“O best of the Vanaras, I do not think you are an ordinary Vanara, as you have no fear of Ravana, nor even awe.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.9)
na hi tvām prākṛtam manye vanaram vanara ṛṣabha |
yasya te na asti samtrāso rāvaṇān na api sambhramaḥ ||
Sometimes the presence is enough. You don’t need to exert your influence; everyone knows what you are capable of. This is something like the authority that the king of Lanka wielded a long time back. Named by Lord Shiva, Ravana was known for his terrifying scream. He had ten heads, giving him another name of Dashanana. There were twenty arms to go with those heads, and in those arms was great might.
Ravana had another amazing ability. Known as the kama-rupa-siddhi, the king could change his shape at will. Of course, he never used it for good. Something like a soldier wearing civilian clothes in a war in order to remain hidden, Ravana once took the garb of a mendicant. Dressed like a wandering religious man, parivrajaka, he approached the hermitage of Sita Devi in the forest of Dandaka.
Soon enough the hideous form was revealed. Ravana was a Rakshasa by nature. This is something like a man-eating ogre. He took Sita away by force. He was strong in exerting his influence over the princess of delicate features, but he ran away in a cowardly manner, afraid to fight against Sita’s husband, Shri Rama.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita continues her praise of Hanuman, who is one of Rama’s messengers. Hanuman also possesses the kama-rupa-siddhi, and originally he is in a Vanara body. Though the root definition of the Sanskrit word is “forest dweller,” a Vanara is generally associated with a monkey.
Sita declares Hanuman to be the best of the Vanaras. This is her opinion. It is not based on mere sentiment. She notes that Hanuman is not afraid of Ravana at all. Hanuman is not in awe of him, either. This is noteworthy since practically the entire world at the time feared the king of Lanka.
Hanuman proved his fearlessness by entering the island uninvited and searching through it without being detected. Rama had given him the mission of finding Sita. Hanuman was either going to succeed or die trying.
It would be understandable if Hanuman were a little scared. The opulence in Lanka was by itself enough to intimidate anyone. There was gold everywhere. Not just tall buildings, but valuable jewels contained within the structures. Ravana had the most beautiful women in the world as queens. Still, he lusted after Sita, whom he couldn’t have.
Hanuman was not afraid because fearlessness is in his nature. He takes great strength from his devotion to Rama, which is unflinching. Hanuman is the rock that the surrendered souls can rely on. As Goswami Tulsidas says, Hanuman is the gatekeeper to Rama’s kingdom. He happily allows people to enter, provided they are sincere in their desire to serve Rama.
The nature of Sita’s husband gives us a better understanding of how a Vanara could be so amazing. Rama is the Supreme Lord Himself; thus obviously His dedicated servants will be of amazing caliber. As Uttamashloka, God has the best lines of poetry used in praising Him. He has the best messengers as well, people who are not intimidated by material strength, which is temporary and fleeting.
Not intimidated by Ravana’s strength,
For Rama to travel any length.
Since passing vast ocean’s test,
Declared as Vanaras the best.
Hanuman the messenger going,
For dedication to Supreme Lord knowing.
Judging first then allowing to enter,
Rama’s kingdom for Divine shelter.