Hanuman's Birth

Hanuman V
Web Source: Asian Art

There have been many stories told about how my avatar, Hanuman, came to be, but I, Shiva, will tell you the true tale of Hanuman’s birth. 

This tale began with the mischief of a young apsara named Anjana.  As an apsara, Anjana was used to the ease and comfort of life as a heavenly being, but soon she grew bored of her luxurious existence.   In search of amusement she began to sneak down to earth to play with the strange creatures. 

One day while wandering through the forests of earth, Anjana stumbled upon a monkey meditating.  Anjana couldn’t help but laugh at this monkey who acted like a holy man.   Sadly, little Anjana did not just laugh, but also began to throw pebbles at the monkey.   The sage tried to ignore this as long as possible, but Anjana would not stop her foolish behavior.  Eventually the sage lost his temper.  His eyes flew open, and Anjana could now see they were flashing with anger.  His voice boomed through the forest as he proclaimed, “Young apsara, you have committed a great evil.  You should not disturb a sage’s mediation.  I curse you to assume the form that you mocked, the form of a monkey!  And you will remain this way until you give birth to the avatar of Shiva. “

Before the monkey sage even finished his words Anjana began to back away in fear.  She found herself frantically running through the forest, and as she ran she was horrified to discover that she was covered in fur and sprouting a tail.  Anjana cried out in despair, “Oh, so it is true.  I am a dirty monkey.  What shall I do?” 

Anjana ran as far and as long as she could, but she began to grow tired.   She came to a stop near  a large banyan tree, and collapsed under its shade.  There Anjana curled her tiny monkey body into a ball and cried herself to sleep.

At first light Anjana awoke, and the tragic memories of yesterday flooded back to her.  She sat up, rubbed her eyes, and looked around.  To her surprise Anjana found that beneath this banyan tree  there was also a makeshift altar with a small statue of myself, Lord Shiva.  She remembered the curse the monkey sage had place upon her, and decided that she would devote herself to the worship of me.  She hoped that if she demonstrated true devotion I would grant her the boon of  giving birth to my avatar.

Without stopping for food, drink, or sleep, Anjana prayed for three years.  Her fur grew matted, and her body withered away from starvation.  In the heavens I, Lord Shiva, had been observing these penances.  I realized that Anjana had finally attained holiness, and she deserved a boon for her troubles.  I spoke to Anjana, “Dear girl, you have proven yourself.”  Anjana neither moved nor opened her eyes, but a small smile came upon her lips.

Then I set to work.  I knew that in far-away Ayodha King Dasaratha was giving his wife Kausalya magic pudding that would help her beget a son, so I ordered Vayu, the wind, to bring a portion to Anjana.  Vayu, a faithful servant, gladly complied.  He instructed a hawk to grab a small portion of pudding and bring it to Anjana.  The hawk carried out Vayu's wishes, and as it dropped the pudding into Anjana’s lap, Vayu softly spoke, “Eat.” 

After three years Anjana broke her meditation by opening her eyes and eating.  Once she finished, Vayu explained to her that because it was he who had brought her the child he was the rightful father.  Vayu also assured her that he would be a dutiful and loving father.  Upon hearing this, Anjana smiled in relief.  She knew that soon she would resume her form as an apsara, and would be forced to leave her child.  With a powerful father like Vayu Anjana’s child would be taken care of.

For the next few months Anjana rested and recovered from her penances. During this time, Vayu proved himself to be an attentive caretaker.  He blew cool winds upon Anjana when she was hot, and brought her fruits when she was hungry.  The day finally came for the child to be born, and Anjana gave birth easily.  As soon as the birth was complete, Anjana’s physical form began to return to that of an apsara.  She knew she had only a few moments with her child, so she took the child into her arms and spoke, “My child, my little Anjaneya,  you are the avatar of Lord Shiva, and you have come to this world as a savior.  Sadly, I will never have  the chance to be a true mother to you, but your father is the wind god, Vayu.  He will give you everything you desire."

Then the precocious child retorted, “ But mother, I am only an infant.  Who shall show me the ways of the world?  Who shall be my mother?”  Even before these words left his lips, Anjana had disappeared.  She had returned to the heavens, and could only look down at her child with tears in her eyes. 

Vayu saw this sad exchange, and blew away the tears from Anjana’s cheeks.  He reassured her that he would fulfill his promise to be a good father.  Then Vayu came to little Hanuman.  In a soothing voice he spoke, “My little Anjaneya look how strong you are.  You look like your mother with your snow white fur and your light brown eyes.”

Vayu then commanded eagles to bring ripe mangoes to his young son, and commanded sparrows to shower honey blossoms upon the child.  Young Hanuman laughed and clapped his hands.  His sorrow began to abate, and he looked around him and asked, “Who are you?” 

Vayu, pleased with his work responded, “I am your father, Vayu.  Now go forth and be happy. I  will take care of your every need.”


Kids Gen - Young Hanuman

Shvoong - Summary of Hanuman's Birth Tale

Author's Note:

There are several versions of the Hanuman birth story, and I did some research to come up with one that was both interesting and accurate.   I wanted a tale that explained the stories of the supporting characters also.  In fact, Hanuman’s birth tale is not so much about the actions of Hanuman, but the actions of the individuals around him that lead to his birth.  I will begin delving into the adventures of Hanuman in the next story. 

I took bits and pieces from several stories, so that I could explain the motivations and roles of the supporting characters, Anjana, Vayu, and Shiva.  A few stories seemed to be conflicted as to whether Vayu or Kesari, Anjana’s monkey husband, was Hanuman’s father.  I decided that in my version Vayu would be Hanuman’s father because in my next tale Vayu will be playing a prominent protective role.  There is also a certain amount of disagreement as to whether Hanuman is Vayu’s avatar or Shiva’s avatar.  I choose Shiva as it makes for a better explanation to the partnership between Rama and Hanuman.  It explains why these two characters are drawn to each other.  This connection is only natural because as the avatars of Vishnu and Shiva they are recreating a portion of the divine trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva).  However, it is important to understand that within the strict definition of who brings the child to the mother, Vayu is the father and future caretaker.