Today is Rama Navami, the Holy Appearance Day of Lord Ramachandra.  I’ve attended Rama Navami twice at ISKCON Juhu, in Mumbai.  I was told that over 650,000 people visit the Temple to take darshan of Sita-Rama-Laxman-Hanuman on Rama Navami.  It is quite a spectacle.  I thought I would say something about service to Lord Rama and Sri Hanumanji on this most auspicious day.

Hanuman, The Dedicated Servant Of Lord Rama

What immediately comes to mind when you think of Sri Hanumanji? Loyalty? Dedication to his master, Lord Ramachandra? His monkey-like form? This is evident in Sanatana Goswami’s Brihad-Bhagavatamrita – where Hanuman rejects the opportunity to reside with Lord Krishna in Dwaraka. Why is this so? Hanuman is so fixed in the service of Lord Rama tha he only wants to serve Rama in Rama’s kingdom, Ayodhya. Servitude (dasya-rasa) to Lord Rama in Ayodhya is the sthayi-bhava or ‘eternal mood of service’ of Hanuman. And that is why Hanuman is used as the example of servitude or dasyam when describing the nine processes of devotional service.

Hanuman is the son of lord Siva and Anjani. Tradition has it that Brihaspati’s maidservant, Punjikasthala, approached the great sage in a “loving mood”. Brihaspati, in turn, the form of a female monkey. In this form she was known as Anjani. Lord Siva entrused an embryo in the care of Vayu; and Vayu implanted the embryo within the womb of Anjani. That embryo was Hanuman.

The fact that Hanuman took the form of his monkey explains his playful nature. There is a species of monkeys in India called the ‘Hanuman monkey’ or langur. The name vanara is also ascribed to Hanuman. Valmiki explains in the Ramayana that the vanaras resembled monkeys, but were really half-human and half-monkey. The vanaras (meaning ‘proper to the forest’ or ‘animals of the forest’) were empowered semi-divine beings who wore clothing, could speak, had homes and conducted festivals and funeral-rites. In addition to this, these extraordinary beings had mystic powers and could change their size at will.

Owing to the stone-like hardness of his body, Anjani named Hanuman Vajranga. She taught him how to eat fruits that were reddish like the sun. One day, Vajranga saw the sun glowing in the sky and tried to swalow the sun, mistaking it for fruit. This angered Indra, who struck Vajranga on his chin (hanu) with his vajra (lightning bolt) weapon. Hence the name Hanuman – ‘hanu’ being chin and ‘man’ being glorious ie. ‘one who has a glorious chin’. That is how Hanuman got his cleft chin. After being struck by Indra, Vayu brought brought the unconscious Hanuman into a cave in the Patala regions. Vayu’s absence on earth caused the earth to be devoid of air. Brahma went to Patala to comfort Vayu and to bring Hanuman back to consciousness. Lord Brahma and the devas blessed Hanuman in various ways, bestowing upon him extraordinary mystic powers. Lord Brahma blessed him that no brahmastra weapon would affect him. Surya bestowed upon him one-percent of his brilliance. Indra blessed him that he would be immune to thunder. And Vayu blessed him with speed comparable to that of Garuda, Lord Visnu’s carrier. From this time, Anjani’s son became known as Hanuman.

Hanuman was cursed to forget his powers until the advent of Lord Rama by some brahmanas who were irked by his restless pranks in the forest. Though semi-divine, Hanuman had many of the characteristics of a monkey. He had a tendency to jump from tree to tree and was a bit of a mischief-maker. Hanuman is also a famous as brahmacari (celibate). Another testament to his dedication to the feet of Lord Rama. Hanuman is so dedicated to Lord Rama that he is often depicted with his hands tearing open his chest to reveal the image of his heart, Lord Rama. Hanuman is also often portrayed kneeling with his palms joined before Lord Ramachandra, Sita (Rama’s wife) and Lakshmana (Rama’s brother). Sita-Rama-Lakshmana-Hanuman ki jay!!

There was much jubilation after Rama defeated Ravana. Matali took his leave of Rama, and returned to Indra. Rama’s anger subsided. Lanka was now absorbed with Vibhishana’s coronation.

Rama asked Lakshmana to preside over Vibishana’s coronation ceremony. Lakshmana ordered the vanaras to bring sea-water and the ceremony was performed. Vibhishana was offered many gifts which he, in turn, offered to Rama.

When the ceremony was complete, Rama asked Hanuman to go to Sita. He said, ‘Inform Her of what has passed. Tell her to get ready. I want to see Her’. Hanuman went to the ashoka grove and saw Sita, in a forlorn condition, at the foot of the simshapa tree. Hanuman told Her what had happened. Hanuman asked her to prepare Herself to meet Lord Rama. No wealth in all three worlds could equal the good news.

Looking at her Rakshasa guardians, Hanuman offered to destroy them. Sita thought for a moment. Now that Ravana was dead, the Rakshasas had lost interest in Sita. Sita replied, ‘No. These Rakshasas were simply carrying out Ravana’s order. If I have suffered in any way, it was because of My own misdeeds. The virtuous never retaliate when others offend them. They do not return evil for evil. Compassion should always be shown towards sinners’.

Hanuman bowed to Her, without argument. ‘Shall I give a message to Rama’. Sita replied, ‘Yes. I only want to see Him’. Hearing of Sita’s state, Rama asked Vibhishana to supply her with clothing and ornaments and bathed in fine oils. Vibhishana personally went to Sita, offering these services. But Sita replied, ‘I want to go to My husband now. There is no need to bathe and dress’. How could she wait any longer?

Vibhishana expressed that it was Rama’s desire that she prepare Herself. Sita agreed and was duly prepared to meet Lord Rama. Crowds of monkeys and rakshasas filled the streets as Sita was borne on a palanquin to meet Lord Rama.

Hearing that She was on a palanquin, Lord Rama said to Vibhishana, ‘The princess should be asked to dismount and proceed on foot. The people desire to see Her and that is not condemned by scripture. A house, a veil or a costume are never the protection of a chaste woman. Her character alone is her shield’. Everyone was surprised at Rama’s stern countenance. Sita felt abashed on seeing Lord Rama’s stern countenance. She stood, trembling, before Him. Rama deeply wanted to show His love for Sita, but He feared public censure. After all, Sita had been in the house of another man for over a year. Her chastity was questionable.

Looking at the tearful Sita, Rama spoke to Her. I have avenged the insult given by Your abduction; and You, too, are avenged by Ravana’s death. Rama steadied Himself as He spoke His next words: ‘How can I take You back? You have spent too long in the house of another. Your good character has been compromised. Ravana clased You and looked on You with lust. Please go wherever You desire. Take shelter of one of my brothers or Vibhishana. You are so beautiful. How could Ravana have left You alone?’

Sita was shocked. She wept loudly and shook like anything. She countered Rama ‘You are speaking to Me as if I am some vulagar woman. You are judging all women by the standards of a degraded few. Though Ravana stole Me away, I did not deviate from You even for a moment. Having lived with Me so long, how could You not trust me? I am finished’. Sita saw no other option but to burn on a pyre. After circling Rama with respect, Sita offered prayers invoking the protection of Agni. After all, She was blameless. Walking deep into the fire, Sita appeared like a goddess fallen from heaven into hell. Everyone was stunned. The women cried. Sita disappeared into the fire.

Rama was blinded with tears. The devas questioned His actions. Then Agni emerged from the fire, holding Sita in his arms. She looked magnificent. Agni’s voice boomed: ‘She is sinless. She has never been unfaithful to you. Not even a glance. Although She was held captive by Ravana, Sita was always thinking of You within Her heart – even though Ravana tried to tempt Her and threaten Her in so many ways. Please accept Her back with an open heart’.

Rama was overjoyed. This purificatory ordeal was necessary for Sita to prove Her chastity to the world. Otherwise, the world would have condemned Rama as being lusty. She is guarded by Her own moral power. Ravana could not have violated Sita any more than the sea cross its bounds. Rama expressed that Sita was inseperable from Him as sunlight from the sun and to renounce Her was as futile as a virtuous man renouncing righteousness.

Sita bloomed with happiness. She took Her place next to Rama on the throne. Siva approached Rama, ‘Now you have vanquishe Ravana, the scourge of the universe, return to Your home, Ayodhya’. Rama was reunited with His father, Dasaratha. Dasaratha now understood His identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They exchanged more word with each other. Dasaratha assured Sita that Rama had not repudiated Her. He wanted to prove the Absolute nature of Her purity and establish Her as the most virtuous amongst women.

Rama asked Indra to revive the slain and wounded monkeys. They were brought back to life. Rama ordered the monkeys to camp for the night as He and Sita stayed in Vibhishana’s palace.

(Summarized from Krishna Dharma prabhu’s ‘Ramayana’)

The following descriptions are summaries from Krishna Dharma prabhu’s ‘Ramayana’

On hearing the news of the death of his son, Indrajit, Ravana was plunged into a state of dismay and lamentation. Ravana was surprised that Lakshman, a mere human, could have overpowered Indrajit, who had conquered lord Indra. How was this possible?

He thought of his principal queen, Mandodari. How would she react? Surely she would die of grief? Having lamented, Ravana became possessed by a great fury. All he could think of was avenging the death of his son. He took up his sword, glared at those around him and declared, ‘My son played a hoax upon Rama by killing an illusory Sita. Today, I shall kill Sita, who is so dear to Rama’.

Ravana left for the Ashoka grove, to kill Sita. How would Rama be able to live if Sita were killed? Seeing Ravana approaching, Sita began to tremble in fear. One of Ravana’s ministers, Suparshwa, however, intervened: ‘Why do you want to kill a woman? This lady should be protected. You should take out your anger on Rama and Lakshman. Afterwards, you can enjoy Sita’.

Ravana changed his mind. With mixed feelings of lust, anger and grief, Ravana resolved to kill Rama the next day. On hearing this, the Rakshasas expressed their joy.

The next day, the two armies clashed. Rama exhibitted is prowess on the battlefield. Rama moved like a whirlwind, killing demons in all directions. Rama’s Gandharva weapon made Him appear in a multitude of forms. He seemed to be everywhere at once. The curved, golden ends of his bow looked like a firebrand, surrounding the rakshasas. In less than two hours he killed 200,000 rakshasas (1,667 rakshasas a minute and 28 per second), 18,000 elephants and 14,000 horses.

The rakshasas fled to Lanka. The vanaras cheered on seeing Lord Rama’s prowess. Rama declared, ‘Only lord Siva and I can exhibit such prowess with mystical weapons’.

Meanwhile, back at his palace, Ravana was perplexed, ‘How could this happen? After all, Lakshman and Rama were mere humans’. Ravana’s generals became fearful. But Ravana was confident. He would despatch Rama and Lakshmana to Yamaraja’s abode. Ravana bellowed out his war cry. Ravana called on his chariot. He was followed by the last of his generals – Mahaparshwa, Virupaksha and Surantaka. Ravana’s forces charged Lord Rama’s army.

Ravana killed many of Sugriva’s soldiers in his charge. Sugriva was greatly angered, and killed many rakshasas in response to this. After a hard battle, Sugriva killed Virupaksha with his fist. Sugriva, Angada and Hanuman killed many rakshasas. After a tough battle, Sugriva also killed Mahaparshwa. Angada slew Surantaka, another of Ravana’s commanders. Ravana invoked mystical weapons, killing hundreds of thousands of monkeys. Ravana rushed at Lord Rama, cutting away all of Lakshmana’s arrows with great skill.

Ravana passed Lakshmana and made his way for Rama, who was like a great mountain in the midst of the battlefield. Ravana and Rama fought with their respective bows and arrows. Ravana’s arrows pierced Rama’s brow, drawing blood. Rama replied with a wash of arrows that struck the demon on every part of his body. Ravana’s rakshasa weapon assailed him on every side. Rama dodged the shafts as they fell, invoking his agniastra, releasing arrows that resembled the sun and the moon, striking Ravana’s weapons which appeared like various malevolent creatures. Ravana released the weapon fashioned by Maya dhanava. And Rama counteractedthis with his gandharva weapon. In this way Rama and Ravana fought.

After Ravana’s suyastra pierced Rama with barbed arrows, Rama countered with hundreds of his own arrows, which penetrated deeply Ravana’s limbs. Ravana attacked Vibhishana with a lance, after Vibhishana struck down his steeds with his mace. Ravana was furious. Seeing this, Lakshmana protected Vibhishana by showering Ravana with arrows. Ravana responded by hurling a lance at Lakshmana. This lance struck Lakshmana in his chest. Lakshman fell to the ground. He was grievously wounded.

Rama took his brother gently in his arms. He called for Hanuman and Sugriva: ‘Guard this prince carefully. The time has come for me to manifest my strength. I shall make short work of this ten-headed monster. Here is My unfailing promise: the world will soon be devoid of either Ravana or Myself. Let the three worlds witness My power toady in battle. I shall achieve a feat which will be spoken of by all beings for as long as the world exists’. In this way, Rama began to attack Ravana with relentless determination.