By the time I began practicing yoga, my high school cheerleading days were long gone, so I was surprised when my hatha yoga teacher suggested I try Hanumanasana (named after the Hindu deity/monkey god Hanuman). The yoga pose is a deep split which intensely stretches the hamstrings (don’t try this at home!). With the use of blocks and bolsters I almost did it—but with nowhere the aplomb of the real Hanuman, who stretched so wide that he leaped across the ocean.
Hanuman is the son of the monkey chief Kesari and Anjana, who was originally a beautiful female spirit. Details vary: Vayu, Lord of the Winds, is also said to be Hanuman’s spiritual father; some report that Hanuman is an incarnation of Shiva, who granted the couple’s wish for a child. A favorite story about Hanuman is the one in which as a youngster he mistakes the sun for a ripe mango and tries to take a bite out of it!
But perhaps the most well-known is the story of how he leaps across the ocean to save Sita, Rama’s wife, after Ravana kidnaps her. Remarkably, Hanuman can change his shape to become very large or very small. During his encounter with Ravana, Rama’s enemies set Hanuman’s tail on fire; but the crafty Hanuman enlarges his tail and uses it to burn down part of the enemy’s town. This much-admired monkey is known for his courage, devotion and intelligence, among other attributes.
Not surprisingly, there are many wonderful songs and Sanskrit mantras in honor of Hanuman. Here are a few:
The Hanuman Chalisa consists of 40 verses that tell the story of Hanuman. You can find wonderful tracks on Golden Voice by Bhagavan Das, Jaya by Shantala and on One Track Heart by Krishna Das, who also offers “Baba Hanuman” on Breath of the Heart and on Krishna Das – Live Ananda. “Baba Hanuman“ by Shantala on Sri is a beautiful and restful track in honor of Hanuman.
The full mantra is: Jai Jai Jai! Jai Jai Hanuman Jai Jai Jai Hanuman gosaee(n) Kripa karaho gurudev kee naee(n) Hare Ram Sita Ram
Praise to Hanuman! Let the expansion (dissolution of evil) be firm and final. Praises to the Great One (great teacher) who carries compassion (kripa).
Praise to Ram and Sita.
“Rock on Hanuman” features the always-amazing Krishna Das. The mantra is:
Shri Ram Jay Ram Jay Jay Ram
Jaya Bajarangi Baba Hanuman Sankata Mochan Kripa Nidhan
And on MC Yogi’s exciting new CD Pilgrimage the story of Hanuman is told like you’ve never heard it before: “When the whole thing happened you could hear Ram say, ‘God bless that monkey, he made my day!’”
Hanuman just seems to put a smile on everyone’s face. Listen to these CDs and no doubt you’ll feel the blessings of this miraculous monkey, too!