This is the story of Pawanputra Hanuman, the mighty monkey-god. Do you know how he was born? The story of his birth is as fascinating as his mighty deeds.
But to know about Hanuman, we have to go back sometime before his birth. Let us go to the palace of Lord Brahma where it all started.
Do you know who Lord Brahma is? He is the Hindu god of creation. He is believed to live in a beautiful divine palace in his heavenly abode. Such wasthe beauty of the palace that it was a constant source of amazement for even the deities.
There were a number of attendants in the celestial palace-courts of Lord Brahma. Among them was a beautiful attendant named Anjana. Once, happy with her service, Lord Brahma decided to reward her. He called her and asked what she wanted.
Anjana hesitated at first. Then she replied "Lord, I wish you could remove a curse pronounced on me by a sage,"
"Tell me about it. Maybe I can help you" said Lord Brahma.
Hopeful that her curse may be removed, Anjana continued "When I was playing as a child on earth, once I saw a monkeymeditating with its legs folded in a lotus pose, like a human sage. It was a funny sight; so I threw some fruits at it."
"But here I made a mistake. For it was no ordinary monkey. A powerful sage had taken the form of a monkey to do his tapasya (spiritual practice). My fruits disturbed his penance and he opened his eyes in great indignation."
"As soon as he saw me, he cursed me that I would become a monkey when I fall in love with anyone. I begged him to forgive me."
"The sage said that as he had already uttered it, he couldn't change the curse. But he assured me that the man I fall in love with will love me in spite of my monkey face."
"Lord Brahma, I was born and brought up here. How can I live with a monkey face among my beautiful sisters? If you kindly grant me a boon to become my usual self, I will be very much obliged," she said anxiously.
Brahma felt sorry for the unfortunate apsara. He thought for a moment. Then he lifted his eyes towards the anxious Anjana.
"I see a way for removing your curse, Anjana," he said kindly. "Go to earth and live there for a while. You will meet your husband on earth and your curse will be removed if you - give birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva," said Lord Brahma.
Anjana accepted Brahma's advice. She was born in the earth shortly afterwards. She lived in a forest as a young huntress.
One day she saw a strong man fighting with a lion. "What a brave man!" she thought in wonder. "How I wish he will look at me!"
As Anjana looked at the warrior in admiration, the man turned and saw her. As soon as his eyes fell on her, she turned into a monkey!
With a pathetic cry, Anjana sank to the ground and covered her face with her hands. Seeing her fall to the ground, the man came running towards her.
"Who are you fair maiden? Why do you cry? Uncover your face. Let me see you," he asked her.
"I cannot, brave man," Anjana answered gloomily. "I am Anjana, an apsara cursed to become a monkey when I fall in love. I request you to please leave me alone in my sorrow," she wailed and peeked at the handsome man through her fingers.
To her great astonishment she found a big monkey-faced man standing before her! If she didn't see his face at first, it was because she couldn't and because till now she saw him from a distance.
The monkey-faced man understood her surprise. He spoke. "I am not human, though I can take the human form if I want. I am Kesari, the king of Monkeys, blessed by Lord Shiva with magical powers. If you become my wife, I will be honoured. Would you honour me by becoming my wife, dear Anjana?".
Anjana became very happy. She accepted his proposal.
"Then the sage's word was indeed true," thought Anjana, "Kesari didn't mind my appearance because he himself is a monkey!"
Anjana and Kesari were married in the forests. Being a pious devotee, Anjana performed intense tapasya, worshipping Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva was pleased with her. He appeared before her and asked her what she wanted.
"Lord Shiva, I wish you to be born as my son, so that I can be freed from the sage's curse," requested Anjana.
"So be it!". Lord Shiva gave his consent and disappeared.
Soon after this, one day, as Anjana was worshipping Lord Shiva, in another part of the country, Dasaratha, the king of Ayodhya, was performing a yagna (religious rite) to have children. It was the Putrakama Yagna. As a result, Agni, the Fire-God gave him some sacred payasa (pudding) and asked him to share the payasa among his wives so that they may have divine children.
Here, Lord Shiva's boon to Anjana started to work. While Dasaratha gave payasa to his elder wife Kausalya, by divine ordinance a kite snatched a portion of that pudding.
Holding the pudding in its tails, the kite-bird flew away from Ayodhya towards the forests Anjana lived. It flew over the dense trees and dropped the payasa where Anjana was engaged in tapasya.
Vayu, the ever-present Wind-God, saw this event. "Go, Vayu!" he heard a silent command in his mind from Lord Shiva. Vayu immediately caught that portion of pudding and placed onto the outstretched hands of Anjana.
Anjana felt something drop in her hand. She opened her eyes and looked at the payasa in her hand. "Is this offering from Lord Shiva?" she wondered and swallowed it.
As the divine pudding went inside her throat, Anjana immediately felt the blessings of Lord Shiva. In due course, she gave birth to a little monkey-faced boy. Kesari was very happy to see his son. The child was called as Anjaneya or the son of Anjana.
Having given birth to Lord Shiva's incarnation, Anjana was released from the curse of the sage. She began to express her wish to return to Heaven.