Who were the Vanara? Monkey-People or Ape-People of the Veda
One of the most famous story in the ancient Vedic scriptures of the Hindu is the Ramayana epic. It tells how the exiled king Rama went in the forest and met the Vanara. The name ‘Vanara’ comes from ‘vana’ (forest) and (nara) (men), meaning ”Forest People”. Later, the name came to designate all kinds of monkeys and apes alike, although there is a variety of other names to define the primates.
The Vanara are described as hairy, intelligent, powerful and godly. Their king Sugriva and his councilor Hanuman decided to help Rama raise an army and deliver his wife Sita, who had been abducted on a flying chariot by the demon king of Sri Lanka, Ravana, a Rakshasa (reptilian shape-shifting blood-thirsty race).
Hanuman and some other Vanara had supernatural powers, they could fly and carry huge loads, disappear, shape-shift, grow in size, multiply themselves and other amazing feats. Among Hanuman’s most famous works, he ripped off the top of a mountain in Indonesia and threw it over the city of Hampi in western India. Today the ruins of Hampi are strangely covered with huge boulders of the same rock and nature than the missing top of that mountain in Java.
His most famous work is known as the Ram Setu, or Rama’s Bridge. Under the guidance of Hanuman, the Vanara built a 100 km long bridge to Sri Lanka made of huge blocks weighing up to a few tons. This stone bridge can still be seen today at no more than 10 meters below the surface. It allowed Rama, Hanuman and the Vanara to invade the island, free Sita and destroy the evil empire of Ravana.
Thousands of years later, artists depictions started to represent the Vanara as monkey-like men with long tails, for lack of better images.