My Hanuman Chalisa by Devdutt Pattanaik
Hanuman Chalisa is the most commonly chanted set of verses in India. Written by Goswami Tulsidas after he wrote Ram Charita Manas – these 40 verses are dedicated to Hanuman, the biggest devotee of Lord Ram.
My parents tell me that I could recite the whole Hanuman Chalisa at the age of 4. Let me tell you, I am not unique, many children in India are made to memorize this. Parents do this probably to save them from any evil or danger. They also tell the children that if they feel fear, all they have to do is chant Hanuman Chalisa. And Hanuman Ji will take care of them. In the popular culture as well, we see Chaupais of Hanuman Chalisa being recited.
Hanuman Chalisa is written in simple Awadhi – not too difficult to understand if you sit down to understand the verses. However, such is our relationship with Hanuman Chalisa that we do not care to understand it or analyze it. It is good enough for us that it takes care of us. It is good enough that the verses naturally come to our tongue when we need them loaded with the faith that Lord Hanuman is just a chant away.
Devdutt Pattanaik is someone who interprets the Indic Texts for laypersons. You may not agree with him all the time. But he does present an easy to understand interpretation for the age of logic and reasoning.
Devdutt explains the verses of Hanuman Chalisa – verse by verse. He brings in the relevant stories to explain each verse. Since most stories are rooted in Ramayana – if you know the Ramayana, you would know these stories. However, these are stories you can always read again and understand from a different perspective. There are stories of Hanuman with Surya who is his father in a way. There are stories of Lanka and Ravana. And there are stories of interactions between Hanuman and Ram – how even when it is Hanuman who helps Ram in getting Sita back, it is Hanuman who chooses to be the devotee of Ram. There are stories of Anjani – the monkey woman who mothered Hanuman.
He talks about Hanuman in other Asians countries like China & Thailand. He tells us how the legend of Hanuman traveled from India to these countries. And he also takes the time to explain his favorite line of thought – the difference between monotheist philosophies and polytheist India.
What I learned from this book:
Bajrangi comes from Vajra + Angi, meaning the one who absorbed the thunderbolt in his body.
I never knew that a sect also believes Hanuman is an incarnation of Shiva. This brings in the whole new perspective of interactions between incarnations of Vishnu and Shiva and their Treta Yuga Avatar.
I learned that every time Ram Katha is told, a seat is left empty for Hanuman. It is believed that Hanuman always comes to listen to the story of Ram, no matter where.
I like the way Devdutt explains the flow of Hanuman Chalisa – how a devotee starts with stating the purpose of reciting. How he then opens up different aspects of Hanuman before closing with a wish that Hanuman stays in their heart along with Ram, Laxman, and Sita.
I liked the fact that author and editor put the verse in Devanagari, in English and then a translation in English. There are a couple of places where I did not agree with the translation of Devdutt. Like Rasayana, in my opinion, does not translate to Chemistry in Hanuman Chalisa – it refers to the ‘rasa’ of Ram or Hanuman as Rasika of Ram Katha. Similarly ‘sab sukh karai’ does not mean – gives full delight. I know it is not easy to translate with the limitations of English but still. ‘Jo Sat Var path kar koi’ in my opinion refers to the one who reads Hanuman Chalisa all seven days and not to one who reads it 100 times. It would then be – Shat baar not Sat Vaar.
Devdutt mentions a temple in Hyderabad that shows Hanuman with a wife – while Hanuman is celebrated as the celibate God. I am keen to know which temple.
It is a simple quick read – that will make Hanuman Chalisa meaningful for you for your next chanting.
You can finish the whole book in an hour or so if you know Hanuman Chalisa.
Read my review of other related books:
- My Gita by Devdutt Pattanaik
- The Leadership Sutra by Devdutt Pattanaik
- Myth=Mithya by Devdutt Pattanaik
- Who wrote BhagwadaGita by Meghnad Desai
- Yuganta by Iravati Karve