“That best of monkeys appeared like Mount Meru, shining brightly, as he stood in front of Sita.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 37.35)
मेरुमन्दरसङ्काशो बभौ दीप्तानलप्रभः।
अग्रतो व्यवतस्थे च सीताया वानरोत्तमः।।
merumandarasaṅkāśo babhau dīptānalaprabhaḥ।
agrato vyavatasthe ca sītāyā vānarottamaḥ।।
What is described in official maps of the world as the Ganges River is known as Ganga amongst followers of the Vedic tradition. Though consisting of the material element of water, the river is known to be a devi. Ganga Devi, the goddess who appears in the form of a river, has significance due to her association.
A person who takes a dip in her waters is considered to be free of sin. Around the region, after the bodies of departed souls are cremated, the ashes get placed with Ganga Devi. The hope is that the most recent birth will be the final one. Why come again to the world of misery, wherein the three sources attack at every moment?
Though at the time of birth there is full potential, with the child discovering new aspects of their environment on a daily basis, in adulthood the reality sets in that everything must eventually be left behind. Not just the bad, but also the good. The people to whom attachments are formed; the pleasurable experiences will not last forever. Where the next birth will occur no one is entirely sure, at least without consulting the spotless authority that is Vedic wisdom.
यं यं वापि स्मरन्भावं त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम्।
तं तमेवैति कौन्तेय सदा तद्भावभावितः।।
yaṃ yaṃ vāpi smaranbhāvaṃ
taṃ tamevaiti kaunteya
If the consciousness is pure at the time of death, with purity defined as focus on the spiritual and not the material, then the same purity in birth will occur in the immediate future. The highest birth possible is at the side of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has no distinction between body and spirit. That is to say in His place there is no such thing as birth and death. Time exists, but it lacks a negative influence. It cannot destroy in the way it does with the mortal world, which consists of the many planets, from the highest to the lowest.
मामुपेत्य तु कौन्तेय पुनर्जन्म न विद्यते।।
māmupetya tu kaunteya
punarjanma na vidyate।।
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
Ganga Devi is considered spiritual because she emanates from the lotus feet of that deathless one, the Supreme Lord. His transcendental body has various aspects that are compared to a lotus flower, with the feet most prominently known. The navel, the hands and the eyes also get the same comparison.
The idea is that by associating with someone who comes from God’s beautiful feet, there will be a change in consciousness. Any association with Him, direct or indirect, is beneficial. The direct association is the meeting face-to-face. The holy name, the deity, the sacred place of pilgrimage – these are also direct, but in a hidden way. That is to say a person may not be aware at first that they are associating directly with Vishnu, which is one name for the personal God.
The indirect meeting is with someone who enables that recognition. They are His representatives, sent from above to bring us back to the spiritual world. As a devotee of Vishnu, Ganga Devi represents Him. Her association is thus purifying. Showing her a little respect does so much good for the consciousness.
In the Shrimad Bhagavatam we find that part of Ganga Devi’s path to the earthly region is Mount Meru. She flows through this amazing place to make her descent. One of the branches in which she divides on this mountain is called Sita, whose name is also referenced in the quote above from the Ramayana.
Here Shri Hanuman is compared to Mount Meru. He is another representative of Vishnu on earth. His association is also purifying, and so the comparison to the well-known mountain is not surprising. He is shining brightly in that enlarged form, which is displayed in the presence of Sita Devi.
The purpose is to win her confidence, to prove that the previously normal-sized form is not his only one. Hanuman can expand, but he does not do so hastily. He is not in the business of showing off, as he has nothing to prove to anyone. His only objective is to please Shri Rama, the incarnation of Vishnu roaming the earth at the time. The enlarged form was for the purpose of bringing Sita back to Rama’s side, and so there was no risk of fault due to excessive pride.
Sita was already well-aware of his abilities, and so the reminder of the display is for further honoring the dedicated servant of Shri Rama. He is held in the highest esteem by the Divine couple, and so anyone who shows him respect is benefitted greatly in their pursuit to make the most of the valuable human birth.
That sacred river Ganga calling,
Devi from higher world falling.
Since touching Vishnu’s lotus feet,
Purified when her waters to meet.
To this world Mount Meru path making,
Similar to Hanuman in large form taking.
With him same associational effect,
Blessed those on his pastimes to reflect.