“Seeing the son of the wind in that terrific form, the daughter of Janaka spoke: ‘O great monkey, I know of your valiance and strength, your movement like the wind, and your amazing brilliance like fire.’” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 37.39-40)
तं दृष्ट्वा भीमसङ्काशमुवाच जनकात्मजा।
पद्मपत्रविशालाक्षी मारुतस्यौरसं सुतम्।।
तव सत्त्वं बलं चैव विजानामि महाकपे।
वायोरिव गतिं चैव तेजश्चाग्नेरिवाद्भुतम्।।
tam dṛṣṭvā acala samkāśam uvāca janaka ātmajā |
padma patra viśāla akṣī mārutasya aurasam sutam ||
tava sattvam balam caiva vijānāmi mahākape |
vāyoḥ iva gatim ca api tejaḥ ca agniḥ iva adbhutam ||
An amazing form. Certainly, one not seen in Lanka before. Though the leaders in that place were expert in black magic, they were lacking in this potency. They could appear and disappear at will. This is how they would fight “dirty” against enemies. An honorable person engages a combatant without fear. They would rather die fighting valiantly than earn victory through nefarious means. “I don’t cheat to win; I would rather lose.” It is even confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita that suffering defeat on the battlefield in such a way opens the doors to heaven.
यदृच्छया चोपपन्नं स्वर्गद्वारमपावृतम्।
सुखिनः क्षत्रियाः पार्थ लभन्ते युद्धमीदृशम्।।
yadṛcchayā copapannaṃ svargadvāramapāvṛtam।
sukhinaḥ kṣatriyāḥ pārtha labhante yuddhamīdṛśam।।
“O Partha, happy are the kshatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.32)
The leader of the Rakshasas in Lanka had employed such deception to earn a temporary victory against the most powerful fighter in the world. It wasn’t much of a conflict, as the attacker arrived in a false garb, that of a parivrajaka mendicant.
स्वं परित्यज्य रूपं यः परिव्राजकरूपध्रुत्।
जनस्थाने मया दृष्टस्त्वं स एवासि रावणः।।
svaṃ parityajya rūpaṃ yaḥ parivrājakarūpadhrut।
janasthāne mayā dṛṣṭastvaṃ sa evāsi rāvaṇaḥ।।
“You are indeed the Ravana I saw in Janasthana, who gave up his real form and took the form of a wandering religious mendicant.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.15)
The would-be defender was lured away from the place of potential conflict due to a ruse set up by the attacker. Ravana, the ten-headed one, would boast about his abilities to anyone who would listen. Yet this plan of deception was kept quiet; it wasn’t broadcast after the fact.
Hanuman’s form was not a deceptive one. It is referred to as a svarupa in the context of service to the Supreme Lord and a specific time period within a mission to find Sita Devi, the princess of Videha. Hanuman only displayed this rupa because of doubts voiced by Sita in response to the proposal to return her to Rama’s side.
The Supreme Lord in the incarnation of the prince of Ayodhya, Shri Rama, had sent Hanuman to look for His missing wife. Sita was suffering from grief due to separation from Rama, and to cut that period of time short Hanuman suggested taking her on his back and crossing over the ocean in a return flight.
After voicing some doubts, Sita saw Hanuman expand the size of his body to be like that of Mount Meru. Though Hanuman then spoke of his abilities, Sita was already well aware of them.
A face-to-face meeting with a person after the fact may not tell the entire story. Hanuman found Sita in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, where she had been placed against her will by the king, the ten-headed Ravana. Indeed, meeting a monkey in that area was not normal, let alone one claiming to be sent by her husband. The princess of Videha was justified to be skeptical.
Yet she was well aware of his valiance, regardless. She understood that it must have taken great courage to reach the destination. She had firsthand experience of the trouble Ravana would cause to any interference. The bird named Jatayu had fearlessly tried to stop Ravana’s path to Lanka in the hopes of saving Sita. He perished in that attempt, but the death was not without a reward. The dying Jatayu would meet Shri Rama just prior to quitting his body.
You can possess endless courage, but if strength is lacking there is not much you can do. Such as when there is an emergency situation that requires the removal of a heavy object like a car, a brave person can step up and try to move it themselves. Not afraid of the impending doom, if sufficient strength is lacking there is no chance of success.
Almost wouldn’t count for Hanuman, either. He had to succeed in finding Sita. There was tremendous strength applied, both physically and mentally. Sita was aware of how difficult it was to go through Lanka unseen and unrecognized.
3. Movement like the wind
This is a reference to Hanuman’s family. Though he was in the outward manifestation of a Vanara, which is a kind of monkey, the father was the wind-god, Vayu. For this reason Hanuman was able to swiftly course through the sky, being worthy of the description of Vegavan. As he had crossed the ocean to reach Lanka, he would be able to take Sita back with him via the same route.
4. Amazing brilliance like fire
The Sanskrit word is adbhuta. Hanuman’s form was amazing to behold. The teja, or splendor, was like agni, or fire. The source of that light was the devotion to Rama. Others are also known to have splendor, but the effect is not the same. The light flickers under the intense pressure of time, which has yet to be defeated.
Meanwhile, Hanuman is just as brilliant today as he was in the Ashoka grove displaying that amazing form. He is just as splendorous while kneeling in front of Sita and Rama as he is when carrying the great mountain of herbs for Lakshmana’s rescue. Having the swiftness of the wind, Hanuman is capable of delivering countless souls from the ocean of birth and death, bringing them back to the original position of devotional service.
For Sita’s distresses to end,
A proposal to extend.
From Hanuman of form giant,
Who against failure defiant.
But devi well already knowing,
That through sky like wind going.
Heroically against enemies valiance,
In splendor like fire of brilliance.