The Hindu people believe that long, long ago the ancient land of India was the playing field of gods and demons, sages and kings, animals and birds, who performed miraculous feats in a never ending contest between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The rule of eternal law--Sanatan Dharma--was established over and over again each time the forces of good gained the upper hand.
One story about the victory of good over evil is a famous poem from India called the Ramayana. Ram, the hero of this epic, is believed to be Lord Vishnu, God of Preservation, born on Earth in human form. Ram wages war against the evil demon king, Ravana, finally defeating him. In his battle against Ravana Ram receives help from many animals, the most notable being the magical monkey Hanuman.
Born to Pavan, God of the Wind, and Anjana, a celestial nymph, Hanuman has many amazing abilities. He can change shape at will, jump across the ocean, and fly as high as the sun. Because he is devoted to Ram, Hanuman uses his magical skills to help Ram win the war. His story is a tale of courage, wisdom, and cleverness that inspires people to this day.
In modern India, Monkeys are considered sacred beings. Hindus believe that whenever the Ramayana is recited, Hanuman will come to hear Ram's name spoken aloud. They pray to Hanuman when they feel weak or fearful, believing that he will come in invisible form to help them solve their problems, just as once he helped Ram.
It was a bright afternoon in the Rishyamook Mountains and the warm sun shimmered through the leaves of the jungle canopy. Sugriva, the exiled king of monkeys, and his minister, Hanuman, were doing just what monkeys love to do, basking in the treetops, lazily grooming each other. Suddenly they were interrupted by a distant cry, the sound of a woman's voice, desperately calling, "Help, oh please help me! Ram, help me! Ram!” It seemed as if the voice was coming from the heavens, and indeed, when they looked up, they saw a flash of light, like a streaking meteor. It was a chariot, racing across the clear blue sky. As they watched, a slender arm tossed a small bundle over the side. And then, thump, a pouch came hurtling down through the thick canopy of the forest. Hanuman, who was one of the quickest beings on Earth or in heaven, caught it just as it hit the ground.
When the two monkeys opened the pouch, a handful of beautiful jewelry tumbled out onto the grass. “These must belong to the woman screaming for help,” said Sugriva. They looked up at the sky again. The chariot was a mere speck, disappearing into thick clouds on the far horizon. The desperate voice was gone. The two monkeys looked at each other, their bright mood saddened as they considered the poor woman's plight.
A few days later, a monkey scout reported to king Sugriva that he had seen two young armed men wandering near a lake. “They must be Vali’s men,” said Sugriva with an angry flick of his long tail. "My evil brother must have sent them to spy on me. Is he not satisfied with stealing my wife and banishing me from my own kingdom?” He clenched his fists.
But Hanuman was calmer. “We shouldn't jump to conclusions, O King," said Hanuman. "Let me ask them myself.”
Hanuman, as you will see, had many amazing powers. He could change his form to whatever he liked, and he could even make himself invisible. So, no one saw him as he soared above the treetops. When he reached the two men, he appeared before them as a young mendicant. The men seemed to glow with great inner strength, and Hanuman knew at once they could not be Vali's spies.
"Good sirs, what brings you to these deep and difficult woods? With your grace and strength you look as though you could rule the world. Why are you are dressed like hermits?” he asked, bowing deeply.
“I am Ram. This is my younger brother, Lakshman. King Dasharatha, the late ruler of Ayodhya, is our father. My beloved wife Sita is missing. We are looking everywhere for her,” said Ram. As he spoke, he stared intently at the golden earring that Hanuman wore. Hanuman had worn this earring since birth, but no one had actually ever seen it until now. When he was just a little baby, Lord Brahma had said to him, “This earring will be invisible to all except Lord Vishnu. Born on Earth as Ram, he will be able to see it. Thus, you will recognize each other. All the boons I've given you will help you serve Ram.”
Hanuman recalled those words and smiled. “Lord Ram, I am Hanuman.” He took on his original appearance, that of a monkey, and spoke again, his eyes brimming with joy, “Climb onto my shoulders, and I will take you both to Sugriva.”