The story goes that one fine day, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati watched monkeys play on the snow-clad slopes of Mount Kailash. The duo decided that they would like to do the same and instantly transformed themselves into monkeys. They swung from tree to tree and feasted on the juicy fruits of the forest.
While their transformation into simians was brief, by the time they returned to their human forms, Parvati realised that she was with child. Shortly thereafter, she gave birth to a baby monkey.
Shiva then called for Vayu, the God of the Wind. As the Wind God, Vayu was everywhere and could come and go everywhere. His knowledge of the world was unparalleled and second to none. He knew of a race of intelligent simian beings known as the Vanaras who resided in the Kishkinda Forest.
The King and Queen of the Vanaras were distraught at being childless. So one day, as the King and Queen prayed at the temple for a child, Vayu placed the baby on the Queen’s lap. Overjoyed that their prayers were finally answered, they named the baby Anjaneya.
Baby Anjaneya grew extremely fast; faster than any normal child. His appetite was enormous. When the baby was no longer a baby and big enough to find his own food, Anjaneya’s mother pointed at the sun in the night sky and said, “From now on, you can gather fruits for yourself from the forest. You will know which fruits are good to eat because any fruit that is red like the sun will be ripe.”
Anjaneya was an intelligent boy. He said, “The fruits of the forest are so small. The sun seems to be a big and red fruit and therefore it must be ripe. It is the Sun that will satisfy my insatiable hunger.”
With the power of his father, Shiva and his foster father Vayu, Anjaneya leapt high into the sky and ballooned into an enormous size. Surya, the Sun God, was seated on his fire chariot that was harnessed by numerous illuminating horses. The horses were speeding across the sky, bringing light to the world.
Anjaneya simply reached out and grabbed the Sun, his horses and the chariot and put it into his mouth. The entire sky darkened.
Indra, the King of Heaven called upon Agni, the Lord of Fire and asked, “What has caused this darkness? Something must be blocking the sun.”
“Throw your powerful thunderbolt at it,” Agni said.
Indra unleashed his terrible thunderbolt and sent it hurling through the sky. Mounting his white elephant which was guided by the light of the stars, Indra sped towards the sun that was captive in Hanuman’s mouth.
The thunderbolt struck Anjaneya on the side of his face and broke his jaw. Anjaneya pulled the weapon from his cheek but did not release Surya. Indra then ran to Brahma, the Creator of the Gods.
Brahma gathered the Gods and approached Anjaneya. They asked him politely if he would open his mouth and release the Sun.
“Why should I?” Anjaneya responded through clenched teeth.
The Gods then began to grant Anjaneya a variety of boons. Brahma granted him long life. Indra promised him fame. Agni gave him immunity from fire. Vayu said that he would be as fast as the wind.
But Anjaneya was unimpressed with these blessings. What he wanted more than anything else was for the pain in his jaw to stop hurting.
Brahma could read Anjaneya’s mind. He said “I know how to mend your jaw.” Brahma poured water from his magical waterpot on Anjaneya’s cheek. At once, the jaw stopped hurting.
Then Jupiter, the Great Guru, stepped forward. “We know that you are hungry, Anjaneya. That is why you ate the sun.”
Anjaneya nodded. He could still feel his stomach rumbling. Jupiter said, “The sun is not good to eat. In fact, it is not even food. We would like to give you a blessing. It is with ease that you will gather fruits from all over the world to satisfy your hunger.”
Anjaneya still did not release the sun from his mouth, but he tilted his head to one side. Guru continued, “I will grant you the knowledge of the use of herbs. From these plants, you’ll be able to make all types of medicine to cure, to heal and to make whole again that which is hurt, healing or injured.”
Anjaneya opened his mouth. With a flood of light, the glorious Surya flew out with his blazing chariot. The sky became radiantly bright once more.
From that day on, Anjaneya was called Hanuman, which means the one with the healed jaw. Hanuman went on to eat many wonderful fruits and came to possess all about healing herbs. He became famous throughout India and the world, as the bravest aide of King Rama.
But that is another story for another day.