Aarti Natarajan Sharma
Description of the Sunderkand
The Sunderkand is a poetic contribution to the heroics of Lord Hanuman. It forms the fifth chapter of the famous epic Ramayana and has been written in Sanskrit, by the Sage Valmiki. The Ramayana depicts the journey of Lord Rama from the palace to the forest and to the palace again. Lord Rama is regarded as the 7th incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
The Sunderkand is a detailed account of the adventures of Hanuman, who is regarded as the greatest devotee of Lord Rama. This is the only kand or section in the Ramayana where the hero is not Rama but Hanuman. Hanuman was called Sundera by his mother, which is why Sage Valmiki titled this chapter Sunderkand. He has described Hanuman’s journey to Lanka, his heroic exploits there, and his return.
Sunderkand contains 68 chapters comprising 24,000 shlokas. It forms the heart of the Ramayana. It is popularly believed that any reading of the epic should begin with Sunderkand.
What does Sunderkand Cover?
When Hanuman comes to know about the abduction of Sita by Ravana, the King of Lanka, he decides to go to Lanka to rescue Sita. In order to reach Lanka, he needs to cross an ocean. Hanuman is doubtful of being able to cross this ocean but Jambavan, the divine King of bears, reminds him of the powers he carries within himself. Hanuman then assumes the form of a giant and leaps across the ocean to Lanka, chanting Lord Rama’s name throughout.
On the way to Lanka, Hanuman encounters Surasa, the mother of the Nagas or serpents. Surasa was a Hindu goddess who decided to test Hanuman. She stops him, saying that he is meant to be her food and no one can cross the ocean without entering her mouth. Hanuman decides to trick her and grows in size, causing her also to grow and open her mouth wide. Then he quickly shrinks to a diminutive size, goes into her mouth and comes out of it before she can close it.
Mainak was the son of Himavan, the king of mountains. When he sees Hanuman on his way to Lanka, he offers him his hospitality and a place to rest. Hanuman is surprised to see a huge mountain blocking his way and at first thinks it to be an enemy but Mainik explains his purpose in blocking Hanuman’s way. However, Hanuman politely refuses Mainik’s offer of rest stating that he was on Lord Rama’s mission and would only rest once he completed the same.
Simhika was a demoness who decides to stop Hanuman on his way to Lanka. As he flew over the ocean his shadow fell on the waters. Simhika saw the huge shadow and captured it, thereby stilling his flight. Hanuman was unable to figure out what was happening till he realised that this was the doing of the demoness. He grew to a further gigantic proportion and entered her mouth, tearing up her entrails and thereby ending her life.
After reaching Lanka, Hanuman stops on a mountain to get an overview of Lanka. He decides to enter the city at night in a small form. Lankini was a demoness who was the guardian to the doors of Lanka. Her name literally means ‘The Deity of Lanka.’ She notices Hanuman even in his tiny form and prevents his entry into Lanka. Hanuman hits her just gently enough to make her fall and enters Lanka.
Inside Lanka, Hanuman roams around trying to find Sita. He encounters Ravana’s brother Vibhishan who tells him that despite living amidst demons, he loves and believes in Lord Rama. Vibhishan then guides Hanuman to Sita’s exact location.
Hanuman finds Sita in the Ashok Vatika where she is being coerced by the courtesans of Ravana to marry him. Hanuman sits on a tree and sings praises of Lord Rama and then meets Sita and reassures her that she will be taken back to safety. He volunteers to carry her on his back but Sita refuses saying she wants to be rescued by her husband Lord Rama, as she wants Rama to avenge the insult heaped on her by her abduction. Hanuman then gives her a signet ring of Rama to keep with her as a token to reaffirm his words that she will be rescued.
On his way out, Hanuman uproots trees and buildings on his way back, killing many of Ravana’s soldiers. Eventually, he allows himself to be captured by Ravana’s men and is brought before Ravana. He exhorts Ravana to release Sita who belongs to Lord Rama and is his lawfully wedded wife. Ravana gets infuriated at the temerity of Hanuman and orders his soldiers to set Hanuman’s tail on fire.
Hanuman increases the length of his tail and escapes. While flying with his tail on fire, he sets fire to everything that comes in his way thus leaving Lanka burning. After setting fire to Ravana’s kingdom he leaps back from the island and goes to Kishkinda with his army of Vanars to share the good news with Lord Rama that Sita has been found and is well, though sad at having been separated from her Lord.
Best Days and Time for Reading
The Sunderkand is read for maximum impact on Tuesdays because it is believed that Sita was found by Hanuman in Ashok Vatika on a Tuesday. Sita is supposed to have given a boon that whoever reads the Sunderkand on a Tuesday will get Sita’s blessings in addition to the blessings of Lord Hanuman.
The Sunderkand is also read on Saturdays. The story goes that Saturn or Shani, who is regarded as the son of Surya, the Sun God, and Chhaya (the shadow) was captured and held hostage in Ravana’s palace. Shani was also rescued by Hanuman.
As a means of thanks, Shani then offered a reprieve to all devotees of Hanuman.
As per popular folklore, once Shani found himself caught between Hanuman’s shoulders and the ceiling when attempting to mount the ceiling in order to influence his stars. Shani, who was in pain, offered his gratitude in return for an immediate release and that is why reading the Sunderkand on a Saturday is also considered auspicious.
Tuesdays and Saturdays are hence considered important days for special prayers to Lord Hanuman.
It is believed that if one can’t read the entire Ramayana, reading the Sunderkand is enough for divine blessings.
The best time to read the Sunderkand is in the mornings. Eight chapters should be read each day and then a complete reading should be done twice on the 17th day. After each day’s parayan or reading, one should offer prasad of boiled milk and sugar to Lord Hanuman.
Benefits of Reading Sunderkand
Reading of the Sunderkand is considered highly auspicious as it removes afflictions and obstacles and bestows courage and confidence in the person reading it. It helps one to get rid of worries and mental agonies and receive relief from suffering. Protection is naturally granted from malefic planetary placements in a horoscope. Tuesdays are representative of the planet Mars and Lord Hanuman is worshipped to appease Mars.
Regular reading of the Sunderkand fulfils the devotees’ desires and confers wealth, prosperity and good fortune.
The first 3 Shlokas from Sunderkand
शान्तं शाश्वतमप्रमेयमनघं निर्वाणशान्तिप्रदं।
ब्रह्माशम्भुफणीन्द्रसेव्यमनिशं वेदान्तवेद्यं विभुम्॥
रामाख्यं जगदीश्वरं सुरगुरुं मायामनुष्यं हरिं।
वन्देऽहं करुणाकरं रघुवरं भूपालचूडामणिम्
(I adore the Lord of the universe, Shri Ram, the chief of the Raghu clan and the crest jewel of Kings. Who is a repository of compassion, dispeller of sins and the greatest of gods. He has knowledge of the Vedanta, is worshipped by Brahma and Lord Shiva and Sesha (the serpent God). Lord Rama is the bestower of peace in the universe and is eternal, all-pervasive, calm and extraordinary.)
नान्या स्पृहा रघुपते हृदयेऽस्मदीये।
सत्यं वदामि च भवानखिलान्तरात्मा॥
भक्तिं प्रयच्छ रघुपुंगव निर्भरां मे।
कामादिदोषरहितं कुरु मानसं च
(Oh Lord of the Raghus, there is no craving in my heart apart from you. You are the spirit in everyone’s heart, I speak the truth when I say this. Bless me with the devotion to your feet and free my mind from all faults.)
रघुपतिप्रियभक्तं वातजातं नमामि
(Son of the Wind God, loyal devotee of Lord Rama, I bow to you. Chief of the monkeys, wise and virtuous, with a body shining like gold and possessing immeasurable strength.)
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