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Insight into Verse 7
Hath Bajra aur dhvaja birajai
Kandhe moonj janeu sajai
You hold the mace of the thunderbolt and a flag in your hands. The sacred thread of Munja grass adorns your shoulders.
In the first line of Verse 7, Tulsidas says that Hanuman’s hand carries the “bajra” and a “dhvaja”. Bajra means “thunderbolt”, a weapon attributed to Lord Indra, and dhvaja means flag. But when we actually look at Hanuman’s image, we see that his weapon is a gadha (mace), not a thunderbolt. And we don’t usually see him carrying a flag. So what exactly is Tulsidas referring to in this verse?
The description refers to lines on the palm of Hanuman’s hands rather than objects which he carries. In Indian palmistry, the line of “bajra” reflects great power, while the “dhvaja” is a formation of lines relating to fame and renown. Hanuman’s palms reflected a person whose tendency was towards great power and fame.
It should be noted that destiny in Hindu philosophy is not something which is set in stone and cannot be changed – this is a serious misinterpretation. Destiny is a certain force or tendency that exists in our lives, as a result of past karma. But what we do with our destiny is our self effort. We can become a master of our destiny or a slave to it.
Unfortunately, many people who are born with such great potential as a result of the force of their past karma mess up their lives, squandering their innate power, lacking the self control to wield it wisely. Hanuman on the other hand with his self-effort not only fulfilled his destiny but enlarged and enriched it.
The second line of this verse refers to Hanuman wearing a sacred thread (Janeu), which was typically made of munja grass. In Hinduism the sacred thread is given to a young student in a ceremony called the Upanayana. The sacred thread is a cultural symbol that signifies to a young person who wears it that they have a responsibility for the attainment of cultural knowledge, self-control and self-effort. It tells the youth to preserve some of their energy and vitality and channel to a higher purpose.
The Janeu represents qualities which can allow one to make the correct use of one’s innate tendencies or destiny. Hanuman was the very epitome of these qualities. Therefore, this verse shows that Hanuman was born with a mighty destiny and through his own self-efforts not only fulfilled his potential but went much further.
Insight into Verse 8
Shankar Suvan Kesarinandan
Tej pratap maha jaga bandan
You are known as the son of Lord Shankara and also the son of Kesari. Your lustre and glory is praised by the whole world.
The first line of this verse describes Hanuman as the son of both Lord Shankar and Kesari (Kesari was Hanuman’s actual father who brought him up). Elsewhere in the Hanuman Chalisa (verse 2), Hanuman is also described as the son of Pavan Deva (the Lord of the Wind).
Obviously, taken literally this will get confusing. How many fathers can one person have?! But as with the rest of the chant the meaning is mystical and spiritual rather than materially literal.
A person exists on three plains, the spiritual, the life force or life breath, and the physical body. These are our sources. The spiritual corresponds to Lord Shiva, who is the inner pure consciousness, the life force is Pavan Deva, and the physical corresponds to Kesari.
Normally, we are only in tune with our physical origin, but do not develop an awareness and harmony with the other origins of our being, which are actually more enduring and important. Hanuman was a yogi who had unified spirit, life force and gross physical being, neglecting none of these. He was spiritually aware, mentally and physically strong and agile, and full of vitality.
Such a great yogi develops a luster and brilliance which is immediately recognized and praised by all who come into contact with him. The second line of the verse hence says “Tej pratap maha jaga bandan,” meaning “Your luster and glory is praised by the whole world”.
It should be noted that some people believe Hanuman to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva rather than a son of Lord Shiva. It matters little, however, because spiritually the meaning remains the same.