The true beginning of Hanuman’s story begins in the court of heaven, of whom Indra is the king and Bhiraspati is the priest-advisor. In this court, a beautiful nymph, Punjkasthala, was persecuted for her indiscretions. She was sentenced to be reborn as a vanara, half-monkey and half human. Upon her grieving and remorse, the sentence was diminished, and she was told that she would be freed of the curse when she gave birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
In her next life, the woman was born as Anjani. She married another vanara, Kesari, who was brave and strong. Due to her past karma, her in born gunas inspired her to worship Shiva for years and years. Finally, Shiva was pleased with her penance and blessed her by saying that she would give birth to His next avatar, or incarnation.
In Ayodhya, Emperor Dashrath was severely disturbed by his disposition. He had three wives but no children. He sought help from his priest-advisor Vashishta. Vashishta instructed him to perform a yagna, or pooja and the demigods would surely be pleased and grant him boons. So Dashrath performed the pooja according to proper Vedic rites and finally, at the end of the pooja, when the fire went out, a bowl of payasa, or rice pudding was left in place of the fire. Priests instructed Dashrath to give each one of his wives some of the payasa. He gave each of his four wives, Koushalya, Kei Kei and Sumitra some of the payasa. When each of the wives had got their payasa, there was still some left in the bowl. Suddenly, a large bird came and snatched the bowl away. As the bird flew towards his home over the forest, by the force of a strong wind, he dropped the bowl. Under the point where he dropped the bowl, Anjani was performing meditation with outstretched hands. The bowl was guided by the wind and landed in Anjani’s hand. Recognizing that the dropping of the payasa in her hand was no mistake. Anjani ate it. Soon, Koushalya gave birth to Shri Ramachandra, an incarnation of Sri Hari Vishnu, Kei Kei gave birth to Bharat, Sumitra gave birth to twins, Laxman and Shatrughna, and Anjani gave birth to Shri Hanuman, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Since His birth was secured by the wind, His godfather became Pavan, the divine personification of the wind and His true parents were Anjani and Kesari. His parents named him Anjaneya.
Seconds after Anjaneya was born, He became very hungry. Looking around the sky, he caught a glimpse of the sun. Seeing the sun’s bright color and round shape, the Baby mistook it for a fruit and leaped towards it. His leap was so great that he reached the sun in no time. Opening his mouth wide, He swallowed the sun and the entire galaxy was overcame with darkness and lifelessness. Rahu, who controlled the eclipses, was unable to do his job when he saw that the baby had swallowed the sun. He rushed to Indra and reported that a demon baby had eaten the sun. Enraged, Indra mounted his elephant and flew towards the sun. Upon seeing the baby with the sun in his mouth, Indra struck Anjaneya with his bajra, or lightning bolt. The bolt struck Anjaneya on his chin which broke and Anjaneya fell unconscious back to earth. In Sanskrit, Hanu means chin, and therefore Anjaneya came to be known as Hanuman.
As Hanuman fell through the atmosphere, Pavan saw that his child had been injured by Indra and lay unconscious on the ground. He grew enraged and took hold of all pran vayu, or oxygen. All of earth’s creatures began to die. All other gods soon intervened and negotiated. They brought Hanuman back to consciousness and each gave him powers and boons. For example, Yam gave him immortality, Brahma gave him immunity to the Brahma Astra, Indra gave him more strength than the Vajra, etc.
As Hanuman grew up, he became a very mischievous child. He was known to use his powers to play tricks on Rishis. On one such day, when Hanuman enraged one Rishi, the Rishi took him back to Anjani and told her that he cursed her child, that until he used his God given powers for good, he would forget how to use them. Hanuman did not use his powers any longer.
Time came for Hanuman to be educated. Since no Rishis would accept Hanuman, he flew back to the sun and asked Surjya to be his guru. Surjya agreed. Hanuman mastered all the scriptures, arts, philosophies and other skills in a very short time of only 60 hours. He became the strongest, smartest, most skilled being to ever live, an ideal human though He was a monkey. Hanuman then asked Surjya what he wanted for guru dakshina or tuition fees. Surjya instructed Hanuman to aid his son Sugriv in the southern state of Kishkindha. He also instructed that this would lead him to meet Lord Sri Ram, who would be his best friend and master forever. Hanuman paid a visit to his family who wished to return back to heaven as they were free from their curse and their son had grown. They returned to heaven and Hanuman set off for Kishkindha, where Sugriv lived.
Meeting of Hanuman with Rama is an important episode in the epic as from then on Hanuman was a great follower of Rama. At the latter part of the fourteen years exile, Rama and his brother Lakshmana were in search for Sita, who had been abducted by the Rakshasa emperor Ravana. They came near the mountain Rishyamukha where Sugriva and his followers along with Hanuman were hiding from his elder brother Vali, who had cast him out of the kingdom and kept his wife captive.
Sugriva sent Hanuman when he saw Rama and Lakshmana coming to ascertain their identities. Hanuman approached to them in the guise of a Brahmin and talked to them in such a way that Rama was very impressed. When Rama introduced himself, Hanuman revealed his own identity and fell prostrate before Rama`s feet. Rama embraced him warmly and then after Hanuman`s life was interwoven intimately with that of Rama. Hanuman introduced Rama with Sugriva and they committed for a friendship. He helped Sugriva to defeat Vali in battle and regain his kingdom. Sugriva with his monkey army assisted Rama to rescue Sita.
In the search of Sita a group of Vanaras reached on the southern seashore. They were sad seeing the vast see and thought how to cross it. Then wise bear Jambavanta reminded Hanuman about his power. Hanuman recalled his own ability and enlarged his body to cross the ocean in one jump. On his way a mountain that emerged from the seat offered him a rest on it, as it owed his father a debt. Hanuman did not want to waste time and proceeded on his way. He then encountered a sea-monster who challenged him to enter her mouth. Hanuman became larger and larger and so did the monster. Finally Hanuman became suddenly small and entered through the earof the monster and came out from her mouth. Thus he outwitted her. Finally Hanuman reached Lanka, the kingdom of ravana after killing Simhika, a shadow-eater Rakshasa.
Hanuman was marveled at the beauty of Lanka. He could find Sita in the Ashoka forest, sitting depressed and being observed by the `Cheri`s (the female Rakshasa). Hanuman revealed his identity to Sita and assured her that Rama was looking for him and soon she will be set free from captivity. She offered Sita to carry her back to Rama but Sita refused, as it would be disgraceful for Rama.
After meeting Sita Hanuman stated destroying Lanka and Ashokban. He killed many Rakshas including Jambumalli and Akshaa. After all the demons were failure to kill him Ravana`s son Indrajit came and applied a weapon Brahmastra on him. Though Hanuman was resistant to the weapon yet he allowed himself to be caught by Rakshasa in reverence to Brahma.The Rakshasa bound him and took him to the king Ravana. Hanuman thought that this was the opportunity to meet Brahma as well as assess the power of the Rakshasas. Rakshas made Hanuman to parade through the streets. Finally he reached Ravana`s court where Ravan insulted him by not offering him any seat. Hanuman extended his tail and coiled it and sat over it in such a way so that he attained a higher position than Ravana`s throne. He conveyed Ravana Rama`s message that Rama is willing to forgive him if he returns Sita with honour.
Ravana wanted to kill Hanuman. But his brother Vibheeshana intervened saying that the messengers could not be killed. Ravana then ordered to lit Hanuman`s tail. Hanuman began to lengthen his tail to such a great extent that Rakshasas, who were wrapping it with clothes, had no more clothes and felt tired. When they finally lit the tail, Hanuman changed his profile to a smaller one and could escape from the ropes. Trailing his inflamed tail, he set fire to all over Lanka. When the golden Lanka was burning, Hanuman extinguished his tail in the sea and heads back to Rama.
During the war between Rama and Ravana, Hanumana defeated Lankini, who was the principal guard of the city Lanka. When Lakshmana was severely wounded in the battle by Indrajit, Hanuman was sent to fetch Sanjivani, a powerful life-restoring herb from Dronagiri Mountain in the Himalayas to revive him. Ravana sent his maternal uncle Kalnemi to tempt Hanuman away with luxury but Hanuman killed him. He was unable to recognize the particular herb before nightfall and lifted entire Dronagiri Mountain to the battlefield in Lanka. Others helped to find the Sanjivani and Lakshmana got well. Rama became very emotional and hugged Hanuman declaring him as dear as his closest brother Lakshmana.
Once in the war Rama and Lakshmana were captured by the black magic done by Ahiravana and Mahiravana, who put them in captivity in Patala. Searching for them Hanuman reaches Patala, where Makardhwaja was guarding the gate. Makardhwaja was Hanuman`s son and partly fish and partly monkey. Hanuman did not know Makardhwaja was his son but he knew his father`s name though he never saw him. When Hanuman put his burning tail in the sea, a drop of sweat had fallen in the ocean. A female fish swallowed the droplet and became pregnant. This was discovered when the fish was brought to Mahiravana`s kitchen for cooking. Mahiravana rose up the child and employed him as a guard of Patalpuri`s gate. Makaradhwaja asked for Hanuman`s blessings but he fought a battle against him as his duty. Hanumana defeated Makardhwaja and tied him before entering Patalapuri to save Rama and Lakshman.
While he entered the Patala, Hanuman discovered that he must extinguish five lamps simultaneously, which are placed in five different directions in order to kill Mahiravana. Hanumana assumed a five-faced form (Panchamukha), consisting of Varaha, Narasimha, Garuda, Hayagriva and his own. Thus he could kill the Rakshasa and rescued Rama and Lakshmana. After this, Rama asked Hanuman to crown Makardhwaja as the king of Patalpuri.
After the completion of the war, Rama realized that his fourteen years of exile is about to be completed. He calculated that it would be a little late to reach Ayodhya. He remembered Bharata`s vow that he would immolate himself if Rama did not return to Ayodhya immediately after the inauspicious fourteen years are over. Hanuman again helped Rama to solve the problem. He speeded to Ayodhya to inform Bharata that Rama-Sita and Lakshmana was on their way back.
After returning to Ayodhya, Rama was crowned as the emperor of the kingdom. All of his friend and allies were awarded and honoured. Rama declared that he could never repay Hanuman for the assistance and services he offered to Rama. Sita however insisted to reward Hanuman with a great honour. Upon Hanuman`s request Sita gave her a necklace of precious stones from her neck. After receiving it, Hanuman immediately took it apart and peered each stone. Being asked for such behavior, Hanuman replied that he was making sure that Rama and Sita were present in each stone; otherwise the necklace would have no value to him. Few among the present guests mocked Hanuman saying that his love for Rama and Sita was not as deep as he was portraying. In reply, Hanuman tore his chest open, and everyone noticed with great surprise that Rama and Sita were literally present at his heart.
Legend of Sindoor on Lord Hanuman’s Body: According to a popular belief, once when Sita was applying sindoora to her hair, Hanuman asked her the reason for doing so. She replied that by applying sindoora, she ensured a long life for her husband. The more sindoora she applied, the longer Rama’s life would be. The devoted Hanuman then smeared his entire body with sindoora, in an effort to ensure Rama’s immortality. Hence Hanuman’s idol is always daubed with sindoora.
After the completion of the war Hanuman went to Himalayas and continued his prayer to the Lord. There he wrote one Ramayana on the rocks of the mountain using his own nails. Later to satisfy Valmiki, Hanuman threw his creations in the sea.
When time came for Rama to set his journey for heavenly abode, many of his followers including Sugriva wanted to follow him. But Hanuman requested to remain on earth as long as people would venerate the name of Rama. Sita granted his prayer. Thus Hanuman is one of the Chiranjeevis (immortals) in Hinduism.
There is reference of Hanuman in Mahabharata, too. Hanuman is considered as brother of second Pandava, Bhima, who is also the son of Vayu. When Pandavas were in exile Hanuman appeared in the guise of a weak and aged monkey. His motto was to teach Bhima the value of humility and subdue his arrogance. Bhima entered a field where Hanuman was lying with his tail blocking the way. Bhima asked Hanuman to remove his tail without being aware of his true identity. Hanuman asked him to remove it by himself. Bhima tried a lot with all his power but he was failure. Bhima realized that the monkey was not the ordinary one but more powerful and superior to him. He asked his identity. Hanuman revealed his true individuality and two brothers then hugged each other. On Bhima`s request Hanuman showed him his enlarged form, which he used while crossing the sea in quest of Sita.
Hanuman also encountered with the third Pandava, Arjuna. When Arjuna was in Rameshwaram he saw the bridge built by the monkey battalion. He wondered why Rama took the help of the Vanaras, while he could make a bridge of arrows by his own. Hanuman appeared before him as a small monkey and asked to build him a bridge, which would be capable of bearing him alone. Unaware of the true identity of the monkey, Arjuna took the challenge and destroyed the bridge repeatedly as soon Arjuna built it. Arjuna was so upset about his failure that he wanted to commit suicide. Then Lord Vishnu appeared. He rebuked Arjuna for his vanity and also scolded Hanuman for making the accomplished warrior Arjuna feel incompetent. As an act of penitence, Hanuman promised Arjuna to help him by stabilizing and strengthening his chariot during the great battle of Kurukshetra. Arjuna had the sign of Hanuman on the flag of his chariot. Legends say that, Hanuman is the one of the three who heard Gita directly from Srikrishna`s mouth, the other two being Sanjaya and Arjuna himself.