In Hindu mythology, Hanuman is the monkey army’s commander. His actions are chronicled in the great Hindu Sanskrit poem Ramayana (Rama’s Journey).
Hanuman, the son of a nymph and the god of the wind, mistook the Sun for fruit when he was a newborn and attempted to fly up and catch it. Indra, the lord of the gods, struck Hanuman with a lightning bolt to the jaw (hanu), originating the name. Powerful elders cursed Hanuman to forget his magical abilities, such as the enormous capacity to fly or grow indefinitely, until he was reminded of them. Hanuman led the monkeys to assist Rama, an avatar (incarnation) of the god Vishnu, in rescuing Sita from the demon Ravana, king of Lanka (likely not present-day Sri Lanka). Hanuman, having been reminded of his abilities by Jambavan, king of the bears, traversed the strait between India and Sri Lanka in a single bound, despite the efforts of watery demonesses to prevent him by swallowing him or his shadow. He was discovered in Sri Lanka when his tail was set ablaze; however, he used that fire to destroy Sri Lanka. Hanuman also flew to the Himalayas and returned with a mountain of medicinal herbs to heal Rama’s army’s wounded soldiers.
Hanuman is revered as a subsidiary deity in temples dedicated to Rama or directly in shrines devoted to Hanuman. The latter are typically swarmed by macaques, who recognise they will not be abused there. In India’s temples, he is depicted as a red-faced monkey with a human-like posture. Hanuman is held up as an example of human dedication due to his service to Rama.
Hanuman is also famous among Buddhists in Central, Southeast, and East Asia. Many temples have been established for his adoration, and numerous neighbourhoods have been named after him. However, he is the subject of very different stories outside of India. In some traditions, he had spouses and children while being strictly celibate in the Sanskrit tradition, for example. He has been regarded as the model for the hero of the renowned Chinese epic Xiyouji (“Journey to the West”).
In India, Hanuman is revered by the nationalist Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and he is depicted as a powerful superhero in a popular series of comic books. The Hanuman langur (Semnopithecus entellus), one of India’s most abundant monkey species, is named after the Ramayana character Hanuman.