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As I know and I've heard from my Hindu friends that, someone put the fire on tail of Hanuman and he lit the whole island of Lanka.

My question is, how did Hanuman's tail catch fire or to be more specific, who put the fire on his tail? And what was the purpose for lighting up the tail?

  • Ravana Ordered to torch Lord Hanuma's tail, in order to disrespect him, because for a vanara his tail is most important like that of a skull cap for a muslim, or a turban for a Sikh (just an example for clarity no offense ). – Yogi Sep 16 '16 at 19:14
  • Ravana had hanuman's tail wound with cloth and doused with oil. Then it was set on fire. He did it to torture and humiliate hanuman. – Aks Sep 16 '16 at 19:47
  • As ordered by Ravana, the demons wrap up old rags around Hanuma's tail, pour oil to it and burn it with fire. – Trichakra Sep 17 '16 at 5:11
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The purpose behind Lord Hanumanas act of burning Lanka -:

Lord Hanuman thought that burning the Lanka will bring some small help to Lord Rama in his task of freeing Devi Sita.

दुर्गे विनाशिते कर्म भवेत् सुख परिश्रमम् | अल्प यत्नेन कार्ये अस्मिन् मम स्यात् सफलः श्रमः || ५-५४-४

  1. durge = (While) the fort; vinaashite = is destroyed;karma = the task; bhavet = will become; sukhaprishramam = bereft of fatigue; alpayatnena = by a small effort; asmin kaarye = in this task; shramaH = the work; syaat = will become; saphalah = fruitful.

"When the fort gets destroyed, the task (of Rama's battle) will be devoid of fatigue. Even with a small effort in this task, the work will become fruitful."

यो हि अयम् मम लान्गूले दीप्यते हव्य वाहनः | अस्य सम्तर्पणम् न्याय्यम् कर्तुम् एभिः गृह उत्तमैः || ५-५४-५

  1. nyaayam = It is justified; kartum = to do; samtarpaNam= the act of satiating; asya = to it; ayam = this;haryavaahanaH = fire; yaH diipyate = which is flaring up;mama laaNguule = on my tail; ebhiH = with these;gR^ihottamaH = excellent houses.

"It is justified to satisfy this blazing flame on my tail, by feeding it to the full, with these excellent houses (in the city of Lanka)."

The purpose is given in Valmiki Ramayana

According to This blog. And what I have heard personally from elders.

The story of his burning tail is as follows in brief -:

Lord Hanuman is been captured after he killed some Rakshashas at Ashok Vatika. He then were brought before Ravanas court. There ravana asked some questions to Lord Hanuman , which Lord Hanuman answers very wisely. After hearing the answers , ravana said " He looks like a very wise and knowladgeble monkey" So in order to punish Lord Hanuman , ravana orders his rakashasas to put fire to Lord Hanumans tail , and to free him.

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    Seems there were only devils in Lanka, no human being. Burn the entire country for one person mistake. I still could not understand what was the purpose, there are three answers and all says a different story, so which one is correct. – Ali Adravi Sep 19 '16 at 19:18
  • The city of Lankapuri has been burnt down by Lord Hanuman. Lanka is a general name of Ravanas country.And as you can see , a country and its capital might have same names. Yes Lanka was originally ruled by a rakashsas and not humans. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lanka – SwiftPushkar Sep 20 '16 at 2:15
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    @AliAdravi You have to make up your mind on which one makes the best impression on you. Hinduism gives everyone the freedom to read and understand scripture and also worship Gods according to their tastes. So you will not find a single correct answer. You might be interested in this question: Core Messages Of Ramayana. – sv. Sep 22 '16 at 18:00
  • @sv - Yes , I agree with your above views.Well said :) – SwiftPushkar Sep 22 '16 at 18:12
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It is Rāvaṇa who orders his men to light up Hanumān's tail. From Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Sundara Kāṇḍa, Sarga 53:

Hearing those words, which were appropriate for that place and time, spoken by that high-souled Vibhishana, his brother, Ravana spoke the following words in reply: [5-41-1]

"You have spoken well indeed that killing of an envoy is forbidden. Another punishment other than killing needs be certainly meted out to him." [5-41-2]

"It is said that a tail is possibly a beloved ornament for the monkeys. Let his tail be burn immediately. Let him go with a burnt tail." [5-41-3]


Background:

After Hanumān successfully locates Sītā in Lanka's Aśoka garden, he tries to convince her to mount on his back so he can take her back to Rāma. But Sītā rejects his offer. So to make the best use of his remaining time in Lanka, he plans to have a war rehearsal with Rāvaṇa's army to assess their strength and also meet Rāvaṇa to try and convince him to release Sītā and avoid the imminent war.

I have seen this black-eyed Seetha. There is only a little that remains to be done by me. Abandoning the three strategies for success viz. sowing dissension, negotiation and bribery, I have to implement here the fourth strategy viz. open assault. [5-41-2]

Then meeting Ravana with his troop of ministers, his army and his followers in battle as well as knowing his designs and strength, I will go back from here happily. [5-41-9]


During his assault, Hanumān kills Rāvaṇa's son Aksha, several grandsons, 80,000 Kinkara-demons and others but finally succumbs to Indrajit's Brahmastra and is captured. Ravana then has a dialogue with Hanuman in which he introduces himself and explains the strength of Rāma and urges him to avoid a full-blown war by immediately releasing Sītā. Rāvaṇa of course doesn't take his words seriously and orders him killed (he doesn't know that Hanuman had received the boon of chiranjīvi from Indra). Vibhishana, however, advises Rāvaṇa against it as killing an envoy is forbidden by scriptures. So that is when Rāvaṇa decides to burn Hanumān's tail instead.

When Sītā learns of this incident she prays to Agni-deva (fire god) to cool off Hanumān's burning tail:

"If I have done any service to my husband, if I have performed a penance and if I am a faithful wife, please be cool to Hanuma." [5-53-28]

"If the wise Rama has even a little of kindness to me and if I have still some good fortune remaining to my credit, please be cool to Hanuma." [5-53-29]

"If that virtuous Rama recognises me as one, who is endowed with a good moral conduct and who is ardently desirous of meeting him, please be cool to Hanuma." [5-53-30]

Overcome by anger, Hanumān then sets off entire Lanka on fire with his tail. Reflecting up on his hasty decision he later regrets and even contemplates suicide:

The entire Lanka has been reduced to ashes. No place is seen unburnt in this city. Therefore, Seetha also must have been surely lost. [5-55-11]

If this task has been spoiled due to my perverted intelligence, it is appropriate even for me, here and now itself, to give up my life. [5-55-12]

Due to culpability of my anger, I have indeed shown this apishness that is famous for instability in the three worlds. [5-55-15]

Before departing, Hanumān visits Aśoka garden once again to confirm Sītā is safe:

Thereafter, having offered his salutation to Seetha, who was present at the foot of Ashoka tree, Hanuma spoke: "Thank heaven! I am seeing you uninjured here!" [5-56-1]

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Ravana was furious that Hanuman had come to Lanka as Rama's messenger. He ordered Vibhishana to set Hanuman's tail on fire and take him in a procession through the streets of Lanka.

Accordingly, Hanuman's tail was tied with a rope and set on fire. As Hanuman walked down the streets, people laughed at him.

Sita begged Agnideva not to hurt Hanuman. Agnideva cooled his flames and though Hanuman's tail was still ablaze it did not hurt him. Meanwhile, Hanuman decided to have some fun. Shrinking in size he quickly shook off the rope. Then leaping from building to building, he set them on fire. Soon the entire city of Lanka was burning.

Fearing that his prank might have hurt Sita, Hanuman rushed to see her but was relieved to see her safe.

Then bidding her farewell, he jumped into the sea and across to Rama.

Source

tasya tat vacanam shrutvaa dashagriivo mahaabalaH |

desha kaala hitam vaakyam bhraatuH uttamam abraviit ||

samyag uktam hi bhavataa duuta vadhyaa vigarhitaa |

avashyam tu vadhaat anyaH kriyataam asya nigrahaH ||

kapiinaam kila laanguulam iShTam bhavati bhuuShaNam |

tat asya diipyataam shiighram tena dagdhena gacchhatu

Source Sundara Kanda

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Intention of setting fire to Hanuman's tail at Ravana's behest was to avoid killing a Doota but to cause a minor hurt in order to to teach him and Rama a lesson.

Setting fire to Lanka using tail as a the fire-torch device was an act of defiance by Hanuman towards Ravana to show that such action cannot hurt him. He in retaliation decided to cause only property destruction in order to teach back a lesson.

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