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Shapeshifting Stories Of Hanuman

Hanuman, the monkey god in Hindu mythology, is a central figure in the epic Ramayana. Known for his immense strength, unwavering devotion to Lord Rama, and various miraculous abilities, one of Hanuman's notable powers is shapeshifting. Throughout the Ramayana and other texts, Hanuman's ability to change his form plays a crucial role in aiding Rama and overcoming obstacles. Here are some prominent stories showcasing Hanuman's shapeshifting abilities:

1. Hanuman's Encounter with Surasa:

During Hanuman's mission to find Sita in Lanka, he faces many challenges. One notable incident is his encounter with Surasa, a sea demoness, who has the boon that no one can cross the ocean without entering her mouth. Hanuman, in his miniature form, attempts to negotiate passage. Surasa insists on devouring him, so Hanuman cleverly expands his body. In response, Surasa enlarges her mouth. To outsmart her, Hanuman suddenly shrinks to a tiny size, swiftly enters her mouth, and exits instantly, thereby fulfilling the condition without being harmed.

2. Hanuman's Flight to Lanka:

When Hanuman first decides to fly to Lanka to locate Sita, he assumes a colossal form to leap across the ocean. This giant form showcases his immense power and determination. Upon reaching Lanka, he transforms back into a small, cat-like figure to remain undetected as he searches for Sita in Ravana's kingdom.

3. Hanuman’s Meeting with Sita:

In Lanka, Hanuman maintains a tiny, cat-like form to avoid detection by the Rakshasas (demons). When he finally meets Sita in the Ashoka Vatika, he reveals his true form to her. This transition from a small, sneaky form to his actual size reassures Sita and establishes his divine connection and trustworthiness.

4. Hanuman’s Confrontation with Lankini:

As Hanuman roams Lanka, he encounters Lankini, the guardian demoness of Lanka’s gates. Initially, Hanuman is in a small form, but when Lankini challenges him, he grows into a giant size and strikes her down with a powerful blow. This act not only demonstrates his strength but also fulfills a prophecy that her defeat by a monkey signifies the beginning of Lanka's downfall.

5. Hanuman in the Battle of Lanka:

During the battle of Lanka, Hanuman uses his shapeshifting abilities to great advantage. He transforms into various forms to combat the demons, sometimes becoming colossal to crush his enemies and at other times shrinking to evade attacks. His ability to change size and shape at will makes him a formidable warrior in the epic battle.

6. Hanuman’s Form as a Brahmin:

To comfort Sita, who is tormented by Ravana, Hanuman decides to reveal his true nature by taking the form of a Brahmin priest. In this guise, he conveys Rama’s message and assures Sita of Rama’s imminent arrival and rescue. This compassionate transformation helps in instilling hope and courage in Sita.

7. Hanuman's Journey to Bring the Sanjeevani Herb:

When Lakshmana is severely wounded during the battle, Hanuman is sent to fetch the Sanjeevani herb from the Dronagiri mountain. Hanuman grows into a gigantic form to leap across to the Himalayas. Unable to identify the herb among the many on the mountain, he lifts the entire mountain and carries it back to the battlefield. This display of his colossal form underscores his strength and dedication.

8. Hanuman's Test by Sita:

After the battle, Sita wishes to honor Hanuman for his devotion and bravery. When asked to take any form, Hanuman humbly chooses the form of a small, simple monkey instead of a grand or majestic figure, demonstrating his humility and devotion.

9. Hanuman in the Sundara Kanda:

The Sundara Kanda section of the Ramayana particularly highlights Hanuman's shapeshifting abilities. Throughout this journey, he continually changes his size to overcome obstacles, blend in, or confront enemies, showcasing his versatility and resourcefulness.

10. Hanuman's Role in the Ramcharitmanas:

In Tulsidas's Ramcharitmanas, Hanuman is often depicted using his shapeshifting abilities for divine play and to teach lessons of humility and devotion. For instance, he sometimes appears as a simple monk or hermit, reflecting his desire to serve rather than seek glory.

Significance of Shapeshifting in Hanuman's Stories:

Hanuman's ability to change form is symbolic of his multifaceted nature:

  • Adaptability and Resourcefulness: His transformations represent his capacity to adapt to different situations, whether it be in combat, stealth, or diplomacy.
  • Divine Power: His shapeshifting is a testament to his divine nature and his status as a deity capable of transcending physical limitations.
  • Humility and Devotion: Even with his immense power, Hanuman often chooses forms that reflect humility and his deep devotion to Lord Rama, emphasizing his role as a selfless servant.

Through these tales, Hanuman's shapeshifting not only propels the narrative forward but also highlights his unique qualities that make him one of the most revered and beloved figures in Hindu mythology.