Hanuman before Rama and Sita and attendant. Gouache drawing, date unknown. Photo credit: Wellcome Library, London, Wellcome Images
Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, is one of the most celebrated and worshipped figures in Indian religion, but mention him outside of India and you are likely to be met with a blank stare. So who is Hanuman and what does he represent to the Hindu faith?
As is the case for many of India's gods, several stories are told explaining Hanuman's origin. In one interpretation Shiva and Parvati decide to transform themselves into monkeys and indulge in amorous games in the forest. As a result Parvati becomes pregnant. Shiva, conscious of his godly responsibilities and desiring to conform to the laws of nature, directs the wind god Vayu to carry the offspring from Parvati's womb to that of Anjana - an Apsara with the form of a monkey who has prayed to be granted a boy child. In another version of the story Hanuman is simply the offspring of Anjana and Vayu. In yet another version of the story, he is the son of the King and Queen of the Monkeys.
Many stories are also told of Hanuman's childhood. As the son of Shiva and a monkey, Hanuman is variously described as spirited, restless, energetic and inquisitive. One point all the major texts agree on is his mischievous nature. As a youth Hanuman often abused his powers to pester the saints and holy men living in a nearby forest, with tricks such as beard pulling and the dousing of sacred fires. However, it is as an adult that the monkey god Hanuman comes into his own.
Hanuman jumps over the ocean. Folio from the small Guler-Ramayana series from 1720. Attributed to the workshop of Pandit Seu in Guler, Himachal Pradesh, India. Museum Rietberg Zürich; Photo: Rainer Wolfsberger
Hanuman's tale as told in the epic Ramayana is renowned for its ability to inspire its readers to face ordeals and conquer obstructions in their own lives. At the time of the Ramayana, Hanuman is sent as an advance spy to Lanka, the capital of the mighty demon Ravana's empire. Ravana has provoked Lord Rama by carrying away his beloved wife Sita in order to start a war. During the epic times that follow, Hanuman brings hope and secret messages to the captive Sita, leads Rama's monkey army in the Battle of Lanka and single-handedly kills many demons including Lankini, champion of the demons. During this time Hanuman is captured by the enemy, only to outwit them with cunning and the use of his powers. He returns to find Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana themselves captured by the enemy and about to be sacrificed to the goddess Kali by the sorcerer Mahiravana. In a tale of great daring, Hanuman outsmarts the evil lord into becoming the sacrifice himself, thereby earning the eternal respect of Kali. She appoints Hanuman as her doorkeeper and today many of her temples are seen to have a monkey guarding their doorways.
After the defeat of Ravana, Rama and Sita are crowned King and Queen of Ayodhya. Hanuman is offered a reward for his bravery and asks only to continue in service to him and to live for as long as men speak of Rama's deeds. He remains as Rama's favourite general to this day.
Because of his bravery, perseverance, strength and devoted service, Hanuman is regarded as a perfect symbol of selflessness and loyalty. Worship of Hanuman helps the individual to counter the bad karma borne out of selfish action, and grants the believer fortitude and strength in his or her own trials during the journey of life. Hanuman is also invoked in fights against sorcery and protective amulets depicting him are extremely popular among his devotees.
Linda has a Honours degree in Marine Biology and a PhD in Ecology from the University of NSW, Australia. She has travelled extensively and is a passionate writer on subjects as diverse as the role played by women throughout history, tribal communities and their customs, symbology and ethnology, talismans and their history. Occasionally she also writes about her travel experiences, her new life on a 25 acres in the Northern Rivers region of northern Australia and her black miniature poodle Phoenix. She is currently writing her first book on talismans.
In 1989 my father Bernard packed in his house painting business and set off for two years on a backpacking trek to the remotest corners of the world. When he finally arrived in the oasis city of Kashgar, China, he was so impressed with its history that he decided to start a new life collecting and selling exotic goods from all over the world. For 2000 years the legendary city of Kashgar was a melting pot of ideas and a key trading post on the historic Silk Road. It was this unique combination of philosophy and trade that my father wanted to recreate at home.
Starting in markets in 1991, he opened his first store in the Sydney suburb of Newtown in 1994. I gave up my own career as a government scientist to join him in 2000 and soon convinced my partner Ian to join us in what was to become the Family Business.
Today our version of Kashgar stocks a hugely diverse range of furniture, rugs, textiles, antiques, handicrafts and jewellery sourced from over twenty different countries including India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Thailand, Burma, Laos, the Philippines, Vietnam, Mexico, Peru, Turkey, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Our collection includes contemporary and tribal silver and gold jewellery, a unique range of headhunting curios, antique Buddhist relics and a collection of one-off necklaces, earrings and bracelets that I design and create myself using the beads and jewellery making techniques of ethnic minorities from around the globe.
Kashgar is a philosophy as well as a store. We are committed to supporting traditional artisans and small village communities by selling authentic handcrafted goods which are personally collected by us. By supporting traditional methods of design and production we hope to encourage local cottage industries which have a low impact on the environment and help ethnic minorities maintain their self-sufficiency into the 21st Century. We are particularly committed to assisting women around the world and to this end have worked with several organisations including the Hua Bin Women's Union of Vietnam, the East Timorese Women's Association and Tikondane in Zambia. Time honoured means of craftsmanship and traditional ways of life are disappearing as people all over the world give up their identity in favour of jeans and T-shirts. We see our trade as a means of staving off the inevitable encroachment of the 21st century, assisting communities to decide for themselves which parts of the western world they wish to incorporate (medicine, education) and which they wish to reject (prostitution, drug production, begging and servitude to warlords). We encourage our customers to think of the handicrafts and artifacts they buy from us as an investment: a piece of history and a way of life that may soon be gone forever.
Kashgar has recently closed its retail outlet and gone completely online.
In the past our pieces appeared in many movies including The Hobbit, Mission Impossible 2, Queen of the Damned, Scooby Doo, Moulin Rouge and Wolverine, and in many televisions series, as well as in plays, commercials and exhibitions. We've found special pieces for individual customers as well as for film sets, event management companies, hotels, businesses, consulates and embassies. The uniqueness of our stock means that we are also very appealing to interior and fashion designers with a taste for the exotic.
There is something for everyone at Kashgar - collectors, the curious, those looking for a special present or for something unique to adorn the home. Most of our items are one-off specialties; other pieces we only stock in small quantities so as to continuously offer a wide and ever-changing range of interesting products. We are also packed with ideas for decorating home and work premises that will challenge your established concepts of design and storage.
Please enjoy - Linda Heaphy
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