Who was Hanuman?

Dear Editor,
It would not be incorrect to say that Hanuman is the most popular of all Hindu Deities. Whatever Poojaa a Hindu may perform, worship of Hanuman is surely included. His Jhanda (Flag) graces the homes of almost all Hindus. The Hanuman Chaaleesa is also the most popular of all Chaaleesas. However, both Hindi and English translations of the Ramayana refer to him as a ‘monkey’, and, accordingly, his picture and murti resemble the monkey form. Who then was Hanuman? Was he really a monkey? Do we, the Hindus, worship a monkey god? The Hindu world has not been giving this matter the serious consideration it deserves. We owe Hanumanji this much – restore him to his rightful position.
In the heart of anyone who honestly cares for the integrity of Hinduism and the integrity of Hindu heroes and icons, there is an immediate sense of repugnance as soon as someone says that Hanuman is a ‘monkey god’. Hanuman, a monkey? No! On the contrary, he was a profound scholar of Veda and Vyaakaran (Sanskrit Grammar), a prestige that no monkey of any age can dream of acquiring. The Chaaleesa describes him as “a master of all knowledge; full of virtue and wisdom.” And who certified his scholarship? No one, but Valmiki, the poet and chronicler of the Ramayana, as well as Shri Rama Himself. In the Kishkindha Kaanda of the Valmiki Ramayana, Valmiki describes Hanuman as ‘vaakya-jna vaakya-kushala’, that is, ‘someone who knows the language and who is proficient in using language.’ In modern-day India, or anywhere else, for that matter, only an accomplished Sanskrit grammarian and prolific writer and speaker will qualify for this honorific title.
When Hanuman introduced himself to Rama and Lakshmana for the first time, Rama was so struck with Hanuman’s eloquence in Sanskrit that he remarked to Lakshmana:
“Lakshman! To speak in the way Hanuman has done is not possible for one who is not well-versed in the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-veda, and the Saama-veda. There is also, no doubt that he has studied the entire range of Sanskrit Grammar, as is clear from the fact that he has spoken so long without making a single grammatical error.”

Who were the Vaanaras and Kapis?
The word “kapi-loha” means brass. The Vaanaras were well known in the production of brass metal. The fact that some prehistoric remains of metal smithery were discovered in the region leads one to believe that Hampi, the Vaanara land, was a stronghold of Vaanara master craftsmen who excelled in preparing standard brass weapons along with other metal crafts. The Vaanaras were a strongly-built tribe with extraordinary skills as architects, craftsmen in brass and steel, and builders. Anjana, Tara and Ruma are described as very beautiful ladies. Nala and Neela were engineers who built the bridge across Lanka.
They could not have been monkeys. Perhaps, these Vaanaras had habitats, as mentioned in Ramayana, in the Himalayas and Mahendra hills. Incidentally, that area is still rich in iron and manganese ore. Many known and unknown battles were fought for the possession of this region for tools of battle-craft. In the following centuries, craftsmen of ‘Kapiloha’ (brass), mainly the Vaanara-people, might have come to be recognised as “Kapis”, who played a crucial role in the Raama–Ravana battle of Ramayana.
It is extremely important to translate the Sanskrit word ‘Vaanara.’ Vaanara is made up of two words – vaan, ‘of the forest’, and nara, ‘man.’ ‘Vaanara’, therefore, refers to a person residing in the forest. Vaanara, originally, did not mean monkey; it meant a forest dweller. In the Encyclopaedia of Ancient Indian Biographies, written by Maha Mahopadhyaya Shastri, it is written: “Vaanara refers to a very ancient human racial group that lived in Southern India.
They lived in Kishkindha (South India), and some of their kings were Vaali, Sugreeva and Angad. They spoke the human language and lived like ordinary human beings, practising human culture.” Shastri concludes: “Confusing Hanuman’s personality with that of a monkey is a blunder that overshadows his real self and hides his heroism.”
Despite the foregoing history of the vaanaras, isn’t it true that the word vaanara does mean monkey? Yes! The present-day conventional meaning of the Sanskrit word vaanara is monkey. However, words do change their meanings from time to time. As such, we need to understand the derived and etymological meaning of the word vaanara. For example, ashva conventionally means a ‘horse’, but etymologically means ashnute adhvaanam – that which runs fast. Similarly, the word ‘go’ conventionally means a cow, but etymologically means the earth. Air is one object that travels very fast, and so, one possible meaning of Asvamedha is ‘that sacrifice (yajna) for the purification of the atmosphere.” From the foregoing etymological explanation, we can understand the horrendous mistake we have been making all through the ages in saying that Gomedha means ‘cow sacrifice’, and Ashvamedha means ‘horse sacrifice.’ Thus, ‘Gopaala’ does not refer to Sri Krishna as the protector of the cow, but protector of the Earth; paala means protector.
The ruinous effects of the Mahabharata war were severely felt in all walks of life at the end of the Dwaapara and the beginning of the Kali Age. With a few exceptions, the Brahmins were no longer able to maintain the tradition of studying and teaching the Shastras, the Hindu texts of knowledge. They misunderstood and so, misrepresented the true meanings of our Scriptures. For, another example, the word gavyam – literally ‘that which comes from the cow,’ and which, in fact, referred to milk and milk products, started to denote cow’s meat. And so, the practice of animal sacrifice commenced with cow’s meat, instead of cow’s butter-ghee being offered into the sacred fire. Encyclopaedia Britannica talks of a lengthy series of rituals – sometimes lasting a whole year – in which hundreds of animals were slaughtered.
By giving conventional meanings to technical terms, we have grossly misrepresented Hindu beliefs and practices to the point of no return to any sensible state.

The bridging of the Indian Ocean
Nala and Neela, we are told, were engineers who bridged the river across to Lanka. They were human beings. Furthermore, the name Hanuman is a combination of two words – hanu, meaning jaw, and maan – (maanava), meaning man. Therefore, Hanuman refers to a being with human features. This race, however, became extinct through intermarriage with other tribes in India, and also, many died in the war with Ravana.
Both Valmiki and Tulsidasa used Vaanara and Kapi when referring to Hanuman. But Hindi as well as English translators of the texts, after the extinction of the race, not knowing what Hanuman really looked like, and using conventional meanings of the word, use the words ‘bandar’ and ‘monkey’ to refer to Hanuman. The painter and sculptor, also, never seeing Hanuman in person, completed the ‘job’ by painting a monkey figure to depict him.
The truth is, in addition to the Aryans, there were many tribal and aboriginal groups of people in India at the time of the Ramayana, some of which were the Vaanara (or Kapi), Aabheer, Yavan, Kirat (or Bhil), Kol, Khas, Nishaad, Draavid, Raakshas, Naag, Shabar, Geedh, Gandharva, Kinnar, Yaksha, etc. Hanuman belonged to the Vaanara tribe, who were skilled tradesmen in Kapi-loha, fashioning works out of brass. Thus, Hanuman, the Vaanara, was a Kapi.
But then you will rightly ask that if Hanuman was not a monkey, how come he lit his tail afire burning down Lanka? To answer this, we have to refer to Tulsidas’ statement at the end of the Ramayana, that he has written 500 verses. But the Ramayana currently in use has 1500 verses! Where have the additional verses come from? Who has written them? As happened during the Moghul and British occupation of India, many Hindu texts were tampered with. There were additions made (interpolation), and many verses were deliberately mistranslated to portray Hinduism as a backward religion. Hanuman burning down Lanka with his ‘tail’ on fire was such an addition; like many other verses, which contradict the Vedas, it was not written by Tulsidas. It intended to reduce Hanuman to a sub-human species and, also, create some mocking laughter. We also join in the fun when the supposed incident is read. The incident could not have happened; it was not possible. No one can survive if his body is on fire.
Hanuman is lovingly referred to as Raama Bhakta – Devotee of God; Raama Doota – Messenger of God; Seeta Shoka Vinaashaka – Remover of the misery of Seeta; Maha-Veera – the great hero.
Hanuman was a great and exemplary Devotee of Lord Rama. We owe Him this much – restore him to his rightful position.

Yours truly,
Pt Ramdial Balbadar

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