only of limited use in explaining his rise to prominence. For a fuller account, one must read sources that are either of relatively recent composition, or that are non- textual-in which case one encounters many interpretive problems. For- tunately, a modest amount of recent research on Hanuman himself, and a somewhat more generous amount on the (likewise long-stigmatized as "late" and "derivative") devotional cult of Ram, makes the task easier.12
InR. C. Zaehner, Hinduism (London: Oxford University Press, 1962). p. 233.
I' Hans Bakker, Ayodhya (Groningen: Egbert Forsten, 1986), p. 12611. The historical "marginality" of the Hanuman cult is debatable, but Bakker's assertion is correct from a purely textual point of view.
l2 The most extensive scholarly treatments of Hanuman are in Hindi: C. Bulke, Rdmkatha: Utparri aur vikas (Origin and development of the Ram story) (Allahabad: Prayag Vishvavidyalay, 1962); and Ray Govindchandra, Hanuman ke devatva tarhd miirti kd vikds (Development of the divinity and iconography of Hanuman) (Allahabad:
The first substantial literary account of Hanuman's attributes and deeds is that contained in the Valmiki Rdmdyana in its various recen- sions, the earliest of which most scholars now assign to the first few centuries B.C.E. Valmiki's portrayal of his hero's monkey allies is vivid and complex; although they are described with the usual Sanskrit syn- onyms for "monkey" (vdnara, kapi, hari, plavaga, Sdkhd-mrga, etc.), these fantastic creatures share certain of the supernatural powers (fan- tastic strength, ability to fly and to change their shape at will) and some of the characteristic flaws (unbridled sexuality and unacceptable intersibling competition) of Ram's demonic adversaries. But whereas Valmiki's rdksasas and ddnavas have identifiable precursors in Vedic literature, his heroic vdnaras do not.
In the introduction to his translation of Valmiki's Aranyakdnda, Shel- don Pollock stresses the importance of the motif of the boon given to Ravan in shaping Valmiki's conception of his hero, which Pollock sees as prefiguring much of the theological development of the later Ram cult. In requesting, from the creator-god Brahma, immunity from death at the hands of various classes of beings-deva, asura, gandharva, yak~a, ndga, and so on-Ravan neglects to mention two who are too weak to pose any threat to him: men and monkeys. As Pollock observes, by a plot device already well established in Vedic literature, his omis- sion becomes the loophole utilized by the gods to effect the demon's de- struction through the creation of a new kind of being: "neither a man nor even a 'simple' god, he incorporates the two and so, in a sense, tran- scends them both."13 Pollock persuasively argues that Valmiki's "new" genus of human hero-incorporating the qualities of Indra, Rudral Shiva, and especially Vishnu-represents the culmination of a long his- torical development of concepts of divine kingship, as well as socio- political developments on the Gangetic plain during the period which saw the rise of the Maurya dynasty. Similarly, the poem's demonic an- tiheroes (whose characterization Pollock also explores), who threaten Vedic dharma and cosmic order, represent a logical development of the
Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, 1976). In English, Leonard Wolcott's short article, "Hanumiin: The Power-dispensing Monkey in North Indian Folk Religion," Journal of Asian Studies 37 (August 1978): 653-61, remains useful. I have also benefited from Joseph Alter's re- cent study of pahalviini (Indian wrestling), which includes a chapter on Hanuman, The Wrestler's Body (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), esp. pp. 192-213; and from Carl D'Amato's unpublished paper, "The Various Faces of Hanu- man" (1980), prepared for the University of Wisconsin College Year in India Program and kindly provided to me by the author. Recent significant works on Ram bhakti include Bakker's study cited above, and Peter van der Veer's Gods on Earth (London: Athlone Press, 1988). Other relevant works will be cited below.
l3 Sheldon I. Pollock, trans., The Rdmdyana of Vdmiki, vol. 3, Aranyakdnda (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 41.
asuras, ddnavas, and daityas of Vedic literature.14 Yet what of the other category of "weak" but ultimately instrumental creatures omitted from Ravan's boon? These are creatures whom the poem tells us were begotten by the "power" (virya, also connoting "semen") of the gods on monkey-women, to produce another hybrid order of being: neither "simple" god nor ordinary monkey, who functions as the facilitating go-between for the in-between hero of the tale. Indeed, the plot of the Rdmayana turns on a peculiar alliance of these two types of hybrid beings-god-man and god-monkey-who must combine forces in order to accomplish a cosmic design, a circumstance not encountered in other early instances of the "limited boon" motif.''
From what religious or legendary background was this divine mon- key drawn? Or did Valmiki simply "invent" this remarkable creature? Few critical readers, either within or outside India, have been content with the latter assumption, and most of those who have written about the problem posit widespread worship of some kind of monkey deity in pre-Rdmayana North India. Concrete evidence for this "folk" or non- Aryan practice is extremely meager, however, and much of the argu- ment hinges on a speculative reading backward from later (and hence probably Ramayan-influenced) beliefs and practices, which when found among the lower classes and among tribals are assumed to have been immemorial.16
A number of monkey figurines have been unearthed in Indus civili- zation sites, and several of these are of faience, a composite more du- rable and harder to produce than ordinary pottery and hence perhaps reserved for items of deeper import than toys or knickknacks. But, as with other tantalizing Indus clues (e.g., the "proto-Shiva" seal), the in- terpretation of these objects is highly speculative. Possibly of more significance is the single Rg veda passage in which a monkey ap- pears-an enigmatic and much-discussed hymn in the tenth anthology
l4 Ibid., esp. pp. 68-84.
l5 In view of the fact that the Rarnayana was viewed, by later Sanskrit tradition, as the prototypic artistic creation and the model for poets and playwrights, it is worth noting that, as in the Sanskrit theater, the epic's hero (nrlyaka) is paired with an ally or sidekick who manifests comic and trickster-like qualities; a kind of shadow of the hero, who in drama is called the vidajaka. This correspondence was brought to my attention by Sunthar Visuvalingam, who observes that the nrlyaka-vidiisaka pairing is sometimes traced by Sanskrit authors to the relationship between Indra and a monkey in the Vri- shakapi hymn of the Rg veda (concerning which, see below); personal communication, March 1992.
l6 For example, Govindchandra (p. 179) cites the wearing of a symbolic "tail" ornament by certain tribals of Andhra Pradesh, who claim descent from the vrlnaras of the Rdmiiyana. Sukumari Bhattacharji speculates that the Vedic Indians "had to combat, and eventually come to terms with" a monkey cult based in the Ganges valley, a region which she calls (without citing any evidence) "an old seat of monkey-worship"; The Indian Theogony (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970).p. 277.
(10:86). This dkhydna or dialogue between Indra and his wife (here called "Indrani") concerns the latter's resentment of a being identified as a "male monkey" or "virile monkey" (vysiikapi), who is also termed a "tawny" or "yellow beast" (harita mrga). Like many of the dialogue hymns, this text alludes to details of a now-lost mythology that must have been familiar to the Vedic audience. Indrani complains that Vri- shakapi, whom she calls Indra's "beloved," has usurped (or polluted) some of the offerings that rightfully should have gone to Indra and that his popularity is leading to forget Indra; she compares the mon- key's strength and virility unfavorably to Indra's own. Indra counters that Vrishakapi is his friend, without whom he cannot be happy, and the hymn ends with some sort of compromise: the three apparently share oblations in Indra's house.17 The commentator Sayana identifies Vrishakapi as Indra's son and then as Indra himself. Most modern in- terpreters of the hymn (e.g., F. I. Pargiter, H. D. Velankar) regard it as an allusion to the Aryanization of a non-Aryan cult of monkey wor- ship.18 The name or epithet "Vrishakapi" resurfaces occasionally in later Puranic literature, in contexts which serve to link Indra, Vishnu, Shiva, a "male monkey" hero-figure, and ~anuman.'~
Many scholars have argued that a number of pre-Aryan folk deities were incorporated into Brahmanic mythology through the category of
"Bhattacharji, p. 276. Griffith's notes to his translation, however, suggest the great obscurity of the latter part of the hymn; Ralph T. H. Griffith, trans., The Hymns of the Rgveda (reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1976), pp. 596-98.
l8 S. K. Chatterji speculates that the name "Hanuman"-the etymology of which as given in Valmiki ("one having a jaw"; from the episode in which Indra strikes Hanuman with his thunderbolt and the monkey falls to earth and breaks his jaw) appears question- able to him-may be an Aryan corruption of a Dravidian term for "male monkey" (Tamil ana-mandi), hence a distorted translation of vyjakapi (S. K. Chatterjee, "Race Move- ments and Prehistoric Culture," in The Vedic Age, ed. R. C. Majumdar [London: Allen & Unwin, 19511, p. 164; cited by Govindchandra, p. 15). Indeed, Hanuman is sometimes termed "Anumant" in Prakrit literature (e.g., in the Uttara purana of Gunabhadra; cited by Govindchandra, p. 19). Govindchandra favors this explanation and speculates that the Aryans, confronted with a popular yaksa whose images resembled a monkey or a being half-human and half-monkey, first named the deity "Vrishakapi" (which may also be translated "man-monkey"); later, when they heard this deity called by his Dravidian name "Anamandi," they distorted it to fit a Sanskrit etymology and supplied an appropri- ate explanatory story (p. 24). However, Murray Emeneau has brought to my attention that the old Tamil word mandi, attested in the Carikam literature, can only mean a female monkey, hence the compund ana-mandi ("male female-monkey") makes no semantic sense. Moreover, he feels that the Sanskrit name, insofar as it can designate a being with a prominent jaw or chin (such as is characteristic of monkeys) makes etymological sense (personal communication, March 1992).
l9 The most striking example is a story (first cited by Pargiter) in the eighty-fourth adhyaya of the Brahma purtina, in the context of a eulogy of the Godavari river and its pilgrimage places, which fleshes out the bare framework of the Vrishakapi hymn through a story of Indra's slaying (by means of Vrishakapi, a hybrid being created through the in- tercession of Vishnu and Shiva) of a demon named Mahashani and connects it to the sub- sequent birth story of Hanuman. For details, see Govindchandra, pp. 60-61.
semidivine beings known as yak~as, who were regarded as sometimes beneficent, sometimes threatening guardians of the earth and its natural features-trees, rocks, and springs-who possessed great strength and swiftness and the ability to alter their shape at will, and were propiti- ated with offerings that included blood sacrifices. The iconography of male yakjas typically depicted them as squat and muscular and sometimes possessing the heads of animals-thus the origins of the elephant-headed Ga~es'a are often traced to yakja worship.20 This cult may also have involved the worship of deified heroes slain in warfare, for yak~as are sometimes termed virus, or "heroes." Vir (or bir) wor- ship remains a prominent element of folk practice throughout much of India, and vir images are usually smeared with a coating of oil and ver- milion (sindiir)-as are images of Ganesha and Hanuman-a practice that may hark back to the blood offerings to yakSas.21 Further, one of Hanuman's most common epithets is Mahavir ("the great hero"). All of these factors have served to convince scholars such as C. Bulke that Hanuman's worship was an outgrowth of that of yakSas.22
From his first appearance near the opening of Valmiki's fourth book, Kijkindhdkdnda, when he takes the form of a mendicant to question Ram and Lakshman about their presence at Pampa Lake, Hanuman is depicted as a skilled minister and messenger, possessed of a sagacity and eloquence that earn him Ram's praise (sarga 3). These qualities, to- gether with his phenomenal strength, his courage in the face of demonic adversaries, and his ability to travel immense distances at great speed and to alter his shape, typify his portrayal in the Sanskrit epic, which explains them in several passages that identify his father as the wind god, Vayu (a.k.a. Pavana, or one of the Maruts), recount his childhood exploits, and explain how he came to be under a curse which caused him to forget most of his powers until reminded of them at a crucial moment. It is significant, however, that Hanuman's skills are nearly al- ways said to be exercised out of his devotion to his master Sugriv, the monkey king, and are only indirectly offered in the service of Ram, Su- griv's ally; only once (on his return from his mission to Lanka to find Sita) does Hanuman describe himself as "the servant of the King of Ko- shala" (i.e., Ram; 5.59), and there is little to suggest the emotional at- tachment to Ram that he will manifest in later texts. Hanuman is also depicted as the recipient of numerous boons which render him (among
''Paul B. Courtright, GaneSa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 130.
'' On contemporary bir worship in North India, see Diane M. Coccari, "The Bir Babas of Banaras and the Deified Dead," in Criminal Gods and Demon Devotees, ed. Alf Hilte- beitel (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989),pp. 251-69.
22 C. Bulke, "The Characterization of Hanuman," Journal of the Oriental Institute of Baroda 9 (June 1960): 393-402; cited in Govindchandra, pp. 22-23.
other things) immortal. Thus in the twice-recounted story of his at- tempt, as a voracious infant, to seize and devour the sun, as a result of which he is injured (or killed) by Indra; the assembled gods pacify his angry father (who has paralyzed the cosmos by sulking in a cave, de- priving all beings of their life's breath) by bestowing special powers on the revived child, which make him invulnerable to weapons, supremely wise, fearless, and able to choose the time of his own death (4:66, 7:35). He is blessed again by Sita-to always possess all meritorious virtues-when he comes to her in Lanka at Ram's behest, bearing the news of Ravan's defeat (6:116). Finally, at the time of Ram's departure from earth, Ram bestows the boon of immortality yet again, by asking Hanuman to remain on earth "as long as my story is current among men" (7:ll). Much more could be said concerning Valmiki's portrayal of the monkey, who emerges as a leading character of books 4-7; for my purpose, it will suffice to add that Valmiki makes no explicit refer- ence to Hanuman's being celibate.23 In general, Hanuman is portrayed as more restrained and sagacious than his peers, and he occasionally advises his masters Sugriv and Angad not to yield to their simian nature (kapitva), which is characterized as capricious and unstable. Yet his own monkeyness is sometimes emphasized, as in the scene when, mo- mentarily thinking he has found Sita among the sleeping women in Ra- van's harem, the delighted Hanuman repeatedly scampers up a column and kisses his own tail (5.8).
Leaving aside for the moment the Puranas and the Jain Ramayan re- telling~ (as each of these genres deserves separate treatment), I would venture that, although the Sanskrit literature of roughly the next 1,000 years contains numerous poems, plays, and epics inspired by the Ra- mayan theme, many of which reiterate Hanuman's important role in it, strikingly few of these works significantly expand on his importance from a religious perspective. A number of dramas-such as Bhasa's Abhiseka and Shaktibhadra's Aicarya ciidamani (to cite both a relatively early and relatively late example) recapitulate the evidently popular Sundarakanda story, including Hanuman's leap over the sea, slaying of Ravan's son Akshay, and burning of the rcSk.psa capital. The monkey's immortality is at times invoked, as in Kalidasa's famous assertion that Ram established Hanuman in the north and Vibhishan in the south as
23 Individual monkeys are censured for lack of sexual restraint (Sugriv and Vali), and members of Hanuman's party complain of missing their wives and families while search- ing for Sita. Later, visiting Ravan's harem at night, Hanuman briefly wonders whether the sight of another man's wives sleeping, their clothing in disarray, may not "destroy his dharma" but concludes that it will not, since he has not viewed them with lustful intent
(5: 11)-he does not elaborate, however, on the nature of his "dharma." Govindchandra feels that Hanuman's celibacy is a later development (p. 98); if his interpretation is cor- rect, this change in the monkey's nature may reflect the influence of ascetic orders.
his victory pillars on earth (Raghuvamia, 15:103), yet the great poet says nothing to suggest that Hanuman's veneration as a devotee of Ram had begun by his day.24 Similarly, the recounting of the Ramayan in the course of the Mahabhdrata adds no significant dimension to Hanuman's role, though that same text provides, in the account of the hero Bhima's encounter with his half brother (both are offspring of Vayu) while pur- suing a rare lotus in the Himalayas, a vivid portrait of an immortal but world-weary Hanuman, living out the interminable yugas in a mountain retreat but still capable of manifesting the awesome form he assumed to leap across the ocean.25
The presence of a body of early medieval Jain retellings of the Ramayan story, such as the Paumacariyam of Vimalasuri (ca. third cen- tury) and the Padma purana of Ravishena (ca. seventh century), like- wise attest to the popularity of the story, and here Hanuman's role takes on a notably different slant, since a principal purpose of these texts is to debunk the "official" (by this time) Valmikian version. Though perhaps not widely popular, these tales went on being reproduced for centuries and may have influenced regional folk tradition^;^^ the liberties which the authors took in their efforts to create a counter-Ramayan themselves shed light on the popular reception of the story in their time. Notably, certain elements of the narrative were evidently too well known to be al- tered, even in a radical recasting, while others could be molded to fit the authors' ideological agenda. Hanuman's parents, for example, are still Pavan and Anjana, but instead of being the wind and a she-monkey, they are vidyadharas-a vague category of aerial, shape-changing beings- who wear monkey emblems on their crowns and fight with "nooses" in the shape of tails. Anjana is no longer raped by the wind (she need not be, since vidyadharas by definition possess most of the supernatural skills that Hanuman, in the Sanskrit version, receives as his divine pat- rimony), but she is temporarily abandoned by her husband, so her son can still be born in a cave. Leaving aside other interesting elements in these fractured fairy tales, the single most striking feature of Hanuman's portrayal in Jain texts is his promiscuity: he seduces and is seduced by numerous women in the course of his quest for Sita and eventually
24 Govindchandra (n. 12 above), pp. 1 12-13.
25 Mahdbhdrata (Pune ed.), 3:33:146-50; J. A. B. van Buitenen, trans., The Mahab- harara (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), 2:501-10. On the significance of this epiphany to the wider structure of the Mahabharata, see James Laine, "Out of Char- acter: Marginal Voices and Role-Transcendence in the MahBbhBrata's Book of the For- est," Journal of Indian Philosophy 19 (1991): 273-96.
26 For example, the motif of Sita as Ravan's daughter, which is widely found in south- ern and eastern Ramayanas, seems to appear for the first time in a ca. third-century Jain version; see William L. Smith, Rrlmrlyana Traditions in Eastern India (Stockholm: Uni- versity of Stockholm, 1988), pp. 14, 70-73.
marries numerous princesses-up to 18,000 in some versions. This is not especially surprising in the Jain context, since vidyddharas are known to be party animals and self-control is only for Jain saviors or tirthankaras, but the pious authors may be stubbornly stressing this theme in order to challenge the already-current impression of the mon- key hero as a supremely chaste, self-controlled yogi. They may also have been deliberately resuscitating an aspect of a "virile monkey" folk hero that had long been suppressed in the Brahmanical versions of his tale, though it would resurface outside India in the licentious Hanuman of Southeast Asian Ramayan narratives. Ultimately, of course, the vidyddhara playboy wises up, renounces the illusory world, and takes initi- ation from a Jain m~ni.~~
It is in the Puranas-those vast compendia of ritual, lore, and sectar- ian doctrine-that we observe a gradual but significant development of Hanuman's theological stature, reflecting a shift toward Brahmanical recognition not simply of Hanuman's charm as a narrative figure, but of his potency and efficacy as a divine being. Broadly speaking, the Pu- ranic texts may be grouped into three categories with respect to Hanu- man. The first comprises those that make no mention of the monkey hero and includes the Matsya, Vdyu, Viimana, Varaha, Linga, Brah- mdnda, and Markandeya p~ra~as.~~
The second group comprises those Puranas which mention Hanuman in the context of a retelling of all or part of the Ramayan narrative but do not significantly expand on his role as presented in the Valmiki version; these include the Agni, Visnu, Kiirma, Garuda, Brahmavaivarta, Narasimha, and Kalki puriinas, as well as the Bhagavata pur~i~a.~~
The third category consists of Puranic texts that display a significant elaboration of Hanuman's narrative role or an expansion of his religious status. Many of the stories included in the latter also appear in vernacular and late-Sanskrit Ramayans com- posed during the latter part of the Puranic age-that is, from roughly the tenth century onward-and may represent older legends that here find their way into elite texts for the first time. A prime example is the elabo- rate story cycle of Mahiravan, a subterranean brother (or sometimes son)
27 Jain treatments of Hanuman are discussed in detail by Govindchandra, pp. 30-55. For a general sketch of the transformation of the story in Jain versions, see J. L. Brock-in ton, Righteous Rdma: The Evolution of an Epic (Delhi, 1984), pp. 266-69.
88 In addition, even the chronologically late Devi bhdgavatu purdna fails to include him, while the Kdlikd purana mentions the monkey heroes as offspring of Shiva but does not single out Hanuman for special attention. My observations on the Puranas are derived from Govindchandra's survey of them (pp. 56-80), which is based on his reading of stan- dard bazaar editions, such as those of Shri Venkateshvar Steam Press and Navalkishor Press.
2y he Agni includes a brief and formulaic prescription for constructing an image of Hanuman, "with his two feet pressing down an asura, and with two hands, in one hand a vajra" (cited in Govindchandra, p. 57).
of the demon king of Lanka, who kidnaps Ram and Lakshman during their quest to rescue Sita. To defeat him, Hanuman undertakes an event- ful journey to the netherworld, in the course of which (among other ex- ploits) he impersonates a tantric goddess and meets his own son.30 Though absent from most recensions of Valmiki, this is a very popular and today virtually pan-Indian tale which is often represented in poster art and temple iconography. The story is alluded to in the ~ataru- drasamhita of the Siva purana and is greatly elaborated in Bengali, Oriya, and Assamese Ramayans composed during the fifteenth to eigh- teenth centuries, as well as in the Sanskrit Anandra ramdyana-a circa fifteenth-century text which shows much Shakta infl~ence.~' The story also appears in the Marathi Bhdvdrth Rdmayan of Eknath and, although omitted by the Hindi poet Tulsidas, became so popular in North India that many early printed editions of his Rdmcaritmdnas included an in- terpolated version.32
The Siva purdna also includes a variant birth story in which Ha- numan's mother is impregnated with Shiva's seed, so that her son is identified as a "portion" (amia) of Shiva himself, and (in another pas- sage) as an avatar of ~udra.~~
This linkage of Hanuman with Shiva is underscored in other stories in the ~kanda, Vi~nudharmottara, Padma, Byhaddharma, and Naradiya purdnas. The Brahma purana's catalog of pilgrimage places in the Deccan and South includes the strange tale of Vrishakapi, mentioned earlier, which likewise serves to link Hanuman with Indra, Shiva, and Vishnu, and also an account of a holy place or tirtha at the supposed site of the monkey capital of Kishkindha. Here the monkeys are said to have established temporary Shiva lirigams,
30 This fantastic adventure warrants further treatment than is possible here. The demon is sometimes known as Mahiravan ("earth-Ravan") or Ahiravan ("serpent-Ravan") both of which suggest his chthonic locale. In some accounts, two separate demons must be overcome. The names may in fact be Sanskritizations of Mayiliravanag ("peacock-Ravan"), the name by which he is known in Tamil folklore. Versions of the story, popu- lar throughout southern and eastern India from at least the medieval period onward, are given by Dineshchandra Sen in The Bengali Ramayanas (1920; reprint, Delhi: Amar Prakashan, 1987). pp. 254-83; and by Kamil Zvelebil in Two Tamil Folktales (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987),pp. 173-219.
31 For analysis of the themes in this story cycle, see W. L. Smith, pp. 146-53; on its probable southern provenance and historical evolution, see Zvelebil, pp. xxxv-xlvi. Both authors agree that the cycle serves primarily to recast Hanuman as the primary hero of the epic.
32 See, e.g., the often reprinted "Bombay edition," Jvalaprasad Mishra, ed., Tulsikrr ramayan (Bombay: Shri Venkateshvar Press, 1904).pp. 1030-50.
33 Significantly, Shiva ejaculates on seeing Vishnu's beauty when the latter assumes the form of the temptress Vishvamohini. Both Puranic high gods thus become, in a sense, Hanuman's "parents," with Vayu serving as intermediary to convey the divine seed to Anjana; her child becomes a composite deity incorporating the power of all three. A similar scenario occurs in a Keralan tale of the birth of the hero-god Ayyappan, another "nonsectarian" deity whose popularity has greatly increased in recent times.
which Ram later orders Hanuman to dismantle (their worship having been completed); when Hanuman is unable to uproot the lingams, Ram orders their permanent worship.34 A more elaborate variant on this story occurs in the Skanda purana, with the location shifted to Ramesh- varam and Hanuman's role greatly magnified; this too is an extremely popular tale which today is often represented in religious posters. In vernacular sources, it is found in the (ca. thirteenth-century) Telugu Ranganatha rdmayana of Buddharaju and in Krittibasa's Bengali ver- sion. In late Puranic texts that show Shakta influence, Hanuman's asso- ciation with Devi becomes emphasized, as in the story found in the Bengal recension of the Mahdbhagavata purana, in which Hanuman convinces the patron goddess of Lanka (who has been protecting Ra- van) to depart from the city.35 Not surprisingly, this theme is greatly amplified in certain Bengali and Assamese versions, with Hanuman en- countering the tantric goddesses Canda and Camunda, complete with skull bowls and garlands of severed heads.
Taking into account the well-known problem of assigning dates to individual Puranic passages, two historical observations nevertheless emerge from the evidence presented above.36 The first is that the ma- jority of Puranas which fail to mention Hanuman, or mention him only in the context of standardized retellings of the Ramayan story, are also those generally held to contain the highest percentage of "early" (i.e., pre-seventh- or eighth-century) material. Those which give prominence to Hanuman and supplement the conventional narrative with seemingly new material belong to what is regarded as the later strata (ninth to fourteenth centuries) of these texts, or to Puranas (such as ~ivaand Skanda) thought to contain extremely disparate material spanning many centuries. This supports the view that the popularity of Hanu- man, like that of the Ramayan itself, was growing steadily during the medieval period. A second observation is that Hanuman is often given prominence in Puranas that are generally regarded as Shaiva in sectar- ian orientation, and that many of the stories noted above serve to link Hanuman with RudraIShiva, as an amia or even avatar, or with the
34 Brahma purrlna, Anandashram Sanskrit Series no. 28 (1894), adhyaya 157, pp. 36970; cited in Govindchandra (n. 12 above), p. 59.
35 This theme too is highly popular today, and one of the most ubiquitous Hanuman posters shows him together with Durga and Bhairav in an unusual trinity that, in my ex- perience, few devotees are able to connect with a mythical narrative, though in a number of regional traditions (e.g., Punjab, Kashmir) Hanuman and Bhairav accompany the local Devi as her protectors. The Kashmiri goddess Khir Bhavani is said to have been escorted from Lanka by Hanuman, who has remained at her side. In rural Punjab, Hanuman is called larigiir-vir ("heroic langur-monkey") and usually accompanies the village goddess (Mark Rohe and Kathleen Erndl, personal communications, March 1992).
36 I use the time frame for dating the Puranas suggested by Wendy Doniger in the in- troduction to Hindu Myths (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975), pp. 17-18.
worship of Shiva and Devi. Hanuman's link with Shiva is already sug- gested in his identification as son of the wind-the powerful wind gods, or Maruts, having been closely associated since Vedic times with Shiva's destructive alter ego, Rudra-and is also reflected in his folk worship as a yaksa-style deity who bestows shakti or power (e.g., Ha- numan shrines are found at the base of pipal trees, and he is sometimes worshiped in aniconic form, like other virs, as a stone or a conical mound smeared with vermilion). These links were given explicit theo- logical underpinning in the later Puranas.
That Hanuman was venerated by Shaiva ascetics, especially by the peripatetic and influential Nath yogis of the late medieval period, has been suggested by a number of scholars and may help to explain the pro- liferation of Shaiva elements in his legend. Hanuman's epic attributes include several that would be of obvious appeal to yogic practitioners: for example, he is physically immortal, is linked to magical herbs and healing, and manifests several of the much-desired siddhis or supernat- ural powers sought through yoga (such as the ability to fly and to expand or contract one's body); moreover, he is widely regarded as a strict cel- ibate (brahmacari), an attribute not directly mentioned by Valmiki but increasingly stressed in medieval retellings and which may reflect the popularization of yogic physiology with its emphasis on semen reten- ti~n.~~
The problem is, direct textual or iconographic evidence for yogic veneration of Hanuman is all late-modern, in fact-and its projection backward into the past hinges on a broader argument concerning the Vaishnavization of (allegedly once-Shaiva) popular religion. While such a process can indeed be documented in certain specific places and times, it can also be disputed with respect to others. Scholars who favor such an argument, such as Charlotte Vaudeville and Peter van der Veer, cite as evidence the veneration of Hanuman and Bhairav by Naths as re- ported by George Weston Briggs in 1938, yet Briggs provides no evi- dence for the historic pedigree of this practice.38 Although Vaudeville appears predisposed to regard it as ancient and pre-Vaishnava, it may in
37 In only one of the major regional Rdmrlyanas-the Torave rrlmrlyana in Kannada (ca. sixteenth century)-does Hanuman have a sexual encounter. This episode, in which he unites briefly with a fish queen whose aquatic legions threaten to thwart the building of the causeway to Lanka, is found in virtually all the Southeast Asian Ramayan narra- tives and harks back to some of the Jain versions. Another vestige of it appears in the popular Mahiravan story, when Hanuman, on his quest to rescue Ram and Lakshman from the netherworld, meets a heroic monkey who is said to have been born from a fish queen impregnated by a drop of Hanuman's sweat (or saliva, or mucus) which fell into the sea during his mission to Lanka. So strong does the sexual taboo become in later times that some birth stories claim Hanuman to have been born out of Anjana's ear, thus sparing him all contact with female generative organs.
38 See George Weston Briggs, Gorakhnnth and the Kdnpha!a Yogis (Calcutta: YMCA Publishing House, 1938),esp. pp. 12, 17, 88, 102, which provide ethnographic evidence
fact represent the influence of other ascetic traditions-most notably, that of the Ramanandis-during the past several centuries.
A Vaishnava-Shaiva dialectic, with Hanuman as a prominent signifier of mutual influence, can indeed be documented through the vernacular Ramayans which began to be produced from roughly the eleventh cen- tury onward, though these texts also reveal a growing preoccupation with another side of Hanuman's persona: his deep emotional attachment to Ram, which becomes emblematic of the bhakti or devotional sensibil- ity. In the first of these, Kampan's Tamil Ir&zdvataram, Hanuman is portrayed as a model devotee and is described as wearing large earrings (kundal) of the type worn by yogis.39 Buddharaju's Telugu version introduces several important episodes that reappear in many later Ramayans-for example, Hanuman carries Ram on his shoulders during the crossing of the bridge to Lanka (also found in the Ananda rama- yana); he holds Ram's feet in his lap and tenderly massages them during an intimate moment of repose atop Mount Suvel (a scene also described by Tulsidas in the Rdmcaritmanas in a passage intended for meditative visualization), and he carries the unconscious Lakshman from the bat- tlefield, after Ravan has tried and failed to lift the wounded prince (also narrated by ~ulsidas).~~
But Hanuman's warrior side is also much in evi- dence here; during the fighting in the Ashoka garden, he slays two bat- talions of 80,000 demons each and is identified as an amia of Rudra; and the Valmikian story of his journey to the Himalayas to fetch medicinal herbs to heal the wounded warriors is here expanded to include a violent encounter with two demons, Kalnemi and Makari, sent by Ravan to way- lay him-an obviously popular episode that recurs in subsequent retell- ings (cf. Ramcaritmdnas, 6.56-57).
In addition to other, Shakta-influenced expansions already noted, Krit- tibasa's Bengali narrative includes many colorful stories that probably
of Hanuman worship which practitioners claimed to be "very old." Charlotte Vaudeville, in the introductory essay to her volume Kabir (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974).
p. 113, n. 2, cites Briggs as her sole confirmation of the link between the Naths and the Ramanandis, which is an element in her argument that Sant poets' historical links to Shaiva and yogic traditions were gradually effaced by a Vaishnavization process. In asserting that "the cult of Hanuman is common to Nath Yogis as a form of Shiva," van der Veer (n. 12 above), p. 103, again cites Briggs and then Vaudeville, as does Bakker in Ayodhya, when speculating that Hanuman worship represents "assimilation of what originally might have been a folk cult which was more at home within Saivism, especially within the Gorakhnsth sect" (p. 127). I do not dispute that some such process might have occurred but feel that some evidence earlier than that of Briggs ought to be presented in support of this argument.
39 Iramrlvariiram, 4.2.35, cited in Govindchandra, p. 183. However, such earrings are also common in the iconography of yak~as.
40 The latter is a theologically significant detail, since Lakshman is considered by many Vaishnavas to he an incarnation of Vishnu's cosmic serpent, Sheshnag, who sup- ports the world and hence is unimaginably heavy; yet Hanuman, because of his devotion, is able to lift him easily. For Tulsidas's account, see Rrlmcaritmdnas, 6.54.
represent the assimilation of local folk traditions; many of these suggest Hanuman's playful, mischievous, and even foolish side-the natural out- come of his simian nature and not regarded, in popular conception, as in- consistent with his divine status.41 Thus when Hanuman finds himself unable to extinguish his flaming tail after the burning of Lanka, Sita ad- vises him to put it in his mouth; he does so, but then complains that his face has been blackened by the flames and that his companions will laugh at him. Ram's wife consoles him with the verdict that henceforth all mon- keys will have black faces (obviously, Krittibasa, like a number of other narrators, took as his model for the epic's monkeys the aggressive and majestic langurs, rather than the more timid red-faced rhes~s).~~
During the scene in which a squadron of monkeys, in a parodic reversal of the usual demon versus sage encounter, pollute the sacred enclosure in which Ravan's son Meghnad (a.k.a. Indrajit) is conducting a sacrifice to acquire invincibility, Krittibasa adds the earthy detail of having Hanuman urinate on the prince's fire altar!43 Vaishnava-Shaiva rivalry is suggested by an episode that pits Hanuman, as guardian of a magic orchard belonging to Shiva, against the foraging exiles Ram and Lakshman. Shiva himself be- comes involved in the battle that ensues, but his wife Parvati eventually halts it, reminds Ram and Shiva of their ultimate nondifference, and "lends" Hanuman to Ram's service.44 Also present here, apparently for the first time in textual form, is the beloved story of Hanuman's cracking open with his teeth the gems of a priceless necklace, presented to him by Sita, in an effort to see whether they contain the name of Ram; when onlookers chide him that objects can be valuable without containing "Ramw-one's body for example-Hanuman tears open his own chest to reveal Ram and Sita enshrined in his heart-a miracle reproduced in countless contemporary icons, including the famous mechanical Hanu- man ?ila Disney at Varanasi's Tulsi Manas Temple.
Broadly speaking, Tulsidas's Rdmcaritmdnas (ca. 1574)-the most popular Ramayan in Hindi-speaking North India-presents a more dignified portrait of the monkey hero, stressing his dedication to Ram and making no explicit reference to his Shaiva identity.45 Leonard
41 The best analysis of the Krittibasa tradition is given by W. L. Smith (pp. 30, 3738),who notes the massive interpolation to which this version was subjected.
42 Govindchandra, p. 198. Similarly much modern poster art depicts Hanuman as a modified langur with characteristic greyish-white fur. Valmiki, on the other hand, usually describes the monkeys' pelts as tawny, red, or golden.
43 Govindchandra, p. 201. The more august Tulsidas, who echoes a number of Krit- tibasa's other innovations, does not pick up on this one.
44 W. L. Smith (n. 26 above), pp. 128-30.
45 However, much of the text is presented as a narration by Shiva to Parvati, and sev- eral lines are commonly interpreted as showing Shiva's delight at "recalling" his own deeds as Hanuman; traditional scholars also point out that, whereas Shiva is invoked be- fore Ram in the invocatory verses to books 1-3, he is praised after Ram in succeeding books (which contain Hanuman), since it would now be offensive to Hanuman to present
Wolcott interprets this as evidence that the Hindi poet sought to down- play Hanuman's folk status as an embodiment of divine power in order to stress Vaishnava bhakti and to teach the lesson that "Hanuman's im- portance lies only in his relationship to ~ama."~~
Although it is true that Hanuman's deeds are described in a fairly succinct manner in the Hindi epic (his birth story is omitted altogether, for example), Wol- cott's interpretation overlooks Tulsidas's other popular writings, which reveal his own fervent devotion to Hanuman, such as the twelve hymns in the anthology Vinay patrika, which praise Hanuman in the most ex- alted terms as an avatar of Rudra, as Shiva himself, and as a personal guardian and destroyer of malevolent spirits.47 The forty-odd songs of the Hanuman bahuk, popularly attributed to Tulsidas (though their au- thenticity is questioned by some scholars) glorify the divine monkey still further as a special patron of devotees in this dark age, and, of course, the Hanuman cdlisa (Forty verses to Hanuman)-though probably composed in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century- bears Tulsidas's signature and has become the single most recited short scripture in the Hindi belt. In any event, the verses of the Rdmcaritmdnus, especially its Sundar kdnd which highlights Hanuman's deeds, are recited all over north India in Hanuman's praise and Tulsidas is popu- larly regarded as the exemplary preceptor of his cult; in Banaras, the poet is said to have established eleven or twelve images of the monkey god throughout the city, and its most famous Hanuman shrine-the temple of Sankat Mochan ("the liberator from distressm)-is closely linked to the poet's legendary biography.48
Two other regional works roughly contemporary with Tulsidas's epic deserve mention here. The Dandi rdmdyan (also called the Jagmohan rdmdyan) of Balramdas, in Oriya, includes much of the folklore intro- duced in the Bengali version, as well as some new material. It empha- sizes Hanuman's role as Rudra avatar, stresses his brahmacarya, and calls him vajra-kaupin ("one having an adamantine loinclothm)-an epithet with obvious yogiclascetic re~onances.~~
Eknath's Marathi retelling of the epic story, the Bhdvarth ramiiyan, declares Hanuman to have been born wearing a loincloth, similarly stressing his bdl-brahmacarya (unbroken celibacy from childhood). It includes the popular Mahiravan story, as well as a humorous anecdote in which the demons find it im-
him before his master. See Jayramdas Din, Mdnas rahasya (Secrets of the Mdnas) (Gorakh-
pur: Gita Press, Svt. 199911942c.E.), pp. 295-96.
46 Wolcott (n. 12 above), p. 654.
47 Tulsidas, Vinay patrikd, 25-36.
48 See Philip Lutgendorf, The Life of a Text (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), pp. 49-50.
49 W. L. Smith, pp. 32 ff.; Govindchandra (n. 12 above), p. 229.
possible to ignite Hanuman's tail until the monkey suggests that Ravan blow on it; the tail then bursts into flame, setting fire to Ravan's beard and mustaches-all twenty of them! Among its apparent innovations (though of course it is difficult to identify the source for any one story in this fluid, pan-Indian tradition) is a variant birth story in which Anjana becomes pregnant after swallowing some rice porridge accidentally dropped into her mouth by a female vulture. This is said to be a fraction of the divine payasam which emerged from King Dashrath's sacrificial fire and was snatched by the bird from the hand of one of his queens; since the queens also become pregnant from eating the payasam and give birth to Ram and his brothers, a consequence of this botched (but, of course, divinely ordained) theft is to make Hanuman too a partial ava- tar of Vishnu and a half-brother to Ram himself.50 Eknath also reports a boon in which Ram tells Hanuman to be present whenever the Ramkathn is retold, an injunction that has entered popular lore concerning the monkey's immortality and has deep meaning for many storytellers and devotee^.^'
A further boom in the output of Hanuman-related literature occurred in north India during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and is reflected in hundreds of surviving manuscripts of hymnals, tantric manuals, and story anthologies. Many of these would find their way into printed form in the twentieth century, appearing in a plethora of bazaar chapbooks and manuals with titles like Hanuman upasna (The propitiation of Hanuman),
50 Govindchandra, p. 230. Both the story of the stolen porridge and of Ravan's singed beard are also found in the Ananda rcimciyana. Hanuman's blood (or anyhow, porridge) kinship with Ram in this variant is carried still further in many Thai, Laotian, Malay, and Javanese versions in which Hanuman is the monkey son of either Ram and Anjana or Ram and Sita (see ibid., pp. 239, 242, 249-50, 258).
Ibid., p. 230. Tulsidas is believed to have had an encounter with Hanuman follow- ing one of his own kathcis; for details, see Lutgendorf, The Life of a Text, pp. 49-50. During my fieldwork I was several times told a story concerning a modern Ramayan ex- pounder-a sadhu who, at the time of giving kathci, always prepared an ornate seat (cisan) directly in front of his own, for Hanuman to sit on, claiming that, although invis- ible to ordinary eyes, the monkey was there nonetheless. When a skeptical lawyer chal- lenged him to prove this, a wager was agreed on: the lawyer would come to the next day's program and attempt to lift the small cushioned seat. If he succeeded, the sadhu would abandon his vows and become the lawyer's servant; but if he failed, the lawyer would have to renounce the world and become the sadhu's disciple. The cautious lawyer insisted on bringing the cisan home with him overnight, lest anyone tamper with it, and the sadhu, worried that he had violated the etiquette of devotion in wagering on a matter of faith, spent a sleepless night. The next day, however, both were present in the devo- tional assembly at the appointed time, and the lawyer placed the seat in its accustomed place. Following the opening invocation, the sadhu launched into his discourse and, feel- ing inspired, gestured to the lawyer to carry out his test. The latter took a few steps for- ward but then hesitated, froze, and finally collapsed-so awesome was the presence he sensed on the "empty" seat. Later the sadhu excused him from his vow of world renunci- ation, but the lawyer is said to have been so profoundly affected by his experience of Ha- numan that he became an ascetic anyway.
Hanumat Satak (One hundred songs to Hanuman), and ~ri
Hanumiin ji- van caritra (Life story of Lord Hanuman), and in endlessly proliferating editions of the Ciilisii and of Tulsidas's Sundar
Although a detailed treatment of the iconography of Hanuman is beyond the scope of this essay, it will suffice to note that the surveys already published by Aryan and Govindchandra suggest that the evolu- tion of Hanuman's visual representation followed a trajectory roughly paralleling that of the textual sources described above (leaving aside Govindchandra's not implausible theory that he was worshiped from an- cient times in aniconic stones and mounds placed at the base of pipal trees, as he still is in some places). Thus the earliest surviving represen- tations of Hanuman date from the Gupta period, but these occur in sculp- tural friezes of Ramayan scenes in which the great monkey is not singled out for particular attention. Such friezes continue to appear in both Shaiva and Vaishnava temples throughout the early medieval period, but no individual image clearly intended for worship is found before the Chola period (a unique and apparently idiosyncratic image attributed to the late ninth century). A smattering of possibly ninth- and tenth-century images now in active worship (and hence almost impossible to date be- cause their details have been obliterated under thick coatings of vermil- ion) begin to show the characteristically energetic pose of one hand raised (either holding a weapon or mountain peak, or poised to deliver a slap) and one foot trampling on a demon, that will recur, with variations, until the present. From roughly the tenth century on, however, freestand- ing images-including some large ones-appear at many locations in north and central India; for example, a giant with upraised arm, crushing a demon pair, found at Indore in Madhya Pradesh; a circa tenth-century image from Singhbhumi, Bihar, with both feet trampling a demon and a goddess standing between his legs (perhaps illustrating the Mahiravan story); a seated twelfth-century image from Goa, with one arm raised to deliver a slap.53 The real iconographic boom, however, begins from about the fifteenth century and hence roughly coincides with the elabora- tion of Hanuman's deeds in regional texts like the Krittibasa and Tulsidas Ramayans, and it includes the first five-faced (pafic-mukhi) images-a fierce (ugra) manifestation that is rooted in Shaiva iconography (both
52 Rajesh Dikshit, Hanuman upasnd (Delhi: Dehati Pustak Bhandar, 1978); Bhanudatt Tripathi, "Madhuresh," Hanumat Satak (Faizabad: Maruti Prakashan, Svt. 203811981 c.E.); Prayagdatt Sharma, "Vichitra," Sri Hanuman jivan caritra, 4th ed. (Mathura: Shri Gopal Pustakalaya, 1988). Examples of each of these genres could be multiplied. My col- lection includes pocket-size editions of Sundar kand printed in red type and said to be effective "for tantric puja."
53 For detailed descriptions of these images (and barely decipherable reproductions), see Govindchandra, pp. 330-35. Better quality illustrations, but with meager documenta- tion, are found in K. C. Aryan and Subhashini Aryan, Hanuman in Art and Mythology (Delhi: Rekha Prakashan, n.d.).
Shiva and Rudra having often been represented with five faces)-and
suggests a growing importance for Hanuman both as a warlike protector and as a tantric initiatory preceptor.54 Other groups of images are simi- larly contextualized: Hanuman appears standing with folded hands,
sometimes in monumental form, as a door guardian (dvdrpdl) in Shri- vaishnava temples in the South, though here he is a figure of less theo- logical importance than Garuda, Lord Vishnu's principal vehicle.55 Of particular significance is the fact that hundreds of Hanuman images have been found at Hampi in Karnataka, dating from the Vijayanagara period (fourteenth to sixteenth centuries), during which Hanuman evidently en- joyed special veneration. In Maharashtra, a series of seventeenth-century Mamti temples are popularly associated with the career of the energetic Swami Ramdas (1608-81). Subsequent images appear in forms that have remained more or less constant into the present century: flying or leap- ing, bearing a club and mountain peak, and subduing a demon with one foot; carrying Ram and Lakshman on his shoulders while trampling on a demon; in Sita-Ram temples, of course, he inevitably appears as a wor- shipful attendant, standing or kneeling close to the divine couple.
It remains to note Hanuman's presence on the coins of a number of medieval dynasties, beginning with the twelfth-century Kalachuris of Ratnapur (Madhya Pradesh), who favored a flying image, bearing a mountain and mace and slaying demons. The Varman kings of the Chandela dynasty use similar designs, with an image of Hanuman on one side of the coin and the name of the king on the reverse. The Ka- damba dynasty of Hangal (eleventh to twelfth centuries) issued gold coins with a flying image of Hanuman, inscribed with the consonant "ha" in the four directions. The founders of the Vijayanagara empire, Harihara I (1336-56) and Bukka I (1356-77), who claimed links with
54 The oldest known paiic-mukhi image is a ca. fifteenth-century one from Madhya Pradesh (Govindchandra, p. 336); the iconography of subsequent images closely parallels the dhyanam (invocatory text for visualization) of this fearsome form that begins appear- ing in tantric anthologies at about this time (e.g., Dhyanatattvanidhi). An old paiic-mukhi image is said to be enshrined in Hanuman Gora, the principal Hanuman temple in Kath- mandu (a center of tantric activity), and another appears in a twenty-foot relief on the wall of Jodhpur Fort (ibid., p. 315). Numerous drawings and lithographs of this form, often overlaid with power-bestowing mantras, appear from the late eighteenth century onward (for examples, see Aryan and Aryan, pls. 51, 52, 61, 63, 78, 104, 109, 110, 116, 126), and today paiic-mukhi Hanuman is a popular theme in poster art. When questioned about it, most devotees could not relate the image to any mythical narrative but simply remarked that it "has a lot of shakti." The four extra heads (usually of Gamda, Nara- simha, Varaha, and the horse-headed Hayagriva) celebrate theriomorphic Vaishnava dei- ties possessing fearsome and protective attributes.
55 For example, a sixteen-foot image in the ca. sixteenth-century temple at Suchin- dram, near Kanyakumari, and another large image in the Padmanabham temple in Trivandrum. At about the same period an image of Hanuman was installed in the shrine to Ram at the Shrivaishnava headquarters, the great temple complex at Shrirangam; Govindchandra, p. 341.
the Kadambas, also issued similar coins and displayed Hanuman on their royal standard.56
MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE
The preceding section has briefly traced the proliferation of the cult of Hanuman during the medieval period as documented in both textual and iconic sources and has shown that beginning from roughly 900 C.E. there occurred a steady and at times dramatic proliferation of narratives and images heightening the theological and ritual importance of Ram's mon- key companion. It remains to offer some speculative explanations for this phenomenon and to bring it forward to the present-that is, to link this striking efflorescence with the contemporary narrative of monumen- tal sculptural installations with which this essay opened. Given the chro- nology of these religious developments, one obvious thesis presents itself for consideration: that the rise of devotion to Hanuman and indeed to Ram reflects the response of the Hindu elite of northern and central India to the changed political and cultural context caused by Islamic incursions and eventual conquests from the northwest.
In a recent article, Sheldon Pollock meticulously documents the ap- propriation of the Ramayan narrative in the "political symbology" of medieval India beginning in the eleventh and twelfth centuries-a usage of the text strikingly absent (together with any evidence for the temple worship of Ram himself) from the archaeological and literary record of the preceding millenni~m.~~
Examining royal inscriptions such as one dated circa 1168, in which King Prithviraj 11, actively en- gaged in skirmishes with "the mighty Hammira (Turkic or Muslim) warrior," suddenly begins (as no Hindu king had done before) not sim- ply to compare himself with Ram but to claim to be Ram incarnate, battling for a threatened dharma, and texts such as the Sanskrit epic, P~thviriijavijaya (composed perhaps within a year or two of the final defeat of King Prithviraj 111 by Muhammad Ghuri in 1193), that de- scribe Turks and Pathans as the "demons" (rak~asa) of the age, Pol- lock detects a pattern of the divinization of kings and the demonization of "others" that capitalizes on ancient themes in the epic and that par- allels, chronologically and geographically, the consecration of temples to Ram on the fringes of Muslim-controlled territory.58
56 Govindchandra, pp. 350-53. The Kalachuris of Ratnapur also appear to have built some of the first attested Ram temples; see Sheldon Pollock, "R2m2yana and Political Ima ination in India," Journal of Asian Studies 52 (May 1993): 266.
5FCompare Bakker's careful documentation of the rise of the Ram cult; see Ayodhya. pp. 24-64.
Pollock, "R2m2yana and Political Imagination," pp. 272-77, 281-84. The epic themes of divine kingship and of symbolic "othering" of the demonic outsider are exam- ined in greater detail in Pollock's introduction to Valmiki's Aranyakanda (n. 13 above), esp. pp. 15-54, 68-84.
Pollock's argument accords well with some of the data I have pre- sented above on the proliferating cult of Hanuman, especially with the monkey's role as demon-slaying protector and fearsome avatar of Rudra, whose destructive power, as Pollock has observed, was com- monly linked to the chastening role of the Hindu king.59 In his study of the Tamil version of the Mahiravan cycle, Kamil Zvelebil similarly postulates that Hanuman represented "the ideal expression of the val- our, skills, and shrewdness of the medieval South Indian warrior class who have to keep up the struggle against a terrible foe-the Muslim in~ader."~' Even the chronology and geographical distribution of re- gional retellings of the Ramayan story appears to reflect the eleventh- century Islamic chronicler al-Biruni's well-known boast that "Hindu sciences have retired far away from those parts of the country con- quered by us, and have fled to places which our hand cannot yet reach."61 The earliest vernacular Ramayans, after those in Dravidian languages, were composed in the far northeast-for example, Madhava Kandali's Assamese Rdmdyana (ca. 1350), the first major Ramayan in a New Indo-Aryan language; Krittibasa's Bengali version (ca. 1475); Balramdas's Oriya Ddndi rarndyana (ca. 1500)-in areas remote from centralized Islamic hegemony or under the control of culturally dis- senting Muslim regimes (Krittibasa's patron may have been Rukannud- din Barbak Not until 1574, under the relatively tolerant gaze of the Mughal emperor Akbar (whose commissioning of an illuminated Persian translation of Valmiki suggests to Pollock an effort to reduce the "otherness" of the Mughals in the eyes of their Rajput feudato- rie~),~~
did a storyteller in the Gangetic heartland produce a major ver- nacular retelling (Tulsidas's Rdrncaritmdnas), and the most visible expansion of the Ram cult in the region occurred only after the disinte- gration of the Mughal empire, under the patronage of resurgent Hindu rajas (Banaras, Rewa, Tikamgarh, etc.) and the breakaway ShiCite nawabs of Awadh. But Pollock's compelling thesis that elite revalori- zation of the Ramayan is closely linked with Brahmanic Hinduism's fateful collision with its Islamic "other" also raises troubling ques- tions, as Pollock himself notes in the concluding portions of this arti- cle: How much weight should one give to a (relatively) small body of inscriptions and texts as indicators of the Hindu weltanschauung of several hundred years? To what extent did the royal rhetoric and official ideology of Sanskrit inscriptions and court panegyrics influence popular perceptions and religious practices? Does it risk reductionism
59 Pollock, "Riimiiyana and Political Imagination," pp. 64-66.
'"Zvelebil (n. 30 above), p. xli.
61 Edward C. Sachau, trans., Alberuni's India (New York: Norton, 1971), p. 22.
''W. L. Smith (n. 26 above), p. 38.
63 Pollock, "RSmSyana and Political Imagination," p. 287.
to suggest that fear and hatred of Islamic invaders constitutes a pri- mary explanation for the rise of the worship of Ram and his compan- ion? The question is not an altogether academic one, since such a reductionist argument has obvious appeal to present-day Hindu nation- alists, as a challenge to the long-held view of secularist Indian histori- ans that modern "communalism" is essentially a by-product of British policies of "divide and rule" and that perceptions of Muslim regimes as a threat to the "Hindu religionv-and indeed the prevailing contem- porary notion of that religion itself-hardly existed in precolonial times.
The fact that Muslim elites resisted the assimilation that had brought previous waves of invaders under the umbrella of Brahmanical ideology clearly signaled a crisis of patronage for the custodians of Sanskritic tra- ditions. Yet the percentage of the population most directly affected by such cultural dislocation was relatively small, and the contents of re- gional Ramayans reveal a preoccupation with other paradigms than that of divine king versus demonic outsider-most notably, with the charac- terization of Ram as an incarnation of love and compassion, to whom his votaries respond with heartfelt emotion. This theme had already begun to be explored in the Tamil poetry of the Alvar poet-saints (though the majority of these, it is true, focused on VishnuIKrishna), whose lives long predate the arrival of Muslim invaders in India-although, according to their legendary biographies, some of these saints were engaged in "holy wars" of their own against the entrenched Jain and Buddhist elites of south India. It is also reflected in the modest number of elegant Chola bronzes, designed for temple worship of Ram, Sita, Lakshman, and Ha- numan. The proliferation of vernacular Ramayans followed an earlier pattern of the spread of emotional Krishna bhakti from south to north,64 which suggests that its coincidence of chronology with Islamic incur- sions may be of less relevance. Although the Tamil poet Kampan proba- bly wrote in the late twelfth century, there is no evidence that he had Turks on his mind when he created his baroque, emotion-saturated re- telling of Ram's deeds; significantly, his rdksasas, though suitably "evil," are complex and sympathetic titans, and his Ravan is modeled on the ideal of the ancient Dravidian monarch.65 As I have already sug- gested, the expansion of Hanuman's militant role in the Telugu and Ben- gali Ramayans of subsequent centuries can be as clearly situated against a background of Vaishnava-ShaivaIShakta dialectic, as against one of anti-Muslim rhetoric. Significantly, the Rdmcaritmdnas-composed by a
64 See Friedhelm Hardy, Viraha Bhakti (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983).pp. 3-48.
65 George Hart and Hank Heifetz, The Forest Book of the Riimiiyana of Kampan (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988); on Kampan's dates, see p. 2; on his characterization of Ravan, pp. 28-29.
Sanskrit-educated pandit in a pilgrim center that had been periodically attacked by Muslim iconoclasts, and a text much quoted in recent years by Hindu nationalists-is characterized by a pietistic outlook in which "Yavanas" (Muslims) are said to be saved by the power of Ram's name, rakjasa evil is broadly shared out among human beings, and the corrup- tion of kings in the Kali Yuga is equaled only by that of Brahmans. Even more difficult to situate against a background of Hindu-Muslim animos- ity is the fervent devotion to the name of Ram characteristic of such Sant poets as Kabir and Ravidas and their many successors, whose aniconic supreme deity reveals clear Nath yogic influence, while yet retaining resonances of Vaishnava mythology.66
The medieval kingdom of Vijayanagara has been lionized by twentieth- century Hindu nationalists as a bulwark against Islamic expansion, yet its rulers functioned in a complex religious and political environment and contended with both Hindu and Muslim rivals. Although the tutelary deity of their capital was Virupaksha, an awesome form of Shiva, the Vaishnava deities they favored included the ferocious Narasirnha, and, of course, Ram and Hanuman. The popularity of the latter in Vijayanagar had additional causes that are theological and sectarian, however. The influence of the Madhva school of Vaishnavism, founded by a circa thirteenth-century theologian and mystic of Karnataka, was considerable and peaked at court during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya (1509-29), whose guru was the Madhva preceptor Vyasa Raya. Madhva himself was revered as an avatar of Vayu, and hence, like Bhima of the Mahabharata, as a half-brother or even incarnation of Hanuman, and the theology of his sect gave special emphasis to the divine monkey. One reason for this was the Madhvas' long-standing rivalry with the older Shrivaishnava tradition, the other leading exponents of Vaishnava bhakti in the South. Whereas the Shrivaishnavas gave special importance to Vishnu's animal vehicle, the divine eagle Garuda, as an intercessor between the human soul and God, the Madhvas substituted in this role the folk deity Hanuman and drew on his identification with Vayu and the Maruts to develop a theology in which, as both the universal wind and the life-breath bran) within the human body, Hanuman was cosmic intermediary par exce~lence.~~
Vyasa Raya is reputed to have established 732 Hanuman shrines in ~arnataka,~'
"Though Kabir explicitly declares that his "Ram" was not the prince of Ayodhya, his almost exclusive use of Vaishnava epithets, as well as his emphasis on divine qualities of compassion, justice, impartiality, and on the devotee's response of passionate love, all sug- gests his affinities to Vaishnava bhakti.
15' It is claimed, even by some modern Madhvas, that their founder was influenced in his characterization of Hanuman by the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit, through his contact with the Nestorian Christian community of Kalyanpur.
15' Konduri Sarojini Devi, Religion in Vijayanagara Empire (New Delhi: Sterling, 1990),p. 136.
and many of the images found at Vijayanagar display a typically Madhva iconography: Hanuman leaps energetically through the air, with one hand raised as if to deliver a slap, the other holding a lotus, emblematic of Vishnu. His long tail curls in an elegant semicircle above his head and is ornamented with a bell, which is said to symbolize enlightening sound (Sabda), of which he is presiding overlord; in Madhva temples, the bells used in worship likewise bear his image.69 All this is not to say that Ha- numan did not have militant and protective associations for the people of Vijayanagar-perhaps even for some of the apparently well assimilated Muslim mercenaries who served in its army-but only that his popularity needs to be situated in wider contexts than those of political rivalries and their (sometimes) religious shadings.
Such contextualization is equally desirable in the case of the Maratha empire, the founder of which, Shivaji, wrote a famous letter to Raja Jai- singh in which he called Muslims "demons in the guise of men."70 Shivaji is popularly believed to have had as royal guru the seventeenth- century brahman teacher Swami Ramdas, who is said to have been an- other incarnation of Hanuman and to have given a great boost to Hanu- man worship in the Deccan by personally establishing eleven temples (representing the eleven Rudras) to the monkey god. A devoted reciter of Valmiki and of Eknath's Bhavarth ramdyan, Ramdas later composed his own Sanskrit version (ca. 1680). Voluminous hagiographic materials on Ramdas exist (mainly in Marathi); those available in English are heavily colored by twentieth-century communal hindsight.71 Again, one may question to what extent such positions were embraced by seventeenth- century Maratha peasants (whose local bhakti traditions emphasized Krishna in a distinctively Advaitin and yogic framework)-or indeed, by eighteenth-century north Indians, to whom the ascendant Marathas them- selves were a rapacious invading "other."
At least one key element in the rise of Hanuman worship has indeed received nuanced and contextualized study in recent years: the Ra- manandi ascetics, who rose from obscure origins in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to become, by the eighteenth, the dominant renun- ciant order in north India, championing Hanuman as their patron deity and the Ramcaritmanas as their scripture of choice. While engaging in a "Sanskritization" process that brought them increasing respectability and patronage, the Ramanandis remained for a long time a loosely or- ganized and socially liberal network of ascetics, characterized by a
6' S. K. Ramchandra Rao, personal communication, January 1990.
''Pollock, "Riimiiyana and Political Imagination" (n. 56 above), p. 287.
7' A good example is V. P. Bokil's Rajguru Ramdas (Poona: International Book Ser- vice, 1979),which observes that the "spiritual lustre" of Ramdas and the "martial fire" of Shivaji "were to combine in a thunderbolt to smash down the Muslim domination" (p. 13). Bokil offers a survey of the copius biographical materials on pp. 15-1 8.
broad spectrum of beliefs and practices and accepting recruits from vir- tually all levels of society. The diversity of their subgroups reveals Ha- numan at the extremes of his characterization: from the yogic preceptor of the Tyagis and the militant warrior of the Nagas-both roles we have observed before-to (surprise!) the feminized aesthete of the Rasiks (seventeenth to twentieth centuries). The latter, influenced by contem- porary trends in Krishna bhakti, transformed the "virile monkey" into a blushing sakhi ("girlfriend") of Sita, though shelhe remained the per- fect go-between, now carrying love secrets and quids of perfumed betel between the divine lovers as they dallied in luxuriant bowers along the river Sarayu. The transformation may appear incongruous to outsiders (as it did to van der Veer and apparently to some Tyagis), but large numbers of lay devotees seem to have accepted it surprisingly easily; the omnipresent monkey was simply changing with the times, to reflect a prominent trend in Vaishnava culture during what scholars of Hindi literature now term "the ornate period" (riti k~l).~~
The appropriateness of Hanuman to sadhus of the Naga orientation seems more obvious. The rhetoric of "militant ascetics" is often, not surprisingly, militant, and concerns the defense of dharma; their patron deity is the god who speaks eloquently but carries a big stick: Hanu- man/Rudra/Bhairav. But as van der Veer shows, although twentieth- century Ramanandis may at times voice anti-Muslim rhetoric and align themselves with the Vishva Hindu Parishad, their eighteenth-century precursors, in Ayodhya at least, were happy to accept patronage from the Nawabs of Oudh and to serve in their armies, and were more in- clined to do battle, for control of lucrative pilgrimage sites, with Shaiva Dasanami sannyasis than with ~uslims.~~
Subsequent Ramanandi ex- pansion was related to the rising prestige of the Ramcaritmdnas and to the social aspirations of lower-class (and often low-caste) groups, such as the agriculturist Yadavs (a.k.a. Ahirs, Gvalas) and Kurmis, to whose religious needs the Ramanandis catered. As William Pinch notes, the interests of these groups sometimes clashed with those of Muslims-as over the issue of cow slaughter in the late 1800s-but also often with those of their "betters" in the Hindu caste hierarchy.74
72 On the rasik tradition of the Ramanandis, see van der Veer (n. 12 above), pp. 180- 93; the most thorough study is in Hindi, Bhagavati Prasad Singh, Ram bhakti mem rasik sampraday (The erotic tradition of Ram worship) (Balrampur, U. P.: Avadh Sahitya Mandir, 1957); see also Philip Lutgendorf, "The Secret Life of Riimcandra of Ayodhya," in Many Ramciyanas, ed. Paula Richman (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of Cali- fornia Press, 1991), pp. 217-34.
73 Van der Veer, pp. 31, 46, 101-2, 152, 171.
74 On the social impact of Ramanandi teachings, see William Ralph Pinch, "Being Vaishnava, Becoming Kshatriya: Culture, Belief and Identity in North India, 18001940" (Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1990).
Van der Veer attributes the success of the Ramanandis to their con- stituting an "open category" of ascetics and shows that their theological and social freedom derives in part from their veneration of the Hindi epic of Tulsidas, which (as I have similarly argued), functioned histori- cally as something of an "open category" of scripture-at once both Vaishnava and Shaiva, conservative in its social message yet socially radical in its medium, accretive and synthetic; it offered, through the possibilities of its ritual and performative reenactment, a tool for reli- giosocial mobility.75 I will extend this model and propose that we rec- ognize in the varied aspects of Hanuman a god who has functioned, at least during the past millennium, as something of an "open category" of deity-capable of absorbing meanings as readily as he is said to have absorbed, while yet an infant, the powers of preexisting di~inities.~~
If a divine monkey was originally more on the dark, Shaiva side of Vedic mythology (as the clues about Vrishakapi and Hanuman's link to the Maruts suggest), Valmiki's masterpiece, while not abandoning Shaiva associations, forever cemented his link with the luminous realm of the celestial Vishnu. Hanuman has his feet perpetually in both camps-or more appropriately, in the air, flying between them-and his invocation can rarely be pegged as purely "Shaiva" or "Vaishnava," though obviously it can lean more one way than the other-for example, a fierce paiic-mukhi image with its associated yantra diagram is immedi- ately identifiable as tantric; the prayerful Maruti who stands with folded palms as door guardian in Shrivaishnava temples is a pacified, vegetar- ian cousin. Although a process that may be termed "Vaishnavization" has clearly occurred in certain specific contexts, the role of Hanuman is better understood as part of an ongoing dialectic between two contrast- ing (though not necessarily opposing) religious orientations; that many individuals feel attracted to both is not altogether new but is clearly characteristic of the synthetic popular religion of modern times.
In his fieldwork among contemporary north Indian wrestlers, Joseph Alter found that, when interviewees were questioned about their devo- tion to Hanuman, they would almost invariably respond by citing him as a perfect embodiment of both "shakti and bh~ikti"~~-indeed, this formula has become virtually a slogan among his devotees. The rele- vant semantic field of these two terms is far broader than the conven- tional translation "power and devotion" suggests and implies the
75 Van der Veer, pp. 195-96; Lutgendorf, The Life of a Text (n. 48 above), pp. 340439; see also Pinch, pp. 19-27, 139-78, 294-304.
76 That is, in the myth in which the baby Hanuman, after being struck down by Indra's thunderbolt for trying to devour the sun, is healed by receiving boons from each of the gods-invincibility from Indra, wisdom from Brahma, etc.
77 Alter (n. 12 above), p. 199.
bridging of two worldviews. As an embodiment of shakti, Hanuman expresses the raw life (and death) forces of nature and the deities who control them and also the spiritual orientation which aims toward in- creasing personal mastery over these cosmic forces: toward the attain- ment of personal strength and autonomy, and also occult powers, perfection, and ultimate immortality-the adamantine perfection of the spiritual hero, the tantric magician and yogi with his "diamond-like" body. Shakti also connotes this power in human beings-the masculinity in men and the fertility in women.78 In the right contexts, this power can be viewed as aggressiveness, assertiveness, and, indeed, militancy. As an example of bhakti, Hanuman stands for the emotional power of self-effacing love, service, and sacrifice and for the religious paths which seek salvation through self-surrender to a loving god. Here the predominant metaphor is of the fluidity and ultimate melting away of the ego-self; hence, in this aspect, the adamantine warrior be- comes tearful, even (by Western standards) syrupy: bazaar posters show him chanting the divine name, with tears streaming from half- closed eyes. Yet this overflowing emotionalism, this welling-up of feeling which is immune to the judgment of others, is also a quality highly prized in Hindu society.79
The cult of Hanuman is one illustration of the interpenetration of Shaiva and Vaishnava orientations in popular belief and practice, for the identification of Ram's perfect servant as an avatar of Shiva- which was widely accepted by the late medieval period-represents an ambiguous theological statement that can be read two ways. In some instances, as in the narrative structure of the RBmcaritmBnas, one de- tects an apparent attempt to "Vaishnavize" the Shaiva orientation-for example, by subordinating Shiva to Ram as the adoring narrator of his
78 Though sometimes characterized as a "men's deity," Hanuman has long been wor- shiped by women, especially as a giver of children, a function that reflects his role as a potent yogi. Today increasing numbers of women are drawn to his worship, and devotees I interviewed noted only that, since Hanuman is considered to be a strict celibate, women are not supposed to touch his temple images-although in The Popular Religion and Folk-Lore of Northern India, 2d ed. f 1896;reprint, Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1968). William Crooke described the embracing of Hanuman images by naked Maharashtrian women as a way of obtaining offspring (1 :87).
The contrast between the two orientations I discuss here is effectively crystallized in a story told of Allama Prabhu, a ca. twelfth-century Virashaiva poet-saint of Karnataka. Challenged to a display of spiritual powers by the immortal yogi Gorakhnath, Allama struck the ascetic with a sword, which merely glanced off his diamond-like, perfected body (siddha Sarir). Allama then gave the sword to Gorakhnath, but when the latter struck the saint, who had entirely effaced himself in devotion to Shiva, the weapon passed through him as if through air. The yogi was astounded (this is the Virashaiva ver- sion, of course) and had to admit defeat. Significantly, both contenders were "Shaiva," thoughthey represent contrasting spiritual techniques. Cited in A. K. Ramanujan, Speaking of Siva (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), p. 146.
acts. Yet traffic on the "bridge" that is Hanuman sometimes proceeds in the opposite direction, suggesting the "Shaivization" or "Shaktiza- tion" of Vaishnavism, as when (in the Ananda rdmdyana) Shiva's awe- some power, transmitted via Hanuman, is emphasized as indispensable to RamIVishnu's triumph, or the latter is even portrayed (as in the Ma- hiravan cycle) as helpless without Hanuman's intercession. Modern de- votees are fond of pointing out that there are far more shrines to Hanuman today than to his master; and within these there is more likely to be a lirigam enshrined at his side than the trimiirti of Sita- Ram-Lakshman.
The sexual double entendres with which this essay opened point to another aspect of Hanuman's enduring appeal: as a signifier of a constel- lation of indigenous beliefs regarding male potency and the innumerable benefits of semen retention. The evidence of eastern Indian and espe- cially of Southeast Asian Ramayan narratives makes it tempting to the- orize that Hanuman was not always a sexually abstinent deity, but the identification of the divine monkey as a strictly celibate mahdyogi appears to have been accepted (by nearly everyone but the Jains) by the late Puranic period. Since monkeys, as a familiar part of the South Asian environment, are both visibly sexually marked and observably promis- cuous, the postulation of a rigidly abstinent simian deity-with male genitalia tightly bound in an "adamantine" red loincloth-presents a striking refutation of mundane nature. This does more than merely es- tablish Hanuman as supernatural; it mythologically and iconographi- cally encodes the ideology of ascetism and fertility that is central to the ethnophysiology and psychology of South Asian patriarchy. The ideol- ogy of semen retention is central to understanding the power that Hanu- man possesses and dispenses to devotees in the form of both shakti and bhakti.80
Space does not permit me to discuss in detail Hanuman's still-growing fame as a healer, especially of mental illnesses. People now flock by the thousands to Mehendipur, just over the Uttar Pradesh border in Rajas- than, where, under the name of Balaji ("divine child"), Hanuman casts out demons from Lankas of the mind and pursues personal Mahiravans into the netherworld of the unconscious to drag them into the light of disclosure. Here too, the "demonization" of suspect others remains one possible interpretation of his mythology, for the oppressing spirit of a Hindu patient often turns out to be a piiac (commonly understood as the ghost of a Muslim or an untouchable), though it is just as likely to prove closer to home: a bhiit or pret (representing a near relative who suffered
The best treatment of Hanuman's role within the wider framework of indigenous concepts of virility and health is found in Alter's study of the ideology of wrestlers, esp. pp. 136-66.
an untimely death).81 This aspect of Hanuman's role may be linked to his relationship with Vayu and the Maruts (for the wind controls mental disorders in the Ayurvedic system), as well as to his mythical accom- plishments-his healing of stricken warriors with miraculous herbs and his shaman-like ascents to heaven and descents to the netherworld.
The iconography of Hindu militants favors Hanuman, it is true-he is Hinduism with muscle, and his poster images, once modeled on the "smooth" and "rounded" physique of the traditional athlete or pahal- van, are now more likely to resemble Bruce Lee or Arnold Schwar- zenegger.82 Militant rhetoric glorifies assertiveness and aggressive masculinity and espouses the ideal of the akhaya-the traditional mar- tial arts and wrestling gymnasia, of which Hanuman is patron deity. Thus the Bajrang Dal ("Army of Hanuman"), the purported "youth wing" of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, advocates the reestablishment of a national network of akharas to promote patriotism, courage, and stamina.83 These have yet to materialize, however, and traditional gymnasia are seldom patronized by the urban middle-class adherents of rightist movements. The actual physical training practiced by RSS (Rashtriya Svayansevak Sangh or "national volunteer corps") cadres, for example, emphasizes paramilitary group calisthenics rather than the subtly individualistic regimen of the akhdyd, which is rooted in yo- gic and ayurvedic concepts of physiology and health, and in traditional notions of pleasure and recreation. According to Joseph Alter, the dis- cipline of pahalvani values bhakti as highly as shakti, and its patron god is a fighter whose depth of emotion is never far from the con- sciousness of his athlete- devotee^.'^ Besides, athletes (like yogis) tend to prize tangible accomplishment over ideology, and many popular and successful pahalvans are Muslim.
Hanuman's current popularity epitomizes other ongoing processes in Hindu worship that have little to do with communal polarization. Mod- ern devotees praise him as an easily propitiated god, who is satisfied with a hurried Calisa recitation or a few rounds of Ram-nam-some- thing one can do oneself without the aid of a priest or the trappings of elaborate temple worship. They also cite him as a go-between who gets things done (one delivery service in Bangalore sports his image on its logo), who is capable of "delivering" the gods (as when he retrieves
" A detailed account of the healing cult of Balaji from the standpoint of a psychoana- lytic clinician is provided by Sudhir Kakar, Shamans, Mystics, and Doctors (Delhi: Ox- ford University Press, 1982), pp. 53-88, The Hanumiin ciilisii declares: "Bhiits and piiiics cannot approach, Great Hero! when your name is invoked."
82 On this iconographic transformation, which coincided with the introduction to India of Kung Fu movies and Western body-building magazines, see Alter, pp. 56-57, 92-93.
83 Interview with Mahesh Narayan Singh, official of Bajrang Dal, Ayodhya, April 1990.
84 Alter, pp. 204-12, 261-63.
Ram and Lakshman from a subterranean prison) and also the goods (jobs, sons, and wealth, as well as inner qualities like forbearance and peace of mind). The village protector worshiped at roadside shrines is now also a multipurpose deity worshiped in the growing chain of non- sectarian, one-stop, full-service temples that increasingly epitomize ur- ban, cosmopolitan Hinduism-like the white marble temple to "Great Hanuman" (bare Hanuman), but incorporating shrines to Shiva, Radha-Krishna, Durga, and Santoshi Ma, that draws thousands of wor- shipers to the corner of New Delhi's Connaught Place and Baba Kharak Singh Road.
I must add that, despite the ambitious designs of new patrons, the mass appeal and effectiveness of any given image of Hanuman may depend less on its size and grandeur than on the popular perception of its "awake- ness" (jagrti)-a mysterious and mercurial condition that is sometimes said to result from the spiritual practices (sadhand) and accumulated merit (punya) of saintly persons but is also believed to erupt suddenly and in unexpected contexts. Many of the most revered Hanuman images are small and fairly nondescript, lacking in conventional artistic grace. Seen without the eyes of faith, Banaras's Sankat Mochan appears as a misshapen orange orangutan with eerily recessed eye sockets, its features having been effaced by decades of sindiir applications-yet it has ac- quired all-India fame. Though Banarsis believe that it dates from the time of Tulsidas, many of them also recall that it only became "awake" some forty or fifty years ago; then, as one man told me, "Prayers started being granted, the word got around, and people really started flocking there- before that hardly anyone used to go."85 Similarly, Mehendipur's Balaji is a small, crudely carved image, but his reputation for treating spirit possession is so "big" these days that special buses sometimes carry his votaries from Delhi's Kashmir Gate Terminus. A priest offered the opinion that it is quite possible to set up a majestic image, provide an en- dowment for its sumptuous daily worship, hire brahmans to perform its "life-bestowal" ceremony (pran-prati~tha), and yet fail to attract wor- shipers, because people do not sense that the image is "awake" and able to respond to their needs.
Given the fluidity and potency of this god, having the biggest Hanu- man on the subcontinental block is clearly a goal worth pursuing-but the meanings which can be read into this pursuit are multiple. The rhetoric of late twentieth-century Hindu revivalism appeals to pervasive fears of loss of power; it warns of Hindus "becoming a minority" in their own country and stridently calls for "protection" (raksa)-of
8s Interview with Channulal Pathak, priest of the Shitala Temple at Raj Mandir, Vara- nasi; November 1989. This observation was echoed by the mahant of the Sankat Mochan Temple, Veerbhadra Mishra, and by several other devotees.