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Hanuman rushes with the mountain of herbs to the rescue of the injured Lakshmana , the brother of Rama. Lithograph by Raja Ravi Varma , 19th century

Hanuman ( Sanskrit हनुमान् Hanumān [ ˈhʌnʊmɑːn ]) is a Hindu deity in the shape of a monkey . He is the son of Apsara Anjana and the wind god Vayu , according to other legends, the son of Shiva . In the epic Ramayana he appears as the faithful helper of the god Rama . Today Hanuman is one of the most popular Hindu gods.


The name Hanuman ( हनुमान् Hanumān ) comes from Sanskrit , the classical language of Hinduism. The form Hanuman is the nominative singular of the root word Hanumat ( हनुमत् ) or Hanumant ( हनुमन्त् ). In modern languages, the name has been adopted in its nominative form. In the western research literature , however, Hanumat or Hanumant is sometimes used as a name, since in Sanskrit the word stem is conventionally the nominal form .

Hanuman literally means "cheekbones" in Sanskrit. There is an explanatory legend about the name that is given in the fourth book of the Ramayana : Hanuman incurred the wrath of the god Indra as a child when he tried to catch the sun; Indra, furious, threw his thunderbolt at Hanuman, whereupon he fell on a sharp-edged rock and split his jaw. Been proposed but is also a derivation of the name Hanuman from a Dravidian word for "male monkey" (see. Tamil ஆண் மந்தி aN manti ), who later sanskritisiert and Folk etymology has been reinterpreted.

Like all major Hindu gods, Hanuman has a variety of nicknames. The nickname Balaji ( बालाजी "the powerful" or "the mighty") is widely used ; regionally there are epithets such as Mahavir ( महावीर Mahāvīr "great hero") and Bajrang Bali ( बज्रांग बली Bajrāṅg Balī "crystal- limbed strongman") in the Hindi- speaking area of ​​northern India, Maruti ( मारुति Māruti "son of the wind") in Maharashtra and Anjaneya ( अञ्जनेय Añjaneya "Son of Anjana") in South India.

Magical powers (siddhi)

Hanuman is often associated with various siddhi (magical powers or abilities). It is fast like the wind, has the strength to tear up mountains and clouds, is big as the mountains, has a voice like thunder and can fly. When Hanuman flies through the air, it rustles. He has the siddhi to reduce, enlarge or change his shape at will.

Many myths are about his tricks Hanuman is said to have played in his youth and his enormous power, which he is often not really aware of. Basically, he's a deeply good-natured, if a little thoughtless and clumsy God. The rishis (wise men) in the forest, according to other versions of the god Indra , had to teach him about his tremendous power and responsibility to deal with her properly.

The Hanuman langurs living in India are named after the monkey god and are worshiped as sacred because of him. They are considered his incarnations and therefore enjoy a great freedom of fools in India and are fed by many temple visitors.

Hanuman in Ramayana

Hanuman's worship is closely related to the worship of Rama and in the Ramayana , the epic with the story of this important god, he plays a central role. He is the general of a monkey army of his king Sugriva . As the embodiment of the devoted servant, boundless loyalty and superhuman strength, he appears again and again as a helper and savior of his master and his family.

Chola bronze Hanumans (11th century)

The demon Ravana had kidnapped Sita , the wife of Rama, to Lanka , and Rama was only able to free her with the support of Hanuman and his army. Hanuman is the first to find Sita's whereabouts. Hanuman jumps to Lanka in one leap to free Sita. However, despite a ring that Rama gave him, she refuses to go with him because she wants to remain loyal to Rama and not endanger his honor. Hanuman therefore suggests to Rama to build a bridge out of stones that the monkeys can cross. On the way, Hanuman is attacked by a demon living in the water who swallows his shadow, so that Hanuman enlarges endlessly and forces her to spit him out again. Hanuman's tail is lit in the fight against the demon host of Ravana. But the god still fights and sets the city of Lanka on fire with his whipping tail. The fire god Agni later healed his wounds. He flew to the Himalayas and uprooted a mountain of medicinal herbs to treat the wounded lying on the battlefield.

Hanuman and other gods in the Hindu creation myth of the "whisking of the milk ocean " (depiction in Angkor Wat , 12th century)

In gratitude for Hanuman's support and loyal service, Rama later bestows immortality on Hanuman. When Sugriva leaves with his monkeys, Hanuman decides to stay with Rama forever. He punishes anyone who insults or dishonors Rama. According to the Ramayana, no one can surpass Hanuman in strength, gentleness and cleverness. He embodies the ideal type of servant and stands for loyalty, devotion and obedience to the Lord. He is the faithful friend and admirer of Rama.

In every temple of Rama there is also a statue of Hanuman. His most important holiday is Hanuman Jayanti , which is considered his birthday and is celebrated in March / April according to the Hindu lunar calendar. Many believers visit a temple, paint its image with red powder paint ( Sindur ) and decorate it with flowers. The popular hymn Hanuman Chalisa is sung and stories from the Ramayana are read to the audience.

In the 7th book of the Sanskrit epic Ramayana, the seer ( Rishi ) Agastya tells Rama, who has returned from Lanka, about Hanuman's childhood and how he got his name: Once upon a time, the hungry little Hanuman jumped up to the sun in the absence of his mother Anjana, because he loved her held a large fruit. At the same time, however, Rahu , the mythical demon of the solar eclipse, came to devour the sun, whereupon Indra stepped in on his riding elephant Airavata . Hanuman now thought the elephant was a fruit and ran towards it. Thereupon Indra threw his thunderbolt ( vajra ) at him and the little one fell. He broke his jaw or cheekbones on a mountain (Sanskrit 'hanu', hence his name). Vayu, the wind god and father of Hanuman, brought the lifeless body of the monkey child to Indra, who resuscitated him. The gods gave him gifts like invulnerability and everlasting health, and Brahma prophesied the end of the demon Ravana with the help of Hanuman at Rama's side.

The various versions of the Ramayana and several Puranas tell different versions of this story.

Hanuman shows his heart to Rama, pressure after Ravi Varma.


Medieval depictions of Hanuman are rare; in them he is always shown without attributes (weapons etc.). Modern representations are far more common. The best known show him with a head, (only) two arms and a long monkey tail. Usually he has a monkey face and a muscular, large human body. But it is also known in various other forms, for example with ten arms and five heads ( Garuda , Varaha , a horse and a lion, which represent avatars of Vishnu ). He is yellow in body color, has a red face and often carries a club ( gada ) as a weapon in his left hand and a mountain in his right. More recent depictions are widespread in which Hanuman carries a picture of Rama and Sita in his open heart.

See also


  • KC & Subhashini Aryan: Hanuman. Art, Mythology and Folklore. Illustrated book. Rekha Prakashan, Delhi (n.d.: 1970, 1975), exp. 1994 edition.
  • István Keul: Hanumān, the god in monkey form. Development and manifestations of his worship. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York, NY 2002, ISBN 978-3-11-017187-7 (= Religious-historical experiments and preparatory work, Volume 47, also dissertation Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen 2000).
  • Philip Lutgendorf: Hanuman's Tale. The Messages of a Divine Monkey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Philip Lutgendorf: "Hanumān". In: Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen, Helene Basu, Angelika Malinar, Vasudha Narayanan. Brill Online, 2012.
  • Ramayana the story of Prince Rama , the beautiful Sita and the great ape Hanuman. Translated and edited by Claudia Schmölders , Diederichs, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-424-00745-5 (= Diederichs yellow series , Volume 45, India ).

Web links

Commons : Hanuman  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ramayana 4.66.24, cf. István Keul: Hanumān, the god in monkey form. Development and manifestations of his worship. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 2002, p. 52.
  2. FE Pargiter: Vṛṣākapi and Hanumant. In: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 1913, pp. 397-401.
  3. Keul 2002, p. 47.
  4. Rāmāyaṇa, ed. Crit. Baroda 1960-1975, Uttarakāṇḍa 35-36.