'Valmiki has not written anything about Hanuman's caste.'
'I want to clarify that Hanuman was not a Vanar, but an Adivasi.'
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ajay Singh Bisht plunged into controversy when he reportedly called Lord Hanuman a Dalit.
At a poll rally in Malakheda, Alwar, Rajasthan on Tuesday, November 27, Bisht said, 'Hanuman was a forest dweller, deprived and a Dalit. Bajrang Bali worked to connect all Indian communities together, from north to south and east to west.'
Rajasthan Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha President Suresh Mishra sent Bisht a legal notice, accusing him of dragging Lord Hanuman's caste for political gains for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state ahead of the December 7 assembly election.
Social media users sympathetic to Bisht tried to explain that his comments were misconstrued and he 'took a long pause between Hanuman and Dalit'.
Even as the controversy rages on, Acharya Kishore Kunal, a former Indian Police Service officer who took voluntary retirement to conduct do research on the deity, tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf, "In the Valmiki Ramayana, it is only mentioned that he was born in South India, but nothing about his caste."
What is the origin of Lord Hanuman? Was he a Dalit as portrayed by the UP chief minister?
Lord Hanuman was not a monkey, but he was from the Adivasi community.
(Belgian scholar) Camille Bulcke, who is considered to be one of the greatest writers on Ram Katha, has written that Hanumanji was an Adivasi.
Now we (Hindus) do not consider Dalit as a caste but as people from the lower strata of society who are (socially) inferior and not very rich.
(16th century poet and saint) Tulsidas, (who wrote the Ramcharitmanas in the Awadhi language) has also written that he considered Hanuman from the weaker section of society.
So it is wrong to call Hanuman a Dalit?
In terms of caste, it is wrong to do so.
The word Dalit did not exist then (ancient times). His Gotra was Vanar.
Is there any version of the Ramayana by any author in which Lord Hanuman is shown as a Dalit?
In the Valmiki Ramayana he is called Vanar. At many places he is also depicted in human form, wearing a dhoti and kurta.
Valmiki has not written anything about Hanuman's caste.
I want to clarify that Hanuman was not a Vanar, but an Adivasi and not from an affluent community.
A Brahmin organisation in Rajasthan has sent the UP CM a legal notice for calling Hanuman a Dalit. What have the Brahmins got to do with Hanuman?
In one of the Puranas, it is written that Anjana, Hanuman's mother, was the sister of a Brahmin rishi.
This is a claim from the Brahmin side, but it is a later development.
All the earlier books say that Hanuman was from the weaker sections of society.
Moreover, the janaeu (sacred thread) that the Brahmins wear is made of cotton.
But Hanuman wears a janeu made of moonj (Saccharum munja, a type of sharp grass), as written in the Anand Ramayana, Hanumat Kavacham and Hanuman Chalisa by Tulsidas. It is a material from which ropes are made.
It means that Hanuman has no right to wear (cotton) janeu.
But that does not matter today as Hanumanji is the most popular deity of Hindu dharma.
What about Lord Hanuman's parents?
Hanuman's father was Kesari.
However, there is a concept in Hindu dharma that if a child is born as result of prayers to a particular god, then very often the child is named after that deity or the name which is closely associated with that deity.
So though Hanumanji's father is Kesari, he was born with the blessings of Pavan Dev, or the Wind God. Therefore, he is called Pavan Putra Hanuman.
Is there a Brahmin connection to Pavan Dev?
No, there is no Brahmin connection to Pavan Dev.
As I told you, Valmiki did not go into caste (details).
If you read the Valmiki Ramayana, you will find out that Lord Ram has not performed any miracles, only Hanumanji did.
He flew to Lanka, destroyed it and performed miracles over there.
In the Valmiki Ramayana, it is only mentioned that he was born in South India, but nothing about his caste.
Is any particular place mentioned where Lord Hanuman was born?
Hanuman was born in Kishkindha, which is in present day Karnataka. It is 378 kilometres from Bengaluru.
There is also a place near Ranchi, Jharkhand, called Anjandham. People claim that Hanuman was born there.
In Uttarakhand too there is a place where some people claim he was born.
I also read in a granth that Hanumanji was born in Saurashtra.
Most people believe he was born in Kishkindha.
Who were the ancestors of Lord Hanuman?
Kesari was his father and he was more of a sardar, like a general in the army.
We do not know who was Kesari's father. He was like King Sugreeva.
We do not have any information as to who Kesari's father was.