How Hanuman Got his Monkey Face?

Mummy, “Why has Hanuman got a face like a monkey?”, this was one of the first questions asked by my son when we were doing our Jai Jai one day. An inquisitive little mind with a thirst for knowledge. So what did mummy do? Find out The Jai Jais way.

Our beloved Hanuman, one of the most popular gods in Hinduism.  He is invincible and immortal. The son of the wind god Vayu, and Lord Rama’s loyal companion. The golden coloured monkey with super powers who can fly, who can lift mountains, and beware of him and his mighty Ghada, any bad guy or demon does not stand a chance!

Hindu mythology is full of intriguing stories. Stories of what happened are told in many ways. If we are willing to learn each story has its own charm, and we learn in a fun way and engaging way with the Jai Jais. There are many stories of how Hanuman got his monkey face here is one:

Anjana as we now call her, was a beautiful apsara also known as the heavenly maiden Punjikastala, from the kingdom of Lord Indra, the King of Gods. One day whilst Punjikastala was roaming the heavens. She saw a monkey rishi deep in meditation. The sight of the cross legged monkey made Punjikastala giggle. Rather than admiring his devotion, she was unable to control herself and burst out laughing. The monkey rishi was so deep in meditation that he did not even know that someone was laughing at him. Punjikastala thought that he was ignoring her.  Punjikastala started to pester him even more and unkindly threw fruit and stones at him. When one of the mangoes hit the rishi on his head, he opened his eyes and was startled, his meditation was broken. He looked around furiously and saw Punjikastala ready to throw another stone.

The monkey sage lost his patience and was enraged at Punjikastala’s behaviour. He was even more angry that she had interrupted his meditation. He was so angry that he cursed her. The curse was that she would take the form of a monkey, as she had made fun of a monkey.  Punjikastala pleaded to the sage to take back his curse she was so sorry for her actions and truly repented.  The rishi could see that she was genuinely sorry and was unable to take back the curse as the words had been spoken. He then told her that the curse would only be broken when she gave birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The monkey vanished into thin air.

She continued to pray to Lord Shiva. She decided to go for a walk in the forest and came across and Ashram.  The people inside the ashram were kind and holy people and did not make fun of her monkey face. Punjikastala was feeling very hungry after a long day, and accepted the fruits they offered. The people of the ashram ‘priests’, wanted to know who she was and where she had come from. Punjikastala was too embarrassed to tell her tale of the curse, and who she was previously.  She told them her name was Anjana, and decided to make up a new identity, leaving her past life behind her and start a new beginning. She felt this new name was destined for something special.

The priests told Anjana that she was a very brave lady, they looked scared.  They told Anajana that they would not go to the forest at night. They told Anjana of a huge demon Sambasadan who lived there. He was as monstrous demon and had been terrorising people in the forest.  They were worries that he was going to attack the ashram and were preparing to defend themselves. Anjana told the priests, that she would help them.

Anjana made a small Shivling on the ground and began to pray to Lord Shiva, and Goddess Parvati.  She prayed to help these good and kind people and protect them from the demon. She prayed for strength and bravery. Anjana suddenly heard the words fill her ears, “Sambasadam can be defeated only by his own blood my child...May you be victorious...'

Anjana knew her prayers had been answered and she was filled with hope, which would guide her to victory. She got ready for the battle. As she was picking up the weapons she saw another man standing beside her, she could not see his face. The man looked like a warrior and was very well-built. Anjana thought the priest had calked this warrior or King to help fight the demon. The man wore a coat of scars and looked like he had fought many battles. When the man turned to face Anjana she could not believe her eyes he had a face of a monkey.  The monkey man introduced himself as Kesari, the king of the monkeys, and this was his territory.

Suddenly there was a thunderous roar, the huge demon was hurtling towards the ashram. Kesari picked up his weapon and charged at the demon. Together the two of them along with some people from the ashrama and a small monkey army fought with the demon. Kesari could not defeat the demon, even with his skills.  The demon moved very quickly and changed forms. Finally Kersari hurt the demon, his blood flowed to earth. Anjana raced over and dipped the arrows in the demon’s own blood. She rapidly fired the arrows at the demon. The demon let out mighty cries as each arrow pierced him. Kesari saw what Anjana had done and dipped his own weapons in the demons blood, and continued to fight. As each blood dipped weapon hit the demon he began to melt. His deafening cry echoed through the forest. He had finally been defeated and the forest was safe again.

A priest approached Anjana and told her that when someone has helped their people win a battle they offer a gift as custom. She asked Anjana if she would consider marrying Kesari, Anjana looked surprised. She knew he was a brave and extremely intelligent man. Anjana was willing if she thought Kesari would be. The priest told Anjana that Kesari was already willing to marry Anjana. A special and auspicious day was chosen and Kesari and Anjana got married. After their marriage, both Anjana and Kesari daily worshiped Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. They led a very happy married life.

Meanwhile in the city of Ayodhya, King Dasaratha had no children of his own and was performing a ritual for children. He was given a sweet pudding to share with his three wives. King Dasaratha gave the pudding to Kausalya and Kaikeyi.  However as the king was about to give the pudding to Queen Sumithra, and a bird snatched the pudding and flew away. Both Kausalya and Kaikeyi immediately gave a portion of their own pudding to Queen Sumithra, and that is why she gave birth to twins – Lakshmana and Shatrugana. Queen Kausalya gave birth to Rama, the hero of the Ramayana and Queen Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharata.

The bird who stole the pudding was actually an apsara (heavenly being) named Suvarchala. Suvarchala was very hasty and often would act without thinking. He had been cursed by Lord Brahma to take the form of a bird due to his previous wrong doings. Lord Brahma however changed the curse and said that Suvarchala would only be  freed from her curse if she touched the pudding given by Lord Agni to King Dasaratha.

Suvarchala saw his chance to lift the curse and snatched the pudding from Queen Sumitra. Immediately she changed form and became an apsara. The pudding fell towards Vayu, the Wind God following the orders of Lord Shiva, Vayu blew the pudding straight towards the forests where Anjana and Kesari were staying.

Anjana and Kesari had just finished thier morning prayers when Anjana saw the pudding. Anjana and Kesari looked surprised when they heard a heavenly voice, 'Take this offering Anjana. It has the power of the Wind God as he was the one who blew it you and the essence of Lord Shiva inside it. You will have a healthy brave boy, who will be the incarnation of Lord Shiva...Take the pudding...'Anjana gave birth to one of the most powerful heroes of Ramayana – Hanuman. Our beloved Monkey god. Anjana was freed of her curse as she had given birth to an incarnation of Shiva. 

Hanuman was named  Anjaneya [Son of Anjana]. He was also called as Pavanputra, (Son of the Wind God). He was called so because he had the essence of the Wind God, he has many names and was alsio called  Hanuman was also called as Kesharinandan  (Son of Kesari)

So how did Anjaneya get the name as 'Hanuman' , and how did he get his powers?...well that’s a story for another day.


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