I had seen this image of Hanuman with Lords Ram & Lakshman posted upon the occasion of the former’s Jayanti and I did a double-take.
I’d been answering a question around Hanuman as an ‘Avatar’ or ‘Form’ of Shiva / Rudra on Hanuman Jayanti … and there we had Hanuman, appearing garbed in a Blue Hood.
Now, Rudra is, as we all know, expressed in the Nordic view of the Indo-European Gods as Odin …
Who is known for going in disguise (hence the ‘Grimnir’ epithetic theonym – ‘The Hooded One’ or ‘The Masked One’), and, we can infer from the Grimnismal, also to test the virtue of men (a feature shared with the Sky Father deific understanding in, say, Ancient Greece, where we find Zeus doing much the same thing viz. Xenia custom adherence specifically).
That hood, in case you were wondering, is a blue one.
To quote from the Grimnismal directly upon the subject:
“Sá var í feldi blám ok nefndist Grímnir”
‘blár’ being the ‘blue’ (it is, strictly speaking, ‘blue-black’, ‘corpse-black’, ‘bruise-black’, etc.), and ‘feldr’ being the ‘cloak’ or ‘mantle’.
This is not a detail confined to the Grimnismal – to quote from the Volsung Saga:
“Ok er orrosta hafði staðit um hríð, þá kom maðr í bardagann með síðan hött ok heklu blá. Hann hafði eitt auga ok geir í hendi. “
Because I am being rather lazy at this hour, we shall just go with the Morris – Magnusson translation:
“But now whenas the battle had dured a while, there came a man into the fight clad in a blue cloak, and with a slouched hat on his head, one-eyed he was, and bare a bill [Spear] in his hand”.
Now the context for the latter encounter is rather different to that of the former. But it does show Odin in this blue cloak (heklu blá) to be a more pervasive phenomenon … indeed, part of a suite of ‘standard’ iconographic elements via which one is to recognize Him even without names being referred to.
Part of a bit of a ‘paradox’, in some ways – as features which are, ostensibly , those of ‘disguise’ and ‘not being recognized’ (c.f. the ‘Grimnir’ self-declaring in naming … ) become, well, ‘iconic’ and a calling-card. I digress.
The encounter between Hanuman and Rama and Laxman is also one of ‘testing’, albeit not in quite the fashion of Odin testing the unfortunate king Geirroth.
Rather, Hanuman was at this stage an agent of the exiled Vanara king, Sugriva. This figure had, for reasons we shall not be going into here, a concern that his elder brother, Vali, would attempt to have him killed – and therefore took the reports of two strange armed men coming into his area with understandable caution.
He sent Hanuman out in order to divine what the newcomers were about, whether they were truly in service of Vali or were something else entirely.
Due to the nature of Sugriva and Vali as Vanaras (as is Hanuman), it was therefore decided that Hanuman could not appear in Vanara form (as it should instantly alert anybody sent by Vali that the emissary was likely in service to another such being); and should instead therefore go disguised as a human – and so he went as a Bhiksu, often translated rather earnestly as a ‘Renunciate’ or ‘Sadhu’, although we might also translate it more directly as ‘Beggar’. The root being a term for doing just exactly that in Sanskrit, Bhikṣ (भिक्ष्), from PIE *bʰeh₂g- (which, oddly enough, appears not to be where the modern English ‘Beg’ is derived from).
We are reminded, of course, of the Bhikshatana phase to the myth of KaalBhairava, wherein immediately following His decapitation in Divine Fury and Holy Sanction of Lord Brahma, Bhairava goes into a period of Exile which is thusly named due to His appearing in just such a manner.
And, of course, we have Zeus appearing as a Beggar in such fashions … to quote from the Odyssey …
“[Eumaeus said:] “Nay, stranger, it were not right for me, even though one meaner than thou were to come, to slight a stranger: for from Zeus are all strangers and beggars, and a gift, though small, is welcome from such as we;”
These words does he speak to Odysseus, come back in disguise to Ithaca. A figure Whom we have often noted to be of a certain ‘resonance’ in the (more-)mythic, divine sphere.
Note that the word being rendered here as ‘stranger’ is the well-known ‘Xenos’ ( ξένος ) – perhaps better understood here as ‘Guest’; ‘Beggar’, meanwhile, is πτωχοί (πτωχός – ‘Ptokhos’) .. .which, whilst we won’t get into the etymology of here (or, if you prefer, ‘hare’), may derive from a term for swift movement [Pokorny has it listed following *pet-2 , *petǝ- , *ptē- , *ptō- ; whence the ‘Ptera’ we find in, say , Pterodactyl; or Sanskrit ‘Patra’, meaning ‘Feather’].
We are also, of course, reminded of how Rudra is regarded in AV-S XV – as the AdiVratya, with the stern admonishment to even a king that the Vratya [‘outlaw’, ‘vagrant’ are not quite right – a certain sort of ascetic is closer] who appears at their gate ought be treated with utmost hospitality … implicitly, lest it turn out to be That Vratya Whom the householder or ruler has chosen to denigrate through not obeying the sacred (hospitality’s extension) custom herein.
And thus it is with Odin in the Grimnismal – wherein, for reasons that we won’t go into here (too much), king Geirroth fails the test of virtue precisely by failing to extend due hospitality to the blue-hooded wanderer Who turns up at his door.
Suffice to say that whilst Geirroth ordinarily would have been most hospitable to such a guest … he’d been warned earlier by a messenger sent by Frigg (Odin’s Wife) that a figure matching the description of Grimnir would turn out to be a sorcerer and his undoing.
Frigg had sent this message to Geirroth in order to win a bet with Her Husband over the matter of Geirroth’s adherence to the proper values (Geirroth having been Odin’s ‘pet project’ and briefly raised and instructed by Him, you can see how this was a rather ‘personal’ matter – hence the personal visitation). She technically did not lie – indeed, quite the opposite. With Her grand connexion to Fate, She was absolutely true in Her warning. Odin, a sorcerer, did prove Geirroth’s undoing. But we digress.
Now I am not seeking to suggest that the incident of Hanuman’s introduction to Lords Rama and Lakshman is somehow the same myth as that of Odysseus’ return to Ithaca, or Odin’s testing of Geirroth.
For one thing, the placement of the ‘beggar’ is on the opposite side of proceedings. Hanuman is not, here, the exile wandering far (although Sugriva has, indeed, had Himself dispossessed) ; and is not there to kill a King – nor is the King in question, Lord Rama, there to kill anybody in Sugriva’s domain (the interloper that had stolen Ram’s Wife, however, and rules from Lanka – is another matter; and we do note that Rama, Sugriva, and nearly Odysseus, all had concerns in the ‘Wife-Stolen’ department … and to this we can also add the situation of Brahma / Prajapati’s efforts against Rudra’s Wife that had necessitated the Axe being deployed, as we have so often detailed elsewhere, although this is not a ‘testing’ situation, per se – except of His Mighty Patience; we might, perhaps, also consider Veerabhadra sent against Daksha’s Hearth and Horse-Sacrifice in similar light).
Instead, I am simply observing that in these various instances, we have a figure in disguise as a beggar or wanderer ‘testing’ somebody.
With an essential unifying feature of these figures in disguise bearing (and/or being) Sky Father essence expression.
Shiva / Rudra, Odin, Zeus (Pater), these are obvious. Odysseus … we have written upon elsewhere and shall not repeat the notions herein – but consider Him a ‘resonancy’ of sorts, for now.
All of which leaves Hanuman.
As we have said, various Pauranika sources describe Hanuman as a ‘form’ or ‘avatar’ of Shiva / Rudra [c.f. Shiva Purana III 20; Skanda Purana V III 84] – although it must be emphasized that in just what sense this is meant and to be understood … is a matter of some interpretation and diversity in breadth of opinion, so we shall not get into here.
Now, again, I am NOT seeking to argue that Hanuman constitutes a (full-scale) Sky Father deific expression. Our analysis previously has sought to show His congruence with the Striker/Thunderer deific complex, and this does not change that view.
However, we do think it an interesting and positive element to highlight (hence why I’d included it in some previous commentary); and as I say, it was around the same time that I was fielding a question upon just that subject that I happened to encounter this particular depiction of Hanuman, arrayed in disguise with the blue cloak and hood (‘Grimnir’, indeed), testing the virtue of a King (and His Brother) on behalf of another … and so found myself doing something of a double-take at a most unexpected point of ‘resonancy’, encountered upon the anniversary of Hanuman’s Appearance in mythic terms.
He Appreciates His ‘Little’ Joke, I’m sure.
Bajrang Bali Ki Jaye !
And, of course, JaySiyaRam !
3 thoughts on “A Certain Blue-Cloaked Figure In Disguise …”
This same PIE root of Bhikshu, I have come across as the source of Bhaga, which is often given to be a form or name of Rudra/Shiva. The same word in various Indo-European languages has come to mean ‘god, lord, master’, and interestingly there are widespread traditional tales across the IE sphere of kings and lords disguising themselves as beggars in order to test their subjects, individuals or even to acquire a virtuous wife for themselves. The Greek association of hares with beggars is interesting as they were sacred to Hermes who placed one in the sky as the constellation Lepus, and also disguised himself as a beggar alongside Zeus when they travelled among mortals. There is also a story of Indra disguised as a beggar (like Hanuman) to test the hospitality of various animals. The hare was the only one to have nothing to offer him, but instead built a fire and jumped into it to feed the disguised deity with his own flesh. Indra rewarded this sacrifice by transforming him into the Hare in the Moon.
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