“Ramayana”: Hanuman as a Figure of Dharma

Currently enrolled in a course on Hindu Traditions within the scope of my Master’s/PhD program in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, the following brief essay was assigned as a reflection of a theme or character within the epic saga the Ramayana.


The epic tale Ramayana is one of dharma, the duty or moral law within the Hindu Traditions. One of the central figures epitomizing an ideal example of dharma is the Monkey King, Hanuman.

Hanuman appears in the story as Rama pursues his kidnapped wife Sita from the demon king Ravana and stumbles upon the monkey kingdom of Kiskinda. Hanuman is a powerful creature who aids Rama by first embarking with his army to search for Sita, and eventually setting out to Ravana’s kingdom to see Sita as Rama’s messenger.

Hanuman allows himself to be captured by Ravana who lights his tail on fire. Hanuman uses this as an opportunity to ignite Ravana’s kingdom, saving the grove where Sita is kept. He then returns to Rama to finalize the plan of Sita’s rescue. Rama expresses anger to the ocean as his obstacle in crossing to the land that holds Sita. The ocean gods respond with guidance, sparking the idea in Hanuman to his monkey army to build a bridge over the ocean, thus resulting in the rescue of Rama’s wife.

The monkey people were said to be of godly parentage, possessing noble qualities, immense strength and keen intelligence. Hanuman is the son of Aruna, the charioteer of the sun god, and has been depicted as an incarnation of Shiva with powers inherited from the god of wind Vayu. When Hanuman was young he was advised by his father to dedicate his life to the service of Vishnu. When Rama makes his appearance, Hanuman knows immediately that Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu by his “inner voice.” His intuition is solidified upon learning of the story of Rama bending the bow of Shiva. Hanuman, through his actions, thus becomes an ideal figure of loyalty and dharma throughout the text by exhibiting his trustworthiness to Rama.

As such, Hanuman is a common archetype for human devotion; sometimes his figure stands on its own while other times as a subsidiary to Rama. Evident by his fearless actions in the story it can be said that to meditate on Hanuman is to acquire inner strength and freedom from fear.

When Hanuman traveled to Ravana’s kingdom, he did so by using his powers to grow extremely large and essentially took a giant step across the lands. It can be said that this giant step symbolizes his devotion to undertake the impossible in his servitude to Rama; it signifies the ability to overcome any obstacle as long as one puts forth devotion and reverence.

Hanuman did not second-guess his actions in his aid to Rama. He did not question the dangers nor what the “right” thing was to do – a beautiful example of dharma. Hanuman is depicted to me as the epitome of an honorable warrior, filled with compassion, loyalty and fearlessness.


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