Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Jambavan included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Jāmbavān

A monkey of extraordinary might. He was the minister of Sugrīva.*


When the troubles and hardships caused by the wickedness of Rāvaṇa became unbearable the goddess Earth and the Devas approached Brahmā for redress. Brahmā took them to the sea of Milk. Mahāvisṇu heard everything and said that he would incarnate as the son of Daśaratha and would kill Rāvaṇa. Brahmā was directed to create monkeys to help him on that occasion. Accordingly Brahmā created Jāmbavān and several other monkeys. There are two stories about the birth of Jāmbavān in the Purāṇas.

(1) Brahmā sat for a long time thinking about the creation of monkeys. Then he wanted to yawn., for which he opened the mouth and instantly Jāmbavān came out from inside Brahmā through the open mouth. "I have already created Jāmbayān the noble bear, who jumped out of my mouth when I yawned." (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bālakāṇḍa, Sarga 17, Stanza 6).

(2) One day time of Brahmā ended and the night had advanced two yāmas (six hours). The Madhukaiṭabhas born of the ear-wax of Mahāviṣṇu began to create trouble and commotion in the waters of the great flood. They saw a lotus on the surface of water. Seeing Brahmā in it they challenged him for fight. Hearing their shouting and the challenge Brahmā became afraid of the asuras. His middle face began to sweat. The sweat flowed through his cheeks and reached the loins. Jāmbavān came into being from that sweat. So he got the name Ambujāta, (born from the water of sweat). As he was the first person who entered the country of Jāmbūnada he was called Jāmbavān. As he was born when there was no universe or time his age or date of birth could not be ascertained. At the time of Śrī Rāma Jāmbavān was six Manvantaras (age of a Manu) and for hundred and sixtyfour Caturyugas (a period of four yugas) old. (The present age is the twentyeighth Caturyuga of the seventh Manu). Jāmbavān had witnessed all the incarnations from Matsya to Śrī Rāma. (Kamba Rāmāyaṇa Pūrva Kāṇḍa).

Jāmbavān and the incarnation of Śrī Rāma.

During the time of Śrī Rāma Jāmbavān was the minister of Sugrīva. It is stated in Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Kiṣkindhā Kāṇḍa, Sarga 41, that Nīla, the son of Agni, Hanūmān, Jāmbavān, Suhotra, Sarāri, Śaragulma, Gaja, Gavākṣa, Gavaya, Suṣeṇa, Ṛṣabha, Mainda, Dvivida, Vijaya, Gandhamādana, Ulkāmukha, Asaṅga, Aṅgada and others were the ministers of Sugrīva.

The monkeys who went to the south in search of Sītā, reached the sea shore. The question was how to jump over the sea to Laṅkā. Each of them came forward to show his ability and admitted failure. Finally Jāmbavān called Hanūmān to him and advised him to jump over to Laṅkā. Hanūmān who was not aware of his own powers,** refused. Jāmbavān told him about his birth, self-power, attainment of boons etc. Hanūmān became convinced of his powers at the words of Jāmbavān and jumped over the sea to Laṅkā. (Rāmāyaṇa, Kiṣkindhā Kāṇḍa).

Jāmbavān and the incarnation of Vāmana.

Jāmbavān walked round Mahāviṣṇu, who incarnated as Vāmana to curb the powers of Mahābali. At that time Jāmbavān was immensely strong. But by the time of the incarnation of Śrī Rāma his strength had decreased much. Hear what he said to the monkeys who assembled on the sea shore to go in search of Sītā.

"My abilities in olden times were not what you see now. In the far old days, I had walked round that Eternal Being Viṣṇu when he measured three steps at the sacrifice of Mahābali. Now, I am very old and have not enough strength to jump over the sea." (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Kiṣkindhā kāṇḍa, Sarga 65).

Jāmbavān and the incarnation of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

The longliving Jāmbavān who had witnessed nine out of the ten incarnations of Mahāviṣṇu is seen in connection with the precious stone Syamantaka, in the incarnation of Kṛṣṇa. The Sun-god gave this jewel Syamantaka to King Satrājit. His younger brother Prasena wore it and went to the forest for hunting. A lion killed him and took the jewel in his mouth and was going along the forest when Jāmbavān killed it and took the jewel. It was rumoured that Srī Kṛṣṇa had killed Prasena and taken the jewel. So Śrī Kṛṣṇa went in search of the jewel to the forest, defeated Jāmbavān and took the jewel, and returned it to Satrājit. Śrī Kṛṣṇa married Jāmbavatī the daughter of Jāmbavān. (Bhāgavata, Skandha 10).

Jāmbavān became old for ever.

At the time of the incarnation of Vāmana, Jāmbavān was very strong and valiant. When Vāmana brought under control the three worlds by measuring three steps Jāmbavān travelled throughout the three worlds carrying the news everywhere. Within three moments Jāmbavān travelled eighteen times through the three worlds. In this travel of lightning-speed the end of the nail of his toe touched the highest peak of Mahāmeru, who considered it as an insult and said "You are arrogant of your speed and youth. Hereafter your body will not reach where your mind reaches and you shall be ever old." Because of this curse Jāmbavān became old and unable to carry out what he wished. (Kamba Rāmāyaṇa, Yuddha Kāṇḍa).

*) It is difficult to ascertain whether Jāmbavān was a monkey or a bear. In some of the Indian languages he is descri bed as a monkey. In Malayālaṃ he was thought of as a monkey from ancient period. In Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, which is the original work, Jāmbavān is denoted by the words 'Kapi' (monkey) and Rkṣa (bear). Jāmbavān is called Ṛkṣapuṅgava in Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa Bālakāṇḍa Sarga 17. From this it is to be assumed that Jāmbavān was a bear. In the same chapter it occurs that, it was the aim of Brahmā to make the gods and the celestial women take birth as monkeys to help Mahāviṣṇu in the incarnation of Śrī Rāma. So it is not wrong to consider Jāmbavān either as a bear or as a monkey.

**) For the cause of his forgetting his own powers see under Trṇabindu II.

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