Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi referencing Hanuman and the Ramayana. He compared India’s decision to permit the export of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in the global fight against COVID-19 to Hanuman's effort to help Lord Ram's brother Lakshmana with Sanjeevani Booti.
Bolsonaro’s letter comes in the wake of the government’s decision to allow the licensing of HCQ and paracetamol to other nations badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hanuman has been described as a folk-god, a janadevata or lokadevata, meaning that he is a deity of the people, he has popular appeal and millions in India worship him for various benefits, which relate to worldly life.
So why has the Brazilian President referred to Hanuman, who has the form of a monkey, or rather an ape (vanara meaning ‘maybe a man’, almost human, ‘near human’) on Hanuman Jayanti?
Hanuman’s popularity covers the entire country from the Himalayas in the North to the peninsular tip in the South. It spills over to the neighbouring countries in South East Asia and the worship of this deity is of immense antiquity.
“As a god of good fortune he held his ground as Thoth (the god of wisdom) among the Egyptian pantheon; he appeared here as a dog-headed baboon (cynocephalus). He was a symbol of wisdom in ancient Greece, associated with magic, sorcery and witchcraft. In the Maya civilisation, he was the only form that could survive the wrath of the gods,” Vedic scholar S K Ramachandra Rao has written in his book Hanuman Kosa.
There are ape statues from Babylonia, ancient figurines from Egypt and little silver and lapis-lazuli icons from Iraq (Khafaje) that remind one of Hanuman. Finds in the remains of the Aztec, South Babylonia, Egyptian, the Chinese civilisations suggest that the monkey-god was feared or adored by the people.
There are stories, myths and legends relating to the exploits of this God in all these countries with regional variations in the theme and content (like the Chinese Golden Monkey-sun), writes Professor Rao.
American aviator Charles Lindberg during one of his flights over the jungles of Mosquitia in Hondurus, is believed to have caught a glimpse of what he thought was the ‘Lost City of the Monkey God‘ where, local people worshipped huge ‘Monkey Sculptures’ (Source: Book Facts).
American adventurer Theodore Morde later added that he had finally found the lost city in 1940. He claimed offerings were made by local Indians to a gigantic idol of an ape.
Hanuman’s journey to South America is alluded to in Kishkinda Kanda which describes the Trident of Peru in South America and the Yuddha Kanda where Hanuman travels to Paatala loka believed to be in Central America and Brazil and meets his son Makaradhwaja there.
Recently, the Uttar Pradesh government has allotted Rs 30 lakh to a research institute in Ayodhya - the Ayodhya Shodh Sansthan, and released the first instalment of Rs 15 lakh for documenting ‘Ram Sanskriti Ki Vishwa Yatra’ (international journey of the legend of Lord Ram).
The exercise will include travel to several countries to survey the international footprint of Lord Rama. The proposal reported that the expeditions in the jungle in Honduras had led to the discovery of the ‘City of the Monkey God’.
In Italy, as per the institute, pictures of Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman and various events of the Ramayana have been found dating back to 5 B.C. while in Iraq, an inscription in form of a painting of Lord Ram and Hanuman has been found on the rocks of Darband-i-Belula dating back to 2000 B.C.
Hanuman is equal to the best in strength, valour and courage, speed and prowess prompting Lord Rama to pronounce in front of all the sages: “But for you, what could I have done? You have with your fortitude and valour won for me Lanka, Sita and also Lakshmana.” And now a friend in Brazil.