The story of Lord Hanuman flying towards the Sun to gobble it up is a popular tale often narrated to kids, especially in India. The story goes like this: Lord Hanuman was just a child and thought the red Sun was some ripened fruit waiting to be plucked and devoured. So, why did Lord Hanuman eat Sun, or was it a failed adventure? The answer to this question, like many things in the Hindu scriptures, is symbolic and leads us to another chapter in the life of Lord Hanuman wherein he received numerous divine blessings, which he used correctly and intelligently.
A Voracious Appetite
As a child, Lord Hanuman was mischief personified. Moreover, he had an unending appetite and was a voracious eater. He was about a year old when his mother, Anjana, asked him to accompany her to the riverside early in the morning as she wanted to take a bath. She told Hanuman to play on the riverbank until then. Finding himself alone and free, Hanuman climbed the trees lining the river and ate all the fruits, but his hunger was not satiated. Suddenly, his attention was caught by the round orange-red Sun rising slowly in the sky.
Assuming the Sun to be some new and exceptionally large fruit, Hanuman shrieked in delight and called out to his mother. Anjana thought her son must have discovered some new fruit on a tree and told Hanuman he could have it. Hearing her approval, Hanuman leapt toward the Sun, flying at great speed. By now, Anjana had finished bathing, and when she called out to Hanuman, he was nowhere around. Her gaze turned towards the sky, and suddenly, she spotted her one-year-old kid darting towards the Sun. In desperation, Anjana called her husband, Kesari, who could only watch helplessly.
How the Sun was Saved
Fortunately, the wind god Vayu, Hanuman’s godfather, was witness to all that was transpiring and was following Hanuman to protect him from the Sun’s heat. This remarkable event occurred on a solar eclipse day when Rahu, the shadow planet of Vedic scriptures, would slowly swallow the Sun and leave everything in darkness for some time. Now, Hanuman’s attention turned towards Rahu, and thinking the planet to be some gigantic worm blocking his path, he dashed towards it in fury. Rahu got so intimidated and frightened that he sought the help of Indra, the king of the gods, saying a monkey was obstructing him from carrying out his duty.
Hearing all this, Indra too became agitated, and riding astride his elephant, the king of the gods reached out for his deadly weapon, the thunderbolt. The mischief-monger that he was, Hanuman started targeting the elephant and tried to grab it. This defiant act made Indra livid, and he hit Hanuman in the face with his thunderbolt. The blow floored Hanuman, and he started falling to Earth unconscious, but Vayu saved him in the nick of time.
Blessed with Superhuman Powers
The sight of his injured, unconscious godson angered Vayu, and he stopped blowing, which left the gods and humankind gasping for air. Only when all the gods approached him and apologised did the wind god relent, but not before he ensured Hanuman received a divine blessing from each of them. Thus, Lord Hanuman, as we know him, received superhuman powers; he could fly, change shape, possessed immense strength, was full of wisdom, and was granted the boon of immortality.
Lessons for Mankind to Learn
As we explore the story of why did Lord Hanuman eat the Sun, we can learn many things. First, despite having superhuman powers and being highly advanced intellectually, he was extremely humble and devoid of ego. We can discover this trait in him through his unwavering devotion to Lord Rama. Again, he was an accomplished scholar who had mastered the four Vedas and the six Shastras (spiritual sciences). Hanuman had vast knowledge, but he was a picture of humility, arising from genuine sincerity and love for Lord Rama.
Furthermore, Hanuman was pure in character and considered all women as his mother. He is also described as a Brahmachari, though he was married. A Brahmachari is not an unmarried person but one who is pure in thought, word, and deed. So, the tale of Lord Hanuman trying to eat the Sun seeks to describe the power of this mighty Rama bhakta, one who could control nature but was still as humble as a lamb.