The Hanuman Chalisa is a Hindu devotional hymn composed in the Awadhi language by the 16th century Indian poet, Tulsidas. It's a sort of compendium in praise of the virtues and exploits of Lord Hanuman, the most fervent devotee of Ram, who is in turn the protagonist of the epic Indian poem, The Ramayana (Ram’s Journey). The word Chalisa (or Chaleesa) is derived from chalis, which translates as the number forty in Hindi. Tulsidas’s hymn has forty verses, with salutatory and valedictory couplets.
Briefly, it is appropriate to consider Hanuman to be the world’s first Superhero, a man-monkey possessed of extreme strength, heroic initiative, and a loving, emotional devotion to his god, Ram. A proto-Hanuman as an exemplar first appears as “a divine monkey” in the Rigveda, which dates between 1500 and 1200 BCE. His further exploits are noted in fragmentary anecdotes, which appear from the 7th to 4th centuries BCE, but which were finally set to paper in their entirety by the poet and sage, Valmiki, sometime between 500 BCE to 100 BCE. Valmiki is revered in India as Ādi Kavi, the first poet, author of Ramayana, the first epic poem.
The character of Hanuman began to have a theological significance in the 2nd millennium CE, and by the 17th century he had become a descendent of deities and an avatar of Shiva. Since then, he has been inspirational in works of poetry, art, literature, and even cinema. He symbolizes strength, self-control, faith, and seva, or selfless service to a cause.
For the purposes of this gloss, the Ramayana (Rham EYE en a) epic tells the story of Ram, a prince, Sita, his wife, and Lakshmana, his brother, as they endure a fourteen-year exile which ultimately results in the kidnapping of Sita by the villainous Ravana, king of Lanka, and then a tumultuous war, with Ram prevailing and returning to his home to be crowned king.
The scope of the tale is enormous, requiring nearly 24,000 Sanskrit verses written in the Shloka meter, which consists of four quarter-verses of 8 syllables each. Basically, all Indian classical verse appears generally in this form, and it translates, roughly, in English, as rhymed couplets. A LOT of rhymed couplets!
To a larger degree than, say, The Iliad or The Odyssey, The Ramayana is a living document. All modern Indians are familiar with the tale, primarily because its allegory is a primer on behavior and right-mindfulness, a “cookbook for a sacred life,” to borrow a phrase from Ram Dass. All the characters in the epic portray ideals—the ideal Father, the ideal Brother, Wife, Son, King. It falls to Hanuman to portray the ideal Friend and Devotee.
Tulsidas describes in exhaustive detail Hanuman’s nature. He is, in the first place, immortal. He is Brahmachari, which means he controls his attachment to all things of the material world. He is ugly on the outside (a man with a monkey’s head and tail, after all) but beautiful (divine) inside. He is a shapeshifter, and in The Ramayana he becomes both a mouse and a mountain in service to Ram and Sita. He is extraordinarily strong, lifting an entire Himalayan mountain and carrying it across India to Lanka.
Hanuman is innovative, a veritable Indian MacGyver, examples of which are numerous in the Chalisa. But most important, he is the essence of devotion, inordinately faithful to his friend and his lord, Ram.
Hanuman is—to this day—considered to be the remover of obstacles, and Tulsidas's chalisa is read, recited, and sung by millions of Hindus throughout India, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Thailand.
The American kirtan artist Krishna Das has recorded the Hanuman Chalisa many times, in numerous melodic, instrumental, and choral settings. I highly recommend you give him a listen.
Shree Hanuman Chaleesa
Shree Guru charana saroja raja nija manu mukuru sudhari
Baranaun Raghubara bimala jasu jo daayaku phala chaari
Having polished the mirror of my heart with the dust of my Guru’s lotus feet
I sing the pure fame of the best of Raghus, which bestows the four fruits of life.
Budhi heena tanu jaanike sumiraun pawana kumaara
Bala budhi vidyaa dehu mohin harahu kalesa bikaara
I know that this body of mine has no intelligence, so I recall you, Son of the Wind
Grant me strength, wit and wisdom and remove my sorrows and shortcomings.
Bhajelo Ji Hanuman! Bhajelo Ji Hanuman!
Oh Friend! Remember Hanuman!
1. Jaya Hanumaan gyaana guna saagara
Jaya Kapeesha tihun loka ujaagara.
Hail to Hanuman, the ocean of wisdom and virtue,
Hail Monkey Lord, illuminater of the three worlds.
2. Raama doota atulita bala dhaamaa
Anjani putra Pawanasuta naamaa
You are Ram’s emissary, and the abode of matchless power
Anjani’s son, named the “Son of the Wind.”
3. Mahaabeera bikrama bajarangee
Kumati niwaara sumati ke sangee
Great hero, you are as mighty as a thunderbolt,
You remove evil thoughts and are the companion of the good.
4. Kanchana barana biraaja subesaa
Kaanana kundala kunchita kesaa.
Golden hued and splendidly adorned
With heavy earrings and curly locks.
5. Haata bajra aura dwajaa biraajai
Kaandhe moonja janeu saajai.
In your hands shine mace and a banner
And a sacred thread adorns your shoulder.
6. Shankara suwana Kesaree nandana
Teja prataapa mahaa jaga bandana
You are Shiva’s son and Kesari’s joy
And your glory is revered throughout the world.
7. Bidyaawaana gunee ati chaatura
Raama kaaja karibe ko aatura
You are the wisest of the wise, virtuous and clever
And ever intent on doing Ram’s work.
8. Prabhu charitra sunibe ko rasiyaa
Raama Lakhana Seetaa mana basiyaa
You delight in hearing of the Lord’s deeds,
Ram, Sita and Lakshman dwell in your heart.
9. Sookshma roopa dhari Siyahin dikhaawaa
Bikata roopa dhari Lankaa jaraawaa
Assuming a tiny form you appeared to Sita
And in an awesome form you burned Lanka.
10. Bheema roopa dhari asura sanghaare
Raamachandra ke kaaja sanvaare
Taking a dreadful form you slaughtered the demons
And completed Lord Ram’s mission.
11. Laaya sajeevana Lakhana jiyaaye
Shree Raghubeera harashi ura laaye.
Bringing the magic herb you revived Lakshman
And Ram embraced you with delight.
12. Raghupati keenhee bahuta baraaee
Tuma mama priya Bharatahi sama bhaaee.
The Lord of the Raghus praised you greatly:
“Brother, you are dear to me as Bharat!”
13. Sahasa badana tumharo jasa gaawai
Asa kahi Shreepati kanta lagaawai.
“May the thousand-mouthed serpent sing your fame!”
So saying, Lakshmi’s Lord drew you to Himself.
14. Sanakaadika Brahmaadi muneesaa
Naarada Saarada sahita Aheesaa
Sanak and the sages, Brahma, gods and the great saints,
Narada, Saraswati and the King of serpents,
15. Yama Kubera digapaala jahaante
Kabi kobida kahi sake kahaante
Kubera and the guardians of the four quarters,
poets and scholars – none can express your glory.
16. Tuma upakaara Sugreevahin keenhaa
Raama milaaya raaja pada deenhaa.
You did great service for Sugriva,
Presenting him to Ram, you gave him the kingship.
17. Tumharo mantra Bibheeshana maanaa
Lankeshwara bhaye saba jaga jaanaa.
Vibhishana heeded your counsel
And became the Lord of Lanka, as the whole world knows.
18. Yuga sahasra yojana para bhaanu
Leelyo taahi madhura phala jaanu.
Though the sun is thousands of miles away,
You swallowed it, thinking it to be a sweet fruit.
19. Prabhu mudrikaa meli mukha maaheen
Jaladhi laanghi gaye acharaja naaheen.
Holding the Lord’s ring in your mouth
It’s no surprise that you leapt over the ocean.
20. Durgama kaaja jagata ke jete
Sugama anugraha tumhare tete.
Every difficult task in this world
Becomes easy by your grace.
21. Raama duaare tuma rakhawaare
Hota na aagyaa binu paisaare
You are the guardian at Ram’s door,
No one enters without your leave.
22. Saba sukha lahai tumhaaree sharanaa
Tuma rakshaka kaahu ko daranaa.
Those who take refuge in you find all happiness
and those who you protect know no fear.
23. Aapana teja samhaaro aapai
Teenon loka haanka ten kaanpai
You alone can withstand your own splendor,
The three worlds tremble at your roar.
24. Bhoota pisaacha nikata nahin aawai
Mahaabeera jaba naama sunaawai.
Ghosts and goblins cannot come near,
Great Hero, when your name is uttered.
25. Naasai roga hare saba peeraa
Japata nirantara Hanumata beeraa
All disease and pain is eradicated,
Brave Hanuman, by constant repetition of your name.
26. Sankata ten Hanumaana churaawai
Mana krama bachana dhyaana jo laawai
Hanuman releases from affliction
those who remember him in thought word and deed.
27. Saba para Raama tapaswee raajaa
Tina ke kaaja sakala tuma saajaa
Ram, the ascetic, reigns over all,
but you carry out all his work.
28. Aura manorata jo koee laawai
Soee amita jeewana phala paawai.
One who comes to you with any yearning
obtains the abundance of the Four Fruits of Life.
29. Chaaron juga parataapa tumhaaraa
Hai parasidha jagata ujiyaaraa.
Your splendor fills the four ages
your glory is renowned throughout the world.
30. Saadhu santa ke tuma rakhawaare
Asura nikandana Raama dulaare
You are the guardian of saints and sages,
the destroyer of demons and the darling of Ram.
31. Ashta siddhi nau nidhi ke daataa
Asa bara deena Jaanakee Maataa.
You grant the eight powers and the nine treasures
by the boon you received from Mother Janaki.
32. Raama rasaayana toomhare paasaa
Sadaa raho Raghupati ke daasaa
You hold the elixir of Ram’s name
and remain eternally his servant.
33. Tumhare bhajana Raama ko paawai
Janama janama ke dukha bisaraawai.
Singing your praise, one finds Ram
and escapes the sorrows of countless lives.
34. Anta kaala Raghubara pura jaaee
Jahaan janama Hari bhakta kahaaee
At death one goes to Ram’s own city
or is born on the earth as God’s devotee.
35. Aura devataa chitta na dharaaee
Hanumata se-ee sarva sukha karaee.
Give no thought to any other deity,
worshipping Hanuman, one gains all delight.
36. Sankata katai mite saba peeraa
Jo sumire Hanumata bala beeraa
All affliction ceases and all pain is removed
by remembering the mighty hero, Hanuman.
37. Jai jai jai Hanumaana Gosaaee
Kripaa karahu gurudeva kee naaee.
Victory, Victory, Victory to Lord Hanuman!
Bestow your grace on me, as my Guru!
38. Jo sata baara paata kara koee
Chootahi bandi mahaa sukha hoee.
Whoever recites this a hundred times
is released from bondage and gains bliss.
39. Jo yaha parai Hanumaana chaleesaa
Hoya siddhi saakhee Gaureesaa.
One who reads this Hanuman Chaleesa
gains success, as Gauri’s Lord (Shiva) is witness.
40. Tulasee Daasa sadaa Hari cheraa
Keejai naata hridaya mahan deraa.
Says Tulsi Das, who always remains Hari’s servant:
“Lord, make your home in my heart.”
Pawanatanaya sankata harana mangala moorati roopa
Raama Lakhana Seetaa sahita hridaya basahu sura bhoopa
Son of the Wind, destroyer of sorrow, embodiment of blessing,
Live in my heart, King of Gods, together with Ram, Lakshman and Sita.