Hanuman is one of the most important deities in popular Hindu piety, even though he does not have an exalted place in the pantheon. Hanuman is enormously strong, has magic powers, and is a skilled healer, but his greatest quality is said to be his devotion to Rama. His status as Ram's servant and devotee is also said to make him more receptive and attentive to human requests--in short, he's a deity who gets things done.
This picture shows Hanuman carrying Rama (dark figure) and Lakshmana (light figure) on his shoulders, thus serving as a mobile shooting platform. It was painted on the side of a pilgrim rest house built in 1923 in Haridwar. I took this picture in 1998, and when I went to get another picture in 2005, I discovered that the whole building had been newly painted a beautiful blue, and this image had disappeared. Although I understand the desire to have a good-looking building, the loss still pains me.
|This image of Hanuman was part of a small cluster of images underneath a tree. The image has been adorned with red vermillion and strips of tinsel, and this sort of decoration is done anew every single day as an act of worship. The image of Hanuman here is carrying his club on the left hand side, whereas the hand on the right carries a mountain. According to the story, Hanuman had been sent to find a life-giving herb on the mountain, but when he was unable to find it, he simply brought the whole mountain instead. Hanuman is a strong protective figure, but his status as a fellow devotee of Rama makes him seem less exalted, and thus more accessible to ordinary people. This image was probably bought ready-made in the marketplace (click on the link for a shot of just such a ready-made image).|
|Here are a couple of those ready-made
images stacked up in the Hardwar marketplace (behind the owner's
motorcycle), waiting for a customer to take them away. These are
retail merchandise, and a potential customer person could touch or handle
them without any hesitation.|
On the upper left of the photo is an inset niche containing a small shrine with several images--a Shiva linga in the front, with a pot suspended over it to drip water on the image (both as an offering, and as a way to "cool" the deity), and behind it is a smaller image of Hanuman, with silver foil all over his body, and clearly indicating the upraised left arm. By virtue of their context, these are objects of worship, and thus very different from the ones for sale.
Hardwar market, summer 2005.
|Hanuman has traditionally been the patron deity of
wrestlers, probably by virtue of his size and strength. Here we see
Hanuman's reputation for strength moving into a more modern idiom (fitness),
as well as ads for the other things that the tourist market in Pushkar
Pushkar, January 2005
|This poster (titled Hanuman Lila or
"The Deeds of Hanuman") illustrates many of the stories and images
associated with him. Most of these come from the Ramayana,
which is the most important source for his mythology, but others reflect
popular piety that has grown up independent of the Ramayana, and
reflects his importance as a deity in his own right.
The central image, of course, is the protective motif of Hanuman carrying the mountain (he had been sent to get a plant growing on the mountain, which would save Lakshmana's life, but when he couldn't find it on the mountain he brought the whole mountain back).
To read the other stories, click on the small images; the sequence runs clockwise from the top left.
This poster was probably made in the 1970s, and was given to me by Dr. Allen Hauk, who taught Religion at Carthage for many years.
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Page maintained by James G. Lochtefeld.
Last modified 12 January 2006