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16 Panchmukhi Hanuman

If you are driving down from Mumbai to Goa, or to Pune on the old highway, you need to cross Panvel. While you negotiate your way through the traffic mainly caused by the state transport (S.T.) buses, you pass a small shrine under a banyan tree. It declares the lord of the property to by "Panchmukhi" (five-faced) Hanuman. पंचमुखी हनुमान ।

Although shrines of Hanuman are in abundance across the Indian subcontinent, especially in hilly terrains like Maharashtra, shrines of "Panchmukhi" Hanuman are a rarity. Of course, there is more likelihood to find one in the Southern parts of the country. The images of the Great Vanara (not Monkey) God in Northern India usually depict him as pulling his chest apart to show Lord Rama and Sita, or flying through the air carrying an entire mountain in one hand. But none of these have Hanuman depicted as having more than one heads.

The form of Hanuman as "Sri Panchamukha Anjaneya Swami" (Anjaneya = "son of Anjani") is more famous in the South and some other parts of the world. Some of the famous places where this form is seen are: Kumbakonam and Thiruvallur, both in Tamil Nadu.

Unlike Dattatreya who was born with three heads, or Ravana with ten heads, Hanuman was indeed born with one head. So where does this concept of a 5-headed Hanuman come from?

It happened during the war between Rama and Ravana's armies in Lanka, in fact almost at the end of that war. As it so happens, two powerful rakshasa brothers Mahiravana and Ahiravana are fighting on the side of Ravana. In some scriptures they are said to be Ravana's sons and are summoned by their father to help him after many of Ravana's warriors and generals are killed.

Mahiravana is the ruler of the Patalpuri (Patala i.e. Hell). Now Mahiravana, being a powerful practitioner of dark arts and magic (known to be a great devotee of Goddess Kali) locates Rama and Laxmana by his magic. Mahiravana disguises himself as King Dasharartha, and gets past Hanuman's fortress who is guarding them - who although surprised to see Dasharatha at the battlefield, allows the old man to pass reverentially. Mahiravana gets access to the inside of the tent, captures Rama and Laxmana while they are sleeping, drags them down and holds them captive in his palace in Patala.

But Mahiravana leaves a trail behind, which goes deep into the bowels of the earth. Searching for them, Hanuman reaches Patala whose gates are guarded by a creature called Makardhwaja. Hanuman subdues him and ties him up before entering Patalpuri to rescue Rama and Lakshmana.

Upon entering Patala, Hanuman discovers the two brothers held captive meant as sacrifice to Goddess Kali, and also that in order to kill Mahiravana, he must simultaneously extinguish five lamps burning in five different directions. Thus, Lord Hanuman assumes the Panchamukha or five-faced form of:

1. Sri Varaha facing the North
2. Sri Narasimha facing the South
3. Sri Garuda facing the West
4. Sri Hayagriva (a much earlier Avatar of Vishnu) facing the sky and
5. His own (Hanuman) facing the East

Thus equipped with the five faces, Hanuman blows out the lamps, kills Mahiravana (in some versions, he sacrifices the demon himself to Goddess Kali, thus earning her favor by virtue of which she made Hanuman her doorkeeper - Indeed many temples of the goddess are seen to have a monkey guarding their doorways) and thus rescues Rama and Laxmana.

to this day, Hanuman is invoked in any fight against sorcery, and amulets and charms depicting him are therefore extremely popular among devotees. Some popular folklore has a different version in which Mahiravana is killed, but that does not explain Hanuman's five faces. So I prefer this one that I have narrated here.
I really liked the photo attached to the wikipedia article about Panchmukhi Hanuman, so I am shamelessly pasting it here.

The five faced Hanuman icon is reckoned to be the most powerful form of this god. It was once the most popular form and again came to light since it was the main deity of Sri Raghavendra Swami, a 16th century Hindu saint who advocated Vaishnavism and the Dvaita philosophy advocated by Madhvacharya (as against the Advaita philosophy by Sri Sankaracharya).

More later,

- S


I received this in mail from my father ... So I am pasting it as a comment ... Makes an interesting read, with a different storyline on the same subject:



I have heard a very funny story about this five-headed form of Hanuman.

After conquering Ravana, Shri Ram returns from Lanka to Ayodhya alongwith Sita, Laxman, Hanuman & others. [Though, it is not positively known whether Hanuman returned with these people and went to Ayodhya. He must have, no doubt, returned from Lanka. But by all the probabilities, he must have preferred to stay back in southern part of India. However, large volumes of literature in Hindi & 'Avadhi' languages suggest that Hanumanji had a stay in the north also. - More about this, some other time.]

Now once they return, Sita decides to hold a grand feast in the honour of Hanumanji since it was because of him or only because of him, the couple was reunited and all other achievements were possible - not only that both Shri Ram & Laxman got fresh lives etc. So Hanumanji must be honoured.

Sita informs Shriram about this. Shri Ram advises Sita not to do so. Sita however does not heed to her husband (that is familiar territory for most husbands :)) and bent upon offering delicacies that she has cooked to Hanuman. So she invites Hanumanji over lunch the next day.

Everything goes fine in the beginning - Hanumanji likes the food, but the first signs of trouble are noticed by Sitamata when Hanumanji keeps on eating ... not willing to get up. The entire cooked food is over. Now what to do? An 'Atithi' should be fully satisfied.

Sitamata decides to cook again. But she needs some time. So she tells Hanumanji that now I will bring new dishes. Let me change the existing ones. Hanumanji agrees and waits.

Sita prepares fresh food and offers to Hanumanji in another dish. (It could be a banana leaf.) Hanumanji keeps on eating. Finishes the 2nd lot of food. Still he is hungry.

Anyway, Sita was not to give up. She repeats the whole thing. But Hanumanji was not finished as yet. 3rd round is over.

After the fourth such type of exercise, Sita becomes helpless. She surrenders to Shriram and seeks his advice.

He says 'I had already warned u about this. But u did not listen to me. Anyway, now do one thing, write my name i. e. 'Shriram' on the fresh dish with the help of just water, before u pour food in that dish. Then serve it to Hanumanji.'

Sita does exactly as per Shriram's instructions. And Lo ! Hanumanji retires after consuming the fifth dish and declares that he is fully satisfied ... Blesses Sitamata and gets up.

Well, it seems that is how Hanumanji got five heads - and five mouths to consume five courses of meal. Of course, this does not explain different faces like Varah etc. But still the story is quite interesting and is apt for a nice 'Kirtan' (recital).

- Baba
Anonymous said…
|| Om Shri Hanumate Namah: ||

Thanks for this very interesting Article.
I have heard, that the Doorkeeper of Kali is not Hanuman Ji himself, but his Son. (who began his Existence when a Drop of Hanumanji's Sweat fell down into the Mouth of a Crocodile.)

If you are interested in Panchmuks-Hanuman-Pictures and Hanuman Chalisa, there are some Mp3-Bhajans at:

YouRs SinCereLy M!sTer CrippLeD SaM
Crippled Sam:

Thanks for your comment. I suppose you mean the gates of Patala. Yes, that is what I wrote about in the post - the creature is called Makardhwaja (Makar = either fish or crocodile, dhwaja = either monkey or flag).

When Hanuman was returning from Lanka after burning it down in the famous fire-on-tail episode, it is said that some of his sweat fell in the ocean. It was swallowed by a female fish (or crocodile if you please).

It so happened that the fish was caught in the nets by some of the Lankan fishermen and was sold to the royal kitchen (in this case, Mahiravana's palace in Patala).

When the fish was cut open to make food, the servants found a half-makara and half-vanara creature in the tummy. They took the creature to Mahiravana. The king liked the baby creature and he decided to keep it as a pet.

The creature grew into Makardhwaja - a powerful creature who was half crocodile and half vanara. He knew that his father was Hanuman, but he did not know where Hanuman is and how he can meet his father. Mahiravana gave him the job to guard the gates of his city the Patalanagari. And that is where Makardhwaja stayed - on the outskirts of the city.

When Hanuman reached the gates of Patala in search of Rama and Laxmana, Makardhwaja stopped him as was his duty. He asked him who he is. When Hanuman introduced himself, Makardhwaja was delighted to find his father. Nevertheless, he decided to stop Hanuman and fight him, since that was his duty as the guard.

Hanuman was very pleased with this devotion to duty. He fought with Makardhwaja, and subdued him. Then blessing him, he went inside.

After he rescued Rama and Laxmana, and after killing the trio returned to the gates where Makardhwaja was waiting for them. Rama was happy to hear about him and he made Makardhwaja king of Patala, which did not have a ruler after Hanuman had killed Mahiravana.

That is, in short, the story of Makardhwaja. Thanks for the opportunity to share this with you.

utsav said…
I like ur posts, but i just read one and i hope u would not get angry that i mark a mistake in the article.

I am a big mythology buff so i cannot stand anyone making such mistakes. The Adityas were the sons of Aditi and Kashyapa and not Diti and Kashyapa. Sons of Diti were called Daityas and as u might have guessed were opposites to the Adityas. Since u made that mistake, i reckon your source of knowledge is a human. Am i right??
utsav said…
One more fact. Since you seem disturbed about why is Ghatotkach not so glorified as Abhimanyu is, then i must tell you that Ghatotkach in Kali Yuga does not have the same personification. He was asked by his mother that he should support the side who is the weakest. At that time, that meant his father and uncles, or the Pandavas. Hence he fought on the side of Pandavas in the War. Later when Kauravas became the weaker side, it is said his soul would support the Kauravas. A quite famous god or saint has some temples around the country. I don't actually remember the name but he is worshipped as a devil or dark god. That is said to be the great Ghatotkach only. Hence he is despised by many in the Kali Yuga.

(Read the Puranas. They have the same glorification for different gods. In Shiva Purana, Shiva is the most powerful god. In Vishnu Purana, Vishnu is more powerful)

P.S. Nothing against Hidimba though. She thought saying this would clarify Ghatotkach's thoughts because he was still young and wouldn't understand clearly.
Utsav ...

Thanks for writing. The source of information and misinformation is always a human. The source of knowledge is within.

Anyway, thanks for the comment. I am glad that people are reading these posts.

I still did not get where I have mentioned that Adityas are Diti's sons. Maybe it is a typo ... I have written a separate post, which clearly gives details of Aditya's lineage:

If you can show where this misprint is done, maybe I will be able to correct it.

Thanks again,
rajdeep said…
This is about Utsav's post regarding Ghatotkacha. WHo he speaks of is not Ghatotkach but his son Barbarik.
Harish Chotai said…
Great Post Shreekant and God bless you. It is heartening to find short and lucid answers here, to many questions that arise in the course of daily prayers and pilgrimages. Some of our priests just recite shlokas and hymns without realising the import of their utterances. They also do not care to study the stories and mythology associated with their own temples or the other deities in their temples or similar temples elsewhere. Your ruminations answer these queries. I am sure you have earned your stripes. Once again, God bless you. Jai Jalaram, Jai Shri Krishna.
The Yogi said…
Utsav, the one you mentioned as Ghtotkacha is in fact his son Barbarika or Khatushyamji as he is known in rajasthan.
anvidh k said…
Om Sri Hanumante Namah.....
Read hanuman chalisa to get rid of any obstacles.