Hanuman is a Hindu deity, who was an ardent devotee of Rama according to the Hindu legends. He is a central character in theIndian epic Ramayana and its various versions. He also finds mentions in several other texts, including Mahabharata, the various Puranas and someJain texts. A vanara (monkey-like humanoid), Hanuman participated in Rama's war against the demon king Ravana. Several texts also present him as an incarnation of Lord Shiva. He is the son of Vayu according to several stories.

 

Hanuman came to be regarded as an avatar (incarnation) of Shiva by the 10th century CE (this development possibly started as early as in the 8th century CE). Hanuman is mentioned as an avatar of Shiva or Rudra in the Sanskrit texts like Mahabhagvata Purana, Skanda Purana, Brhaddharma Purana and Mahanataka among others. This development might have been a result of the Shavite attempts to insert their ishta devata (cherished deity) in the Vaishnavite texts, which were gaining popularity. The 17th century Oriya work Rasavinoda by Divakrsnadasa goes on to mention that the three gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – combined to the take the form of Hanuman.

Hanuman became more important in the medieval period, and came to be portrayed as the ideal devotee (bhakta) of Rama. His characterization as a lifelong brahmachari (celibate) was another important development during this period. The belief that Hanuman's celibacy is the source of his strength became popular among the wrestlers in India. The celibacy or brahmacharya aspect of Hanuman is not mentioned in the original Ramayana.