Who exactly was Hanuman?


Hinduism is very colorful because of all the saints, fairies, and mystical creatures. To the devoted Hindus, all gods seem to be real living beings that once existed or even do exist today in one form or another. For the atheists, they are mere fiction. For me, they are neither. I believe religion and science are separate entities. While science is driven by logic (brains), religion is driven by faith (heart). When all logic fails, I tend to lean towards religion, not because I believe god will come and help but because halting for a bit and praying helps me calm down, gather my senses, and tackle the issue with a clear mind. Besides, I need something powerful in front of which I can remain humble.

Hinduism like any other ancient religion is just an amalgam of philosophy, experiments, and experiences that have been passed down the generations in written or oral form. However, twists and turns have been added in course of time and thus has resulted in its current form. One of my favourite characters in Hinduism is the Hanuman of Ramayana. Hanuman is believed to be “the monkey god”, an incarnation of Shiva, the mightiest of the Holy Trinity. The mighty Hanuman as a child is believed to have swallowed the sun and later became Rama’s dearest. He is believed to have set Lanka on fire and played a significant role in Rama’s army to defeat Ravana of Lanka who had terrorized the entire world.

Did Hanuman really exist or was he just a creation of Balmiki’s mind? If he was just a creation of Balmiki’s mind, why did he choose a monkey for such divine purpose to assist Rama? Hindu religion does offer other even surprising examples of animals serving gods. For example, the heaviest gods of all, Ganesha rides on a mouse. But mouse does not serve any real purpose in any of the stories. So, instead of picking an army of tigers and panthers to defeat a demonic army who had conquered the entire universe, why would anyone pick monkeys? What if monkeys did help Rama on his quest?

When I say monkeys, I do not mean the mischievous Rhesus monkeys that terrorize the pilgrims in Hindu temples. I mean Homo erectus. Recently, Homo erectus fossils were found in Narmada valley (Madhya Pradesh) in India that dated about 0.2-0.7mya. But it was of a short adult (size of modern African Pygmies). The clavicle bone found suggests “a short and stocky Middle Pleistocene hominid with a mediolaterally narrow and anteroposteriorly deep thorax and with well-developed shoulder and neck musculature. Notwithstanding the great variability in clavicle size and shape due to ethnicity, sex and laterality, it is still quite likely that tropical condition in Central India during the Middle Pleistocene favoured a relatively short and stocky hominid” (Sankhyan AR.). However, “the Narmada calvaria possesses some unique anatomical features, perhaps because the specimen reflects the incoherent classificatory condition of the genus Homo” (Kennedy KA, Sonakia A, Chiment J, Verma KK).

Could it be possible that there were Homo erectus in India that co-existed with the modern humans? It is possible that early humans encountered these archaic humans and told stories to their kids. The stories became myths then myths became legends. May be there were year old legends that Valmiki had heard of, those of  monkey men that with lots of hair, projected mouth, and looking like monkeys. May be Valmiki resurrected this age old legend as Hanuman and his people that extended from South of India to Indonesia, which strikingly was also the range of Homo erectus! Just a thought.

24 Comments

Filed under Anthropology, Human Evolution

24 responses to “Who exactly was Hanuman?

  1. Candice

    When I saw the pictures of Adam’s bridge, I had the exact same thought!

  2. Indra Sharan

    Two very foundations of things and non-things

    1. Evolution

    Evolution: Monkey = Vanara ( in Sanskrit). The pronunciation “Va”, connotates “or”, “alternative”, and “nara” means similar to human.
    Humans have heart, home of kindness and profound love. When the quantity of this character becomes infinite, fathomless, the one who possesses such a love and compassionate heart is “Narayan”. “Nara” has dimension “yana” of love. The one who has such a love possesses all the powers of creation. Meaning of Narayan is also affiliated to “wetness” or “moisture” or “water”, basically symbol of tears following in love and devotion.

    The story Balmiki tells is about that great love and compassion which transforms an alternative form of human to perfect human, and a perfect human into God.

    There was nothing Balmiki did not understand.

    2. Harmony

    Interdependence is there even in the physical laws of the nature. Bound by the laws of the Karma, humans depend on plants, and animals for their survivals. For the evolution into the highest form of soul, freedom from hate is a pre-requisite. Freedom from hatred is a pre-condition for peace, non-violence and love. In the state of non-dualism (Adwaita) , all the “creatures” are members of the same family. The non-dual Shiva’s family is a perfect example: he wears snake and rides an ox, his consort Parvati rides on lion which can easily kill the bull; Garuda, the carrier of Narayan preys on snake; Kumara rides peacock, and Ganesh rides a rat which the snake savors.

    If the Gods’ family was quarrelling all the time, there was no need of God. God’s family lives in harmony, in love. The enmity and hatred is not present there. Instead, there is saghana prem (concentrate love) in the hearts of the family.

    That is why animals are characters in Hindu Dharma. After all, Hinduism tells all the creatures are God’s creation, and this understanding leads to unity in diversity, whose ultimate goal is to evolve human mind into non-dual state, to that near God.

    • Sarath

      I am not a scholar in sanskrit , but while knowing Sri Hanuman, i felt that its not necessary that he should be considered as a monkey or a monkey-man. What Sri Valmiki and Sri Vyasa Deva did in creating Ramayana and Srimad Bhagavatham was not merely to know the stories, they wanted us to know about the underlying Tatva in it. And, it becomes clear only after reading it again and again, linking it with our life.
      Sita Devi could be considered as our mind and Sri Hanuman could be considered as Viveka, who came to bring back Sita Devi (our mind) to lord Rama (Narayana- our mind’s ultimate destination), i.e to bring our mind back to Narayana (from where we came), it is impossible without Viveka. Any Soul which needs Moksha need to have viveka buddhi. That is what Sri Valmiki meant to tell us, which is also indicated in Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

  3. Alok

    Excellent article!

  4. uttam paudel

    nice article,
    Have you paid attention on the beautiful parallelity between evolution and 9 avatars of Vishnu. You can see a beautiful correlations between evolution and Avatars.

  5. Thanks Uttamji for the comment. However, I have never quite linked evolution with the avatars of Vishnu. I would be thrilled to know about your thoughts on the avatars and evolution though.

  6. ashutosh bhise

    when I was young I used to believed that these gods really existed and had a deep desire in mind to meet them. But as I grew up I studied about the various other world civilizations only then I realized that each and every civilizations had his incredible stories and deities. In India the Hinduism was a not a religion but a tool for the Brahmins to exploit the aborigines of the sub-continent. They created vedas and popularized it as the scriptures written by God himself and they without qualm declared Sanskrit as the language of the Gods as is done by the Jews who claim that the God speaks Hebrew.
    I have much more to say but I can make my point in a single line. If Hanuman really swallowed the sun then why is there not any references in the scriptures of the world saying oh “it happened one day that the sun just disappeared and we just don’t have any idea where it went”
    And further more if you have really any belief in these stupid vedas then just refer to the ancient Greeks and Roman scriptures and read there fanatic and incredible stories then only you will understand what i was trying to say.

    • AKP

      Who b u to call vedas stupid ? U unaware person , u must know vedas contain science beyond science . Schrodinger wave eqn n theory of relativity was found in it . Just search for a book named as vedic maths authored by some maharishi which contains theories on multidimensions , u ll know the value of vedas then

  7. R.Rao

    My dear Ashutosh Bhise,
    If you do not know something it is better to keep quiet and listen to others. We will be able to give judgements only when we deeply understand everything. First thing, as you said Brahmins created Vedas-if it is true we must be very thankful to Brahmins. But it is not a fact. Have you read Vedas? Please do read them. another thing, you asked why there are no references in scriptures about hanuman swallowing the sun. That itself speaks that you haven’t read any scriptures. Please do read them. third thing you said “Stupid Vedas”. There are subjects some “dumbs” do not understand. It does not make those subjects “Stupid”. It is a huge subject-please find a guru who can teach you these and learn from him. You will become stable and silent.

  8. In ‘Human origins: Shadows of early migrations,’ published in Nature (23 December 2010) Bustamante and Henn write:
    “Until recently…all human species trace all of their genetic ancestry to a single origin in one or more African populations of moderate size some 200,000 years ago. However, the Denisovan nuclear genome sequence, along with that of Homo neanderthalensis published by some of the same authors6, suggest that the out-of-Africa population history of Homo sapiens is probably much more intertwined than previously thought, with more intertwining in some parts of the world than others.”
    Indeed, in Asia, there may have been gene flow from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens and the mythologies of Hanuman and Sugriv and their people as encountered by Rama in Ramayana probably was influenced by the early hominins that conquered Asia before modern humans did.

  9. Vikas

    Hamuman ji was a missing link of ancient monkey who turned to modern man, As a theory of science in very early time around 50000 years back man was a monkey, as the time passed it started walking on two legs and gradully it turned to modern man(Homo sapiens) This giant half monkey half man existed at the time of Ramayan which got extinct at the time passed. Ram killed Vali who was the main last ruler of monkeys
    Sugriv and hanuman ji were the last monkeys who served Ram.

  10. pramod

    Vikar that is very much correct, pls teach to ashutosh bhise, he have not understood the Ramayana, Mr.Rao was correct in his place, not only hanuman was the monkey, but what about Sugriv, Vali, Neel, Jamwahand, ask ashutosh to see the Google earth, that bridge was created with all these mans, this is live fact that RAM, Hanuman was live on earth, Just we have to understand about it. Due to some stupid people the Hindu religion comes to an end, many people are converting to other caste. The hindu is the religion where we give liberty to the people, and people misuse it, just go in Muslim, or catholic caste see how much rules and regulations are there, every time we have to report them, why the hindus are not understanding specially from south, the people started eating cow meat, tortise meat, how we can eat them while we are doing worship of them.

    • saran

      My Dear, Keep all this true lies about God & Brahmins Vedas in Temp Folder, First Clean UP our Corrupted Ruling officials in Hindustan who 95% Hindus please plead to RAM & Hanuman to Help this Country Right now.
      Than Not only India Entire World will accept RAM & Hanuman was true .

      • AKP

        They have already given answers for this , start reading hindu relegion ( especially ramayana) from childhood n also vedas . There was a reason for india being a golden bird

  11. stala roy

    nice one

  12. SK

    Originally it was Homo Erectus,Neanderthals, dissovan and dwafs were human species.It was evolution which made Homo Sapiens appear.These wise men spread across the globe.Hanuman and all the Vanara band was the last existed Homo erectus.They helped Lord Rama to conquer Lanka.It is not imagination it has a base. Even today Dog is worshiped as ‘Bhairavar” because it was the only companion to Homo sapiens.

  13. Anbalagan

    I would only say seeing is believing.

    • AKP

      OK , I see earth to be flat , stars to be of very small size and moon as source of light . Will u believe this ?

  14. komal
  15. bikram

    all the ancient stories might not be true are not false as well , but they might have emerged from some incidents and are added imaginations as well , but they have taught a lot to mankind and this should not be ignored . in context of vedas, purans, bible etc bilieved to be related to gods , they might be something that exterrestrials or lets say alien beings wanted us to believe in order to flourish mankind and most of the stories might be related to them .

  16. bikram

    monsters like rakshas ,vampires or creatures like hanuman or even us can be the result of the experiment of alien beings on genetic engineering.

  17. Anonymous

    U ‘re not believing the yogis said God is there and yoga related to science also

    • Anonymous

      Hanuman is a missing link between monkey & human, science also says that monkey turned to humans, it was a last species extincted now..

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