Yes, the Vānaras are totally unique beings.
We shall clarify this in detail, with references from the Śrīmada Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa:
1. The Order from the Chaturmukh Brahmā
The gods, demi-gods, semi-gods, etc. - become progenitors Vānara heroes at the dictate of Brahmā to come to the aid of Śrī Rāma in annihilating Ravaṇa.
पुत्रत्वं तु गते विष्णौ राज्ञस्तस्य महात्मनः । उवाच देवताः सर्वाः
स्वयंभूर्भगवानिदम् ॥ १ ॥
- When Viṣṇu attained the sonship of the great-souled king Daśaratha,
then Brahmā the self-created addressed all of the gods this way.
सत्यसंधस्य वीरस्य सर्वेषां नो हितैषिणः । विष्णोः सहायान् बलिनः सृजध्वं
कामरूपिणः ॥ २ ॥
- "Let mighty and guise changing helpmates be procreated to that truth abiding and valorous Viṣṇu who is the well-wisher of all of us.
- So this species was specifically born from divine beings.
2. Vānaras Powess/ablities:
मायाविदश्च शूरांश्च वायुवेगसमान् जवे।| नयज्ञान् बुद्धिसंपन्नान्
विष्णुतुल्यपराक्रमान् ॥३॥ असंहार्यानुपायज्ञान्
दिव्यसंहननान्वितान् । सर्वास्त्रगुणसंपन्नानमृतप्राशनानिव ॥४॥
अप्सरस्सु च मुख्यासु गन्धर्वीणां तनूषु च । यक्षपन्नगकन्यासु
ऋक्षविद्याधरीषु च ॥५॥ किंनरीणां च गात्रेषु वानरीणां तनूषु च ।
सृजध्वं हरिरूपेण पुत्रांस्तुल्यपराक्रमान् ॥६॥
- to 6. "Let monkey-shaped progeny equalling Viṣṇu's valor be procreated
from the physiques of prominent Apsarās and Gandharvas, from the
girls of Yakṣas and Pannagas, and also thus from the bodies of
Kīnnaras, she-Vidyādharas, she-Ṛkṣas and she-monkeys, and they (the Vānaras)
shall be wizards of miracles and audacious ones, in travel they shall
have air's speed, bestowed with intellect they shall be the knowers of
ideation, and with their divine physique they shall be ineliminable,
they shall be endowed with all the assaultive aspects of all missiles,
and they shall be untiring in their efforts, like you who thrive on
amrita, the ambrosia, unmindful of thirst and hunger".
कामरूपबलोपेता यथाकामं विचारिणः ॥२४॥
सिंहशार्दूलसदृशा दर्पेण च बलेन च । शिलाप्रहरणाः सर्वे सर्वे पादपयोधिनः
|| १-१७-२५ नखदंष्ट्रायुधाः सर्वे सर्वे सर्वास्त्रकोविदाः । विचालयेयुः
शैलेन्द्रान् भेदयेयुः स्थिरान् द्रुमान् ॥२६॥ क्षोभयेयुश्च वेगेन
समुद्रं सरितां पतिम् । दारयेयुः क्षितिं पद्भ्यामाप्लवेयुर्महार्णवम् ||
१-१७-२७ नभस्थलं विशेयुश्च गृह्णीयुरपि तोयदान् | गृह्णीयुरपि मातंगान्
मत्तान् प्रव्रजतो वने ॥२८॥ नर्दमानाश्च नादेन पातयेयुर्विहंगमान्
- to 28. They are endowed with guise-changing faculties, with bodily might, and
by their pride and might are identical to lions and tigers, and they
are born-free in their movement in forests. All of
they are the assaulters with stones, and all are the attackers with
trees, and all have their nails and claws as their weapons, yet all
are experts in missiles. They can rock the greatest mountains, rip firm
rooted trees, and with their speed, they can agitate the of lord of
rivers, namely the ocean. They can shatter the ground with their two
feet, leap and cross over great oceans, and they can seize the clouds
entering arch of heaven. They can catch ruttish elephants that
tumultuously move in forests, and just with the sound of their blare
they make sky flying birds fall.
Chapter 31, Book 4
ते ताम्र वक्त्रा हेम आभा राम अर्थे त्यक्त जीविताः ।
लन्काम् एव अह्यवर्तन्त साल ताल ज़िला आयुधाः ॥ ६-४२-१४ ॥
ते द्रुमैः पर्वत अग्रैज़् च मुष्टिभिज़् च प्लवम् गमाः ।
प्रासाद अग्राणि च उच्चानि ममन्तुस् तोरणानि च ॥६-४२-१५॥
Those monkeys, of golden hue with coppery countenance, fighting with Sala trees and mountain-peaks, marched ahead towards the city of Lanka, ready as they were to lay down their lives in Rama's service.
Those monkeys demolished innumerable defensive walls and arches with blows from trees, mountain-tops, and fists.
- All these above-highlighted qualities are impossible for a Monkey to possess. No monkey have shape-shifting capabilities. No monkey can capture an elephant or uproot a tree, or demolish a fortress's walls with its fists, etc.
4. Vānaras Physical Description:
Chapter [Sarga] 31, Book 4 - Kiṣkindha Kāṇḍa
गिरि कुंजर मेघ आभा नगर्या निर्ययुः तदा ॥ ४-३१-२३ ॥
नख दंष्ट्र आयुधा सर्वे वीराः विकृत दर्शनाः । सर्वे शार्दूल दर्पाः च
सर्वे च विकृत आननाः ॥ ४-३१-२४ ॥
S23. & 24. Some of the elephantine Vānaras who are frightening just by their
appearance, who in sheen are similar to mountains and dark-clouds have
gone out of the city. All of those brave vānaras are armed
with their own teeth and nails, all are with tigerish pride, all are
hideous in look and horrendous by their faces.
- Such a physical description is not compatible with what we know about the monkeys in the present times.
5. Vānaras wearing clothes.
एवम् उक्त्वा तु माम् तत्र वस्त्रेण एकेन वानरः । तदा निर्वासयामास वाली
विगत साध्वसः ॥४-१०-२६॥
- "On saying thus that monkey ruthlessly banished me, then and
there in the court itself, who am with single clothing on my body.
- So, this basically suggests that they used to cover themselves with clothes, jewellery, et al. Surely, a wild monkey, doesn't do such activities.
6. Invited by the devas for help, Are equal to gods & demons:
वानराणाम् प्रभवो हि न केन विदितः पुरा | देवतानाम् सकाशम् च ये गच्छन्ति
निमन्त्रिताः || ५-५८-१४२
- "To whom is this strength of the monkeys not already known, who go
even to the presence of gods, when invited by them for help?"
- Obviously, of what help will a normal wild monkey be to a celestial god?
स्थितान् पश्यसि यान् एतान् मत्तान् इव महाद्विपान् | न्यग्रोधान् इव
गान्गेयान् सालान् हैमवतीन् इव || ६-२८-२ एते दुष्प्रसहा राजन् बलिनः काम
रूपिणः | दैत्य दानव सम्काशा युद्धे देव पराक्रमाः || ६-२८-३
- & 3. "O, king! Do you observe those monkeys resembling huge elephants in
rut, rising like banyan trees on the banks of River Ganga or Sala
trees on Himalayas? Those warriors, able to change their form at will,
are irresistible, equal to celestials and demons, and in a battle, are
endowed with the valour of the gods."
So basis the above-discussed Six reasons, we conclude that:
Vānaras ≠ Monkey.