The Hanuman Sadhu at the Shivaratri Festival in Nepal
Today is the Shivaratri festival in Nepal. An annual Hindu festival to celebrate the God Shiva who is also the lord of yogis (practitioners of yoga).
Hanuman, also known as Mahavira or Bajrangbali, is another Hindu god who is devoted to Rama however in certain texts he is said to be an incarnation of Shiva.
In Nepal you can see this very colorful and elaborate Sadhu dressed as Hanuman during the festival held in Pashupatinath, Kathmandu.
History of Hanuman
Like many Hindu gods the history and background of Hanuman is vast, complex and differs greatly depending on the story teller or scribe. Here’s a summary of the most common beliefs.
One story tells that the name came from Indra, the king of gods, who hit Hanuman in the jaw as a child and disfigured him. Hanu means jaw and man means disfigured.
Another story tells of his birth by Anjana, an Apsara (Hindu/Buddhist spirit of clouds and water), sent to earth as punishment. However the curse was lifted after giving birth.
Hanuman is also said to be the son of Vayu (the wind god). He is also said to be the son of Shiva in yet another story and according to some texts and an incarnation of Shiva himself in another.
No one ever said Hindu mythology was easy. I often find the confusion is eased by just sticking with the incarnation side of things.
Hanuman rose to popularity early on with his countless acts of good. He’s primarily featured in Ramayana the story of the God Ram’s 14 year exiled search for his wife Sita.
Hanuman is also a shapeshifter and can reduce himself to microscopical proportions or enlarge himself to the size of a mountain. Hanuman is also noted as once carrying a mountain.
As a reward for helping him Ram and Sita give Hanuman a necklace of jewels. Upon receiving it Hanuman takes it apart and inspects each jewel. Onlookers laugh at his antics and ask why he would destroy a gift. Hanuman replies he is looking for Ram and Sita in each gem. The onlookers laugh again at his extreme devotion. Only when they did he stood up and ripped open his chest revealing an image of Ram and Sita inside.
The Hanuman Sadhu
We come full circle to our Hanuman dressed Sadhu at the yearly Shivaratri festival in Kathmandu. He’s one of the most popular and recognizable characters there. Popular among Nepalese both enjoying the folklore and for those who enjoy his elaborate costume. Likewise he’s popular among all visitors to pose with for a photograph.
He’s doesn’t speak much English though, so don’t expect much conversation. And yes, he’d like a tip for each photo.
In the true sense of a Sadhu, he’s most likely not a wandering holy man from India. This is his living.
Still, who can ever get a straight answer out of a Sadhu!
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