Different from most of his images : painted, sculpted or cast, that seek more and more refinement and sophistication in his appearance, this statue of Hanuman, a little rough and uncouth, reveals an ethnic look and seems to revive his image as it was used in the basic cult of Hanuman worship, when the deity and the devotee were in closer affinity and were informally linked and interacted. In early sculptures emphasis is on representing him as ‘Kapi’ – monkey, though in human role. It seems that after his images began enshrining the altars of nobility, rich and elite, his images were refined on formal lines to suit the taste of this new class of devotees. Obviously, such images were more and more humanized, abounded in great sophistication and were lavishly ornamented and its monkey aspect was only nominal.
Unlike such formal image in this statue his appearance is more lifelike and close to his ethnic image, in physiognomy, body-colour, expressions on the face and in discovering each of his body-hair. As on a monkey’s body, the statue has been conceived with body hair on every part, arms, legs, chest, belly ... Even his face contained within the body-hair’s oval frame is more liker a monkey-face. This ethnic character reveals in other features also. Most of the ornaments on his body consisting mostly of large beads, heavy and flat, especially the large rough-tough ‘kundalas’ – ear-ornaments, bangles and breast-ornaments, have great ethnic touch. His hair seems to have been braided to substitute his headgear. His ensemble consists of a loincloth and a sash, both having the appearance of thickly woven textiles adorned with simple geometrical flat patterns. He has around his waist a rough ‘pataka’ – waistband, tied as would a rustic. With roughly modeled legs, feet, hands, neck and face even the anatomy of his figure reveals the deity’s primitive character. Even the Vaishnava ‘tilaka’ mark on the forehead, obviously a formal element, lacks sophistication.
This form of Hanuman’s image is based on one the most significant events in the Rama-katha. The war between Rama and Ravana was in its decisive phase. In its course Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, was seriously injured by the ‘shakti’ – a divine weapon of Meghanatha, the Ravana’s eldest son. Under its effect Lakshmana swooned. An aggrieved Rama declared that he too would end his life with Lakshmana. Consoling him Vibhishana, Ravana’s younger brother who had joined Rama’s camp, revealed that Ravana’s personal physician Susena alone could cure Lakshmana of the effect of ‘shakti’ but living in Ravana’s palace zone he could not be brought. However, Hanuman decided to go and within minutes brought Susena along with his cot he was sleeping on. After examining Lakshmana Susena told that he could be cured if ‘Sanjivini’, a herb growing on mount Dron, was applied to his wound before sunrise for in the light of the sun the poison of the weapon would incurably spread. Taking his Master’s permission Hanuman set out to fetch ‘Sanjivini’. He reached mount Dron but when looking for the herb that radiated like a star, as Susena had specified, Hanuman was bewildered to see that the whole mountain was glistening like the moon. When not able to identify the herb he uprooted the entire mountain and carried it to Rama’s camp and the life of Lakshmana was saved.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.