Reflections on Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa – XXIX: Hanūmān, the Messenger - Part VI
May 13 ,2019
Returning home from any adventure is easy. Return is particularly fast if the job is successful. The return
is also a mental condition to get back to one’s own abode, meet friends and relatives, eat familiar food
and relax in one’s familiar environment. Hanūmān returned swiftly. Instead of hopping over the shore
line and checking every step, he leaped high and soared through the wind. Instead of being confronted
with objects in the sea, he “flew” over the clouds with mirth and strength.
A messenger’s return is awaited with anxiety. Though we have to be hopeful, but there is good chance
that mishaps may happen. Hanūmān’s party knew the challenges they were confronted with. They were
stranded at the sea shore since they had outspent their allotted time to search for Sita. They had been
wondering what punishment they might receive because of their breach. Though they knew from Sampāti
that Sītā was alive, crossing the ocean was not an average task. Hanūmān volunteered and showed
confidence. Claiming confidence is not enough to reduce concerns. The monkey party had reason to be
Vālmīki does not describe how Hanūmān navigated the sky. Traveling “northward” is not enough to reach
a destination. It could be possible that he knew how to sense the land from the sea and had possibly
marked where he had left off. While dispatching the teams in search of Sītā, Sugrīva did talk about
cartographic navigation claiming that he knew them because of his wanderings. It is possible that
Hanūmān learned the geographical aspects of the mountains while following Sugriva around the world.
Hanūmān is a monkey, and he is the Minister to the King of the monkeys. He was capable, intelligent,
wise and strong. By being a Minister, he appreciated his responsibility to his kinsmen and also knew his
special berth as a leader. While the troupe would remain hopeful to the adventure, the leader must show
charisma through the ordeal. The leader must help mobilize the troupe with expectation and success. The
task may be difficult, the leader has the task to make it appear easy!
Noticing the Mahendra mountains, Hanūmān made a loud roar. It is a roar “I am done!”, “I am back!” All
home-coming roars are loud. We speak loudly when our hearts are full and we are in our home
environment. Noise is also used to gain attention and express presence. It could be an animal indicator
for a call to assemble. Aṅgada and the monkey brigade had been waiting on the Mahendra mountains
all the while. Hanūmān possibly wanted to intimate that he was “arriving”.
The messenger arrives back with a message. A “roar” is not a message. The “roar” needs interpretation.
Such interpretation needs experience and trust. Vālmīki has introduced a character Jāmbavān in the story
for such interpretation. Jāmbavān is strictly a bear, but is part of the monkey family. Bears live long and
act as icons in the jungle through their memory and their detective acumen. It was Jāmbavānwho had
requested Hanūmān to undertake the trip in crossing the ocean.
“This is not a roar of failure! Hanūmān is always successful, there should be no doubt!” As an elder,
Jāmbavān alerted all to anticipate to hear the success story. “All scattered monkeys assembled together
on the mountain top clinging to various tree branches showing off their bright coats!” Hanūmān’s entry
roared in the clouds as “wind roared through the mountain tunnels”. Seeing Hanuman in the sky, the
monkeys steadied themselves with “folded hands!”
Hanūmān dropped massively like a “bird without wings”. The monkeys “jubilantly encircled him.” They
offered “gifts” of “fruits and roots”. Some monkeys made “joyous noise”, some others “howled”.
Hanūmān in turn offered his greetings to the elders like Jāmbavān and the troupe-chief Aṅgada. Having
been received by them and been greeted by the assembly of monkeys. Hanūmān announced the gist:
“The Devi was seen!”
Skill of communication is to tailor the message to the audience. To determine the relevance of the story
to the recipients is the talent of the messenger. “She was in the Aśoka garden guarded by tough-looking
rākṣasīs. The rākṣasīs were constantly chastising her. She appeared weak and emaciated. She had single
braided matted locks. Her clothes were dirty. She was desperately looking for Rama. I saw her in such a
state!” So was the message expanded.
The message that Sītā was found triggered spirited relief among the monkeys. Some roared in joy, some
jumped around, some howled and some echoed the growls. Many waved their tails and some came
forward to hug Hanūmān. Aṅgada had kind words for him “you gave us our life back!”. Seated on large
rocks, all were eager to hear the story of adventure of “crossing the ocean” and “visiting Sītā in Rāvaṇa’s
Laṅkā”. “How did he do it?” – everyone respectfully waited to hear.
The elder Jāmbavān started the conversation. “How did you see her? How are things over there? How
does cruel Rāvaṇa treat her? Please tell us in detail as much you can. Your description would help us
determine our next steps.” Knowing that they had overstretched their allotted time, Jāmbavān advised:
“Please tell us what we should know as we meet Rāma and what we must keep to ourselves confined
All leaders need an elder advisor! A sincere advisor ponders over the work and creates strategy. The
advisor knows the strengths and the weaknesses of the individuals in the team. In the commotion and
turmoil, he remains calm and steady. Jāmbavān is one such character created by Vālmīki. He was friendly,
wise and conscientious. His age and experience were made use of in the entire rescue operation. He
remained a trusted friend to Hanūmān and Sugrīva and proved to be a loyal devotee of Rāma.
Hanūmān had the task of narrating the sorry as would be useful for the monkeys. He should let them
know that the job was difficult, but he should not scare them with the mishaps. He had to show them
that they had the capacity to rescue Sītā through their own efforts. He also had to convey to them the
purity and chastity of Sītā to let them feel the nobility of the task of rescuing her. Hanūmān meditated
Sītā in his mind and offered his respects. He wanted to convey humbly that it was Sītā’s blessing that
made him successful in the mission. It is said that humility is the foundation of heroism!
Hanūmān described his ordeal in crossing the ocean, his encounter with Maināka mountain, Surasā , the
serpent monster and Siṁhikā, the shadow monster. He proceeded to describe his overcoming the guard
in Laṅkā and moving around inside Rāvaṇa’s palace in the night. He narrated the sighting of Sītā in the
Aśoka garden and his appreciation of Sītās rejection to Rāvaṇa’s solicitation. He described his meeting
with Sītā in the night and receiving the head ornament from her as her gesture in recognition.
Hanūmān continued to describe how he got angry and destroyed parts of the city to provoke Rāvaṇa. He
described his duels with many of Rāvaṇa’s warriors and the destruction of them in battle. He spoke about
his eventual capture and lauded the good conduct of Vibhīṣaṇa in letting him escape death. He described
his eventual escape from the net after his tail was wrapped in oil-soaked rags and lighted with a fire. He
delighted in describing how he hopped around to put the whole town of Lanka on fire.
“After all these episodes I had to make sure that Sītā was unhurt. I climbed back on the Arīṣṭa mountains
to prepare for my return trip. Following the celestial indicators, I arrived back with you all! All was
accomplished through the grace of Rāma and through the encouragement I received from you all! This
was all done for the sake of our King Sugrīva. I have done what I could accomplish in Laṅkā, let the
remainder be completed by you all!”
Let Sai bless all!