Just as the story of Panchmukhi Hanuman where he goes to Patala (see my earlier post), there is also another story about Hanuman going to the nether-land, and this one is rather controversial *. I am going to narrate it anyway since I love the insight / world view it gives and also because this leads to the topic of my next posts.
So after Rama conquered Ravana, returned to Ayodhya, and after all the episodes of Uttar-Ramayana (Luv-Kush etc.), it was time to go. Rama and Laxmana's work on the earth was over. However Hanuman, who had returned to Ayodhya to be with Rama was of the opinion that they were still needed. Rama thinks of a way of letting Hanuman know the real nature of time and a man's position in the wheel of time (Yugas). Thus while speaking, Rama lets his ring slip into a hole in the ground. Ever ready to serve Lord Rama, Hanuman jumps into the hole and follows the ring. The ring keeps rolling ahead into the wormhole, which is now become a tunnel.
The rings keeps rolling, with the great Hanuman in tow, and finally comes to a stop on a ground. When Hanuman reaches to pick it up, he sees that there are rings all over the ground - thousands of them. Confused and dazed, he looks around to see some of the dwellers of Patala. They are all looking at him. He asks them what this means.
The dwellers smile and tell him - Every time a Vanara (Monkey God) comes in search of a ring, they know that a Rama has come to the end of his life. There have been thousands of Hanumans before this one - with thousands of Ramas, with their Ramayanas - and all the world. And, there will be thousands of more to come.
This just goes on to explain the concept of cyclic time that is perhaps the most fundamental difference between Western and Eastern thought. The Westerners think time as linear, while the oriental philosophies consider time to be cyclic.
There is one more interesting story - a similar one - of the cyclic nature of time and multiple worlds - this one is about multiple Indras and is taken from the Puranas.
Indra (Sakra), the king of Devas (gods), is known for his arrogance. One day, he decides that he wants a grand palace to be built for him to befit his stature. So he orders Vishwakarma, the architect of gods and son of Brahma, to build a great palace for him. Vishwakarma builds a wonderful palace with all possible amnities for Indra. But Indra is not happy. He wants the grandest palace for himself. Poor Vishwakarma breaks down the first one and builds an even grander palace, one of his best creations.
Indra, however, is still not satisfied. He wants a palace like no other - like the one never built before and like the one that will never be built later. He is, after all, the ruler of the three worlds! There is no one like him. How can he have an ordinary palace? ...
He orders Vishwakarma to rebuild the palace - the third time. An exasperated Vishwakarma goes to his father Brahma and asks for help. Brahma asks him to take Vishnu's refuge. Vishnu hears the whole story and laughs out. He tells Vishwakarma not to worry and that he will take care of it.
He goes to Indra in the form of a boy - like his Vamana form. Indra welcomes his guest and asks his purpose of visit. The boy says "to see if your palace is better than OTHER Indras"!
Indra is dumb-folded. What does the boy mean by 'Other Indras'? The boy tells him "yes, other Indras. Those who existed before you. Those who will come after you. And also those who are currently existing in parallel worlds" ...
... Can you imagine Indra's situation when he hears this? ... Countless Indras in the past, countless now, and countless in the future. Each Indra is a ruler of the sky of his world and a king of Devas. Each one wants his Vishwakarma to build a grand palace. The boy goes on to tell him how he has met with them all and seen their palaces.
Indra is humbled by this insight, knows that the boy is really Narayana (Vishnu) and stops making his place grander.
Multiple Hanumans, multiple Indras, multiple me writing this post and multiple you reading it ...
But this is just setting stage for discussing the concept of TIME according to Hinduism. I will dwell some posts on this very important topic soon.
Note: * - Of course, I turly believe that the controversy about this stoy is about how the story is written (what is the need to call Hanuman Rama's henchman, I don't know). For those who would like to see what the controversy is all about, I suggest:
For those who are interested in the actual essay of A K Ramanujan, I suggest:
It is titled "Three Hundred Ramayans" - and is a pretty negatively written article. Anyway, to each his own.