Hanuman … from chapter 6


“Now,” he continued, because all Indian storytelling begins with “now,” “Vayu, the God of Winds, he who carries sound and the breath, the pranas, the father of Agni, the God of Fire, was in the mood for love. He roamed about, sometimes as a breeze and sometimes a hurricane, when his passion boiled over.

One day, Vayu was blowing purple mists over the green hills of the mountain Mandara, when he spied an apsara, a heavenly nymph, cursed by her lord, Brhaspati-Jupiter, to take a birth as a monkey-girl. This monkey-girl, known as Anjana, could assume any form, and when alone in the mountains, she reverted to a beauty unequaled among mortals. Unfortunately, despite a very amorous life with her monkey husband, she had no children.

“Vayu was enchanted and circling her invisibly, he blew away her garments, embraced her, and impregnated her. Anjana cried out in shame, demanding to know who had violated her. Vayu whispered first in one ear then in the other that he meant her no harm, but had entered her with his thought. He told her that she would bear a son, whose powers would have no limit.

“Hanuman was born to Anjana in a nearby cave and his birth freed her from Brhaspati-Jupiter’s curse, so that she was able to leave the world and her monkey child and live in the devalok, the world of the gods, in her apsara-nymph form.”

The unthinkableness of Hari Puri Baba’s story tickled me. Planets cursing heavenly nymphs in the world of gods! A thought phallus! Hari Puri Baba had narrated the story as if he were talking of the neighbors or his cousin Charlie. His intimacy with divine beings made the world and my problems seem insignificant. I asked him where he had gotten these stories.

“From my gurus,” he said, “It is What Is Remembered. Shall I continue?” he asked. I nodded sheepishly.

“This monkey Hanuman was born with a monstrous appetite. Before Anjana departed, she blessed him and told him to eat fruits ‘as ripe as the rising sun,’ pointing to Surya the Sun. As soon as his mother was gone, he looked around the cave for something to eat but there was nothing. Outside the rising sun was as red as a ripe orange. He had misunderstood his mother’s words and thought that breakfast awaiting him on the horizon. He leapt into the sky, flying at the speed of the wind, his arms reaching for the fruit.” Hari Puri Baba chuckled.

“This happened to be the day of a solar eclipse. Surya had ventured into the cruel demon planet Rahu’s realm. Rahu, who causes eclipses, is only a bodiless head.  He was about to swallow Surya and cause an eclipse, when he saw little Hanuman racing toward the Sun. Something was very wrong, so Rahu quickly summoned Indra, chief of the gods.

“Rahu appeared even bigger and juicier than Surya, and with eyes like full moons, Hanuman started to pursue him. Rahu managed to escape but then Hanuman threatened Airavata, the elephant mount of Lord Indra himself. To restrain him, Indra fired his vajra, his divine thunderbolt, which struck the monkey on the jaw and sent him falling back to earth.

“Vayu tried in vain to revive his unconscious child and eventually took him to the Patala region, the underworld. When Vayu left the world, sojourning ‘south,’ as it is said, the earth started to suffocate because there was no wind. Even the breath in all living things began to vanish. Prana withdrew to its master and fire now dominated the Earth.  So all the major gods and goddesses came down to Patala Lok, their hands folded reverently, their heads bowed. Through their combined power, they revived the dazed monkey-boy, who sustained a permanently swollen jaw. Hanu means jaw. The gods and goddesses begged Vayu to return, and blessed his son, Hanuman, by bestowing on him all their powers,” Hari Puri Baba continued.