Hanuman’s Early Education

Even though Lord Hanuman is a partial incarnation of Lord Shiva, the all-knower, he received education from a mentor to underline the importance of schooling. The Valmiki Ramayana tells us that Hanuman met his teacher quite early in life. At some point after his birth, when baby Hanuman felt hungry, he perceived the sun to be a fruit and tried to engulf it.* Amusingly, after the gods saved the solar system from collapsing, Sun, the deity of this “fruit,” became Hanuman’s guru.

Beginning his studies with grammar and language, Hanuman trained in all areas of learning and became an equal of Brahaspati (Jupiter) and Brahma in knowledge. In the Valmiki Ramayana, Rishi Agatsya holds that no one in the universe outshines Hanuman in zeal, intelligence, glory, character, gentleness, discrimination, sincerity, skillfulness, strength, and patience. As for Hanuman’s martial skills, Rama himself states, “I find Hanuman’s bravery in the battlefield more impressive than that of Kala (time), Indra, Lord Vishnu, and Varuna.”

So was Hanuman an obedient child? The scripture would say, “Not really.” Hanuman had spent a part of his childhood in creating chaos in the ashrams of rishis. He would break their possessions and upset their schedule. It was due to this turmoil that the enraged rishis had cursed him, “You will forget you supernatural powers for a long time. But you will regain them when someone reminds you about your greatness.”

Even today, moments like these from Hanuman’s eternal divine play continue to occupy the Hindu mind. He is worshipped as the “ocean of virtue and knowledge,” and mortals often request him to bestow intelligence and learning upon them. Though Hanuman was released from the curse of the rishis as soon as Jambavan reminded him about his real potential, present-day prayers for Hanuman still tend to remind him about his supernatural potential.

*Fun fact: On his way to the sun, Hanuman, a toddler, simply touched Rahu, who was also approaching the star to “eat” it. The illusory planet got so frightened that he ran to heaven to seek protection. This explains why Hindus propitiate Hanuman for removing the harmful influences of malefic planets.

Hanuman’s birthday is celebrated on Chaitra Purnima, which will fall on March 30 in 2010. Happy Hanuman Jayanti!

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