From the wrestler’s perspective, Hanuman’s most important character trait is his brahmacharya, his complete celibacy and self control. As one wrestler said: “Hanuman is the form of brahmacharya. If wrestlers are brahmacharis then they will do well. This is why Hanuman is manifest in the akhara.” In one way or another every wrestler I asked about his devotion to Hanuman explained his reverence in terms of Hanuman’s brahmacharya. Self-control is an arduous task, and wrestlers look to Hanuman for both guidance in how to remain celibate and also for a general validation of the virtue of brahmacharya.
While the attributes of shakti and bhakti define the largest part of Hanuman’s character, his brahmacharya is taken for granted. It is only occasionally mentioned in myth and folklore. In one story (Bulcke 1960: 400; O’Flaherty 1984: 95, 96) Hanuman is approached by a demigod named Matsyaraja, otherwise known as Matsyagarbha, who claims to be his son. Hanuman protests, saying that this is impossible given that he is celibate. Matsyaraja’s birth is explained, however, by the fact that drops of Hanuman’s sweat were swallowed by a fish while Hanuman was bathing in the ocean. The sweat impregnated the fish and Matsyaraja was born. The only other overt mythic reference to Hanuman’s chastity is found in the Ramayana. While in search of Sita, Hanuman finds himself in Ravana’s queen’s dressing chamber. The power of his brahmacharya is so great, however, that he is not distracted by desire (Bulcke 1960: 401).
Stories of Hanuman’s conception and birth are also evidence of his celibate character. Many versions say that Anjana was impregnated through one ear and that Hanuman was born through the other. He is thus said to have had no direct contact with sex as such (cf. Wolcott 1978: note 661; Aryan n.d.: note 73).
To some extent these explicit statements of Hanuman’s self-control are beside the point. For the wrestler there is no question but that both Hanuman’s shakti and his bhakti derive directly from brahmacharya. Every reference to his strong body and incomparable devotion is a tribute to his absolute celibacy. The reverse logic applies as well. Shakti and bhakti enable Hanuman to be a perfect brahmachari. One wrestler made the following observation: “Unless one is always a brahmachari—which is to say always have a ‘tight langot’—one will never do well. Only then can one be strong. In order to remain a brahmachari one must be a bhakta. If a person is not a bhakta then one’s mind will wander from the goal of brahmacharya.”
Shakti, bhakti, and brahmacharya constitute a powerful tautological conundrum: a spiral of ever-increasing virtue and strength based on moral control and devotion. Hanuman represents the confluence of these forces. His exploits demonstrate the veracity of their interrelationship.
Brahmacharya is taken for granted as the underlying basis for much of what Hanuman does. But while shakti and bhakti are given a concrete form in Hanuman, the concept of brahmacharya remains somewhat abstract. It is alluded to through the sexual symbolism of virility manifest in the color red and in the phallic mace which Hanuman carries, but aside from these specific signs, brahmacharya is not explicitly coded in temple images, popular art, or mythic poetics.
The rules for the practice of brahmacharya, discussed previously in the context of body discipline, complement and often underscore the devotional prescriptions for bhakti. A theme which emerges consistently in any consideration of brahmacharya, is the need to keep one’s mind focused on pure and moral virtues. To sing the praises of god and to “think on god” are the best ways to insure that one does not dwell on sensual, worldly gratification. The complementary natures of bhakti and brahmacharya are clearly manifest in Hanuman. Insofar as Hanuman is completely absorbed in the contemplation of Ram, the world of sensory satisfaction pales in comparison to the invigorating bliss of service and devotion.