Hanuman, The Monkey God
Hanuman, the monkey god, is a very popular deity and is worshipped all over India, specially in villages. His image is found in many forms, often with one head, two arms and a long tail looped over his head. He normally has a monkey’s face on a very well built and strong human body. There are several other forms also including one with ten arms and five heads. Apart from his own, the other heads are of a garuda (half man, half bird), a boar, a horse and a man-lion, representing the five most important avataras of Vishnu.
Hanuman is an important character in the Ramayana which depicts him as the epitome of devoted service and loyalty. His search for the heroine Sita, captured by Ravana, illustrates his superhuman powers and zealous performance of the tasks assigned to him. When he came to know that she was held captive in Lanka, Hanuman crossed the channel between India and Lanka with a giant leap. On being captured, he set Lanka on fire with his flaming tail and returned to Rama and helped him in many miraculous ways to besiege Lanka. Twice he flew to the Himalayas to collect medicinal herbs for his wounded companions. After the war, his wish to remain as Rama’s faithful servant was granted. Every Rama temple has an idol of Hanuman as a minor deity. His worship is believed to destroy all evil.
Festival: Hanuman Jayanti
Held in March-April, Hanuman Jayanti (birth anniversary) is celebrated all over the country. People visit the temples where the idol is given a new coat of vermilion mixed with clarified butter and then richly decorated. Fasting is done and apart from the Hanuman Chalisa (hymns of Hanuman), the Ramayana also is read. Tales of Hanuman’s love for Rama are read aloud.