When One Hanumān is Not Another Hanumān: The Case of Salasar Balaji

How to Cite

R. Jeremy Saul. (2022). When One Hanumān is Not Another Hanumān: The Case of Salasar Balaji: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 21(1), 175–190. Retrieved from https://ivsjournal.com/index.php/jvs/article/view/272


The popular identification of local deities having individual characteristics and histories with deities of the pan-Indian Hindu scriptures, such as Hanuman, is an ongoing phenomenon. In this essay, I will investigate this ontological duality in the case of an enshrined Hanuman known regionally as Balaji, whose main temple is in the village of Salasar in the Shekhawati area of Rajasthan. Within the last twenty years, Balaji has become hugely popular in certain areas of northwestern India and in cities throughout the country where those originating in this region now live. For Balaji’s devotees, and the priests who represent him in his temple, the deity effectively performs as “God” [bhagwān] in his own right, in the sense that he is the presiding lord of his locale. From this perspective, he is different from any other local Hanuman because his power is inherently linked to the site of this shrine itself. But, as I will discuss, in recent years his followers have also increasingly emphasized his identity as a manifestation of the Hanuman of nationwide fame, whose divine power is accumulated through his chaste, selfless devotion to Ram, the avatar of the high god Vishnu.1 Balaji is thus both a god in his own right and a devotee of God. Hence, despite the scriptural knowledge that all Hanumans represent the Hanuman of pan-Indian Hinduism, the local Hanuman of a particular shrine, such as Balaji, is likely to have a religious significance that is not entirely contained within the scope of mainstream scriptures.

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