In today’s Know Your Inspiring Indian Gods column: the fantastic story of Hanuman, the monkey god.
According to the Indian epic, the Ramayama, a great battle ensued between Rama, a powerful king, and the demon king Ravana, when Ravana kidnapped Rama’s beautiful wife, Sita, and took her to Sri Lanka. During this horrific battle, Rama’s brother, Laksmana, was badly wounded, and the only way he would survive is to be treated with a very specific, very rare herb that grew only in the Himalayas. Rama was distraught: who could possibly travel from Southern India to the Himalayas and back again in time to save his brother?
This impossible task fell on Hanuman, the powerful and intelligent monkey god. Hanuman was deeply devoted to Rama, and would do anything for him. He took one mighty leap from the south of India all the way to the Himalayas, and unsure of which herb he was supposed to pick, he carried the entire mountain range over his head as he leapt back to the battlefield. The necessary herb was found, and Laksmana was restored.
Later, Hanuman takes another impressive leap from India to Sri Lanka, where he reunites Rama with Sita, and carries them away to a lifetime of happiness and good health.
It is this story that inspires Hanumanasana (Monkey God Pose). Hanuman’s power comes from bhakti, his devotion to Rama. Likewise, our power in Hanumanasana comes from our ability to take a giant, expansive leap of faith, and believing that you can overcome challenges when your unfailing devotion meets humility and respect for the pose itself – bhakti (devotion) meets shakti (empowerment).
Hanumanasana is often looked at as an impossible feat, especially if you fall into the Extremely Tight Hamstrings Camp. But with a little devotion, courage, and of course, practice, you can achieve the impossible. We can always remind ourselves of the wise words of Jambavantha (the King of Bears) to Hanuman when he doubts his ability to rescue Sita:
You are as powerful as the wind;
You are intelligent, illustrious and an inventor.
There is nothing in this world that’s too difficult for you;
Whenever stuck, you are the one who can help.