“O Devi, He has broad shoulders, mighty arms, a neck like a conch-shell, an auspicious countenance, a hidden collarbone, very coppery eyes, and is known by the people.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.15)
vipula aṃso mahābāhuḥ kambu grīvaḥ śubha ānanaḥ |
gūḍha jatruḥ sutāmra akṣo rāmo devi janaiḥ śrutaḥ ||
In the verses preceding this one from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman reviewed some of the behavioral characteristics of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Rama, the son of King Dasharatha. Hanuman described how Rama knows the Vedas and the auxiliary sciences attached to them. Rama knows how to fight in battle according to the guidelines passed down since the beginning of time. In every area Rama acts properly. He does not do anything on a whim. He respects those who behave similarly. He is worshiped by the most worshipable people in society.
Here Hanuman describes some of Rama’s physical features. There is the phrase, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” The idea is that the outside appearance doesn’t always tell the entire story about a person. We don’t know what is on the inside until we study behavior. For instance, we can see a very beautiful person and guess that they are good in character too, but then that same person could take to a life of crime. This means that the visual of the features didn’t reveal everything.
paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma
pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān
puruṣaṁ śāśvataṁ divyam
ādi-devam ajaṁ vibhum
“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty.” (Bhagavad-gita, 10.12)
As Arjuna declares in the Bhagavad-gita, God is the Supreme Pure. Everything about Him is auspicious. In traditional Vedic culture, certain features on the body indicate auspiciousness and certain features reveal the opposite. This has no bearing on the soul itself, which is spotless, but it gives a general indication on what to expect in behavior. As an example, if you see a living entity with the bodily features of a tiger, you can guess that they will be prone to killing other animals for food.
Rama’s bodily characteristics match His behavior and character. One of the Lord’s many names is Madana Mohana. Madana is the god of love, the equivalent to Cupid in English. The description of Cupid is that he is the most beautiful person. His appearance is enchanting. God the person is enchanting, mohana, to even Cupid. Another description for Rama is manohara, which means one who defeats the mind.
That victory comes about through auspicious bodily features. Hanuman says that Rama has broad shoulders. The prince of Ayodhya is not weak in body. He stands tall in battle because He has the necessary strength for victory. Rama has mighty-arms. Carrying the bow and arrow, Rama can defeat the entire world in battle, should they decide to attack Him.
“Krishna’s pauganda age can be further divided into three periods – namely the beginning, middle and end. In the beginning of the pauganda age there is a very nice reddish luster on His lips, His abdomen is very thin, and on His neck are circles like those on a conchshell.” (The Nectar of Devotion, 42)
Rama has a neck like a conch-shell. This is another unique feature found on the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The meaning is twofold. On His neck are found three lines like that on a conch-shell. Circles also develop on the neck, just like on a conch-shell.
Rama has an auspicious countenance. His face is so beautiful that one can gaze at it for hours and continue to feel pleasure. His collarbone is hidden and He has very coppery eyes. All of these things about Rama are known by the people. That is, the people who see Him all the time understand that He is something special. Even Rama’s fame is beautiful.
Not surprisingly, these features stand in stark contrast to Ravana, the king of Lanka. Ravana has ten heads and twenty arms. His face is not pleasant to look at. All physical signs point to a Rakshasa, which is a lower type of human being. The Rakshasa is inauspicious in behavior and appearance. Ravana was more infamous than famous.
The devotees take pleasure in hearing these features about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They are happy to dedicate thought, word and deed to someone who is so good. Take the best person you can imagine and you still wouldn’t have the full and proper understanding of Shri Rama. Hanuman takes pleasure in describing His features, as he saw them personally. That all-auspicious prince would soon come to dissipate the spell of doom and gloom cast by Ravana and the wicked-minded residents of Lanka, who had committed a grave offense by treating Sita Devi so poorly.
On body auspicious signs to see,
Like neck having conch lines three.
Hidden is His collar’s bone,
And to the people well He is known.
Rama divine in behavior and sight,
Soon to Lanka to bring arms of might.
Hanuman in describing pleasure taking,
Knowing Rama best for worship making.
Categories: hanuman the messenger