In the Ramayana when Sita was abducted by the demon King Ravaana it was the Vanaarsena that helped Lord Rama to defeat the king of Lanka and bring his beloved wife back. Though the Vanaarsena played an important role in the Ramayana not much is mentioned about them whenever it is spoken of the epic.
But who were these Vanaars? According to the Sanskrit texts the word Vanaars refers to a group of people living in forests where ‘Van’ means “forest” and ‘Naar’ means “human”. Over the years the word Vanaar has come to mean monkeys in popular art, but there has been no clear evidence about their exact identity.
The epic Ramayana presented them as humans who were forest dwellers with supernatural abilities, they lived in Kishkinda present day Karnataka or more specifically Hampi, in the Dandak forest where lord Rama had first met Hanuman, Sugreev and the others. Whereas the Jain re-telling’s of the Ramayana suggest that they were a clan of supernatural beings called the ‘Vidhyadharas’ and the emblem of this clan was monkeys.
But if we specifically consider the Ramayana and look at the Vanaarsena then it was this humongous army of supernatural beings that were tribals of the Dandak forest of Kishkinda who played a major role in helping lord Rama.
They were an army that was created on the orders of Lord Brahma to defeat the demon king of lanka, when Ravaana asks Lord Brahma for the boon of immortality and supremacy over gods, heavenly spirits, serpents and other demons he forgets to mention mortal men and wild beasts.
Thus, Lord Vishnu takes birth in the form of Prince of Ayodhya, a mortal and the Vanaarsena an army of forest dwellers and wild beasts help him to defeat the Rakshasha army.
Rama meets the Vanaarsena:
After Sita’s abduction Rama and his brother Laxman were wandering in the forest in search of her they encounter ‘Kabandha’ a cursed demon, Rama and Laxman kill him and free him from his curse.
Kabandha was a Gandharva named Danu who was cursed by Indra and turned into a Rakshasha, he advises Rama to go to the “Rishyamukh Mountain” and form an alliance with Sugreev, younger brother of the Vanaar King Vali.
Rama and Laxman meet Sugreev and Hanuman on the Rishyamukh Mountain where he asks them for help Sugreev promises to help Rama if he in turn helped him, Sugreev then tells him his story.
Vali and Sugreev story:
Vali was the Vanaar king of Kishkinda he was extremely powerful and had been bestowed with a boon that whoever fought with him half his strength would be absorbed by Vali which in turn would become his own strength. One day he was challenged by a demon bull named Dundhubhi, Vali defeats him and throws his body away and the body lands in the holy fire of the Yagna being performed by Sage ‘Matanga’, the sage is enraged and he curses that whoever has desecrated his prayer would have his head exploded if he ever set foot on his hermitage which was on the Rishyamukh Mountain.
After Dundhubhi’s death his son Mayaavi challenges Vali in order to avenge his father’s death, once the fight begins the demon starts to loose and runs away into a cave that was an entrance to the Underworld hoping that Vali would not follow him but Vali does and asks his brother Sugreev to stand guard at the entrance of the cave so that the Mayaavi does not escape, soon a stream of blood flows out from the cave and Sugreev calls out for his brother but there was no response, he comes to a conclusion that his brother has been killed by the Mayaavi. Fearing that Mayaavi would return to claim Kishkinda he blocks the entrance of the cave with a huge boulder.
Sugreev is crowned as the king of Kishkinda but soon Vali returns he holds Sugreev responsible for plotting against him for trapping him in the cave and usurping his kingdom. Sugreev tries to reason with his brother but to no avail, realising that Vali would not listen to him and would kill him as he held him responsible for betraying him Sugreev runs and seeks shelter on the Rishyamukh Mountain.
On hearing his story Rama decides to help him and asks Sugreev to challenge Vali for a duel and thus Rama kills Vali. After Vali’s death Sugreev regains his kingdom and makes Angad son of Vali and his wife Tara the crown prince.
Thus, Sugreev who was now the Vanaar King along with his Vanaarsena marches with Rama to rescue Sita.
The Vanaarsena built the Raamsetu, the bridge which helped lord Rama to reach Sri lanka to bring his wife back, NASA discovered the satellite images of this bridge in 2002 which formed a link between India and Sri Lanka. Researchers found the bridge to be an archaic structure that was built 5000 years ago which was the time when the Ramayana had occurred.
This proved the existence of the Vanaarsena and their superior knowledge and intelligence since archaeologists stated that it was extremely difficult to construct a bridge in water about 5000 years ago but the Raamsetu was perfectly constructed by transporting rocks from different parts of India. It was Nal and Nila who were the designers of this bridge.
Thus, Vanaarsena was an army of tribal people who resided in the southern parts of India and were not only fierce warriors but also skilled people, who were the sole strength of Rama when needed help the most.