Lord Hanuman, one of the central characters of the Hindu mythological epic Ramayana, and an ardent devotee of Lord Rama is upheld as a model for all human devotion for his dedicated and devotional service to Rama. He is mainly worshipped in northern India as a secondary figure in temples dedicated to Lord Rama or directly in shrines dedicated to him. However, the earliest mention of a divine monkey can also be found in the Rigveda, dated between 1500 and 1200 BC, and in the subsequent medieval era Sanskrit texts like the Bhagavata Purana and Skanda Purana. It is also proposed that Hanuman worship had its basis in the cults of the aboriginal tribes of Central India.
According to Hindu legends, Hanuman was born to Apsara Anjana, a celestial nymph, who was banished from heaven by the curse of a sage. As a result, she took birth on earth as a woman and later fell in love and married Kesari, the king of the apes. In her human birth, Anjana was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and performed hard penance to please the god for having a son like him, to which the god agreed.
Within a few days after that, King Dasaratha of Ayodhya performed the Putreshti or Putrakameshti Yagna for having children and after the end of the rituals, the sages gave the king a pot of thickened milk offered to the god to be shared by his three wives. However, by divine ordinance, an eagle snatched and flew away with a fragment of the pot containing the sanctified thickened milk. At that moment, on being instructed by Lord Shiva, Pavana Dev, the god of wind, swept away and dropped some portion of the thickened milk on the hands of Anjana while she was meditating. Considering it as a token of blessings from Shiva, Anjana took it, and after the end of the specific period gave birth to Hanuman, while Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Satrughna were born to the wives of King Dasharatha. As he was born by the grace of Pavana Dev, Hanuman is also known as the son of the wind-god.
It is said that Hanuman was named after his disfigured jaw or hanu. The Legend says, during his childhood, he once mistook the red-coloured rising sun as a ripe fruit and leapt up to grab and eat it. Sensing a problem, Lord Indra, the king of the gods, tried to prevent him and as he failed, he struck him with his thunderbolt that broke his jaws and he fell dead on the earth. At that point, Lord Shiva intervened to resuscitate Hanuman and grant him a body that cannot be harmed by Vajra or the thunderbolt. Following the example of Shiva, Agni, the god of fire, blessed him to be unharmed by fire; Varuna, the god of water, blessed him not to be harmed by water; Pavana Dev, the wind-god, promised that he would have the speed of air; Brahma gave him the power to go anywhere without any prevention; and Lord Vishnu presented him a weapon, called Gada or a blunt mace. All these boons taken together made Hanuman invincible and immortal. However, as young Hanuman continued to misbehave with the powerful sages, they cursed him to forget his extra-ordinary powers to cover a long distance by a single leap or to become infinitely large, until he was reminded of that.
Much later, when Rama and his brother Lakshman arrived at Kishkindha on their mission to search Sita, the kidnapped wife of Rama, their newfound ally, the monkey king Sugriva, sent scouts in all the four directions to search for the missing lady. During that time, Hanuman and the great bear Jambavan were sent to the south, along with others. When the search party reached the southernmost tip of the country and faced the sea, they could see the island of Lanka visible on the horizon. Although the group was keen to search the island, no one dared to swim across the sea. At that time, as Jambavan reminded Hanuman of his ability to such a feat with ease, the curse of the sages was lifted and equipped with dynamic divine power Hanuman transformed himself into the size of a mountain and leaped across the channel to reach Lanka, the kingdom of Ravana, despite the desperate efforts of the female water demon to swallow him or his shadow.
As it was the kingdom of Rakshasas or demons, Hanuman minimized his size, sneaked into the city, and started to find Sita. Finally, he discovered her, captivated in Ashok Kanan, a well-maintained garden, guarded by women demons, equipped with arms. When all the guards fell asleep, Hanuman appeared before Sita, introduced himself, and offered to rescue her. But Sita refused to accept his proposal as she wanted her husband to defeat and punish Ravana in a battle to rescue her. After the end of the meeting, Hanuman started to destroy the grove, prompting his capture. As he was captured and produced before Ravana in his court, Hanuman simply confessed that he is a servant of Rama, and came to inform him that Rama would be coming soon to free his wife, whom he abducted. Ravana laughed at him and ordered his attenders to ignite Hanuman’s tail. As his tail was set on fire with oil-soaked cloth around it, Hanuman again became bigger, made himself free, jumped out of a window, and put the whole city ablaze with the fire in his tail.
During the great battle between Rama and Ravana, Hanuman played a vital role and killed thousands of the enemy force. During the course of the battle, when one day Lakshmana was fatally wounded and on the brink of death without the aid of a particular medicinal herb from a mountain in the Himalayas, Hanuman almost flew to the Himalayas. However, as he could not identify the specific herb, he just applied his gifted strength to rip from the earth the mountain full of different medicinal herbs and flew with it back to the island of Lanka to restore the life of Lakshmana.
Hanuman, in Hindu texts, symbolizes the human excellences of inner self-control, faith, and service to a cause, and sometimes he is portrayed as the patron god of martial arts such as wrestling and acrobatics.