Sri Hanuman was not the devotee of Sri Rama, as commonly believed.
Sri Hanuman appears first in Kishkinda Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana, when he meets Sri Rama and Lakshmana. By the time he met Sri Rama, he had already mastered 3 Vedas, acquired Siddhis, had enormous strength.
Further, Sage Valmiki did not describe him to be a devotee of Sri Rama. However, Sage Valmiki described him to have served Sugriva as well as Sri Rama.
So can we conclude that Sri Hanuman is the devotee of Sugriva as well? No.
Let us consider the following issues.
In Ramayana, Sage Valmiki describes Sri Hanuma as the follower of Dakshinachara, the follower of Vedic way life..
अञ्जलिं प्राङ्मुखः कृत्वा पवनायात्मयोओनयो |
ततो हि ववृधे गन्तुं दक्षिणो दक्षिणां दिश्म् ||
(Sundara Kanda 1 Sarga 9 sloka)
Sage Valmiki used the words दक्षिणो दक्षिणां दिश्म् in the sloka. If the words दक्षिणां दिश्म् indicate Southern Direction, why did the sage used the word दक्षिणो (Dakshino) again?
The word दक्षिणो (Dakshino) was used to indicate that Sri Hanuma is the follower of DAKSHINAACHARA, i.e., the VEDIC way life. Sri Hanuma was described by the Sage Valmiki as expert in all Vedas.
Sri Rama, Lakshmana, Sugriva, King Dasaratha, King Janaka, Sage Agasthya, etc, were also the followers of Vedic way life.
It is very surprising to note that in the entire Srimad Ramayana, Sage Valmiki describes Sri Hanuman alone as he follower of Dakshinachara.
Sri Hanuman was a learned person, carried enormous strength, exhibited Super Human Powers, apart from being a Realised Soul.
Sage Valmiki presented Sri Hanuman as the representative of Dakshinachara, whereas Ravana and Indrajit was presented as the representatives of Vamachara.
After going through "Sundara Kanda" many times, I realised that Seeta understood the strength of Sri Hanuman.
कामम् अस्य त्वम् एव एकः कार्यस्य परिसाधने | पर्याप्तः पर वीरघ्न यशस्यः
ते बल उदयः ||
"O Hanuma, the annihilator of enemies! You are yourself surely
sufficient single-handed completion of this task. Your elevated energy
is creditable indeed."
However, Seeta did not want Sri Hanuman to take her to her husband. Her husband has to fight the battle, win the battle and get her released from the custody of Ravana.
शरैस्तुः सम्कुलाम् कृत्वा लन्काम् पर बल अर्दनः | माम् नयेत् यदि
काकुत्स्थः तस्य तत् सादृशम् भवेत् ||
"But, it will be appropriate for Rama, who destroys the hostile
forces, to take me with him, after routing Lanka with his arrows."
तत् यथा तस्य विक्रान्तम् अनुरूपम् महात्मनः | भवति आहव शूरस्य तत्त्वम्
एव उपपादय || (Sundara Kanda 56 Sarga 3-5 Slokas)
Hence, Sita asked Sri Hanuma to act in such a way that Sri Rama comes down to Lanka, fights the battle, eliminates Ravana alongwith his relatives, and gets the fame of taking her alongwith him to Ayodhya.
"Therefore, you act in such a way that the high-souled Rama, valiant in battle, may exhibit prowess worthy of him."
Sri Hanuman did not propose to carry the entire vanara army over ocean to reach Lanka. He simply said to Sri Rama that find a way to reach Lanka. It is for Sri Rama to find a way.
Sri Hanuman remain captivated with the usage of brahmAstra by Indrajit, only to honour brahma, the pitAmaha. We have to remember that brahmAstra cannot arrest him for more than a little time.
प्रसादिते च पवने ब्रह्मा तुभ्यम् वरम् ददौ | अशस्त्र वध्यताम् तात समरे
सत्य विक्रम || ४-६६-२७
"Oh, chivalric warrior at war, while the Air-god is being supplicated,
oh, dear boy, Brahma gave you a boon decreeing your 'indestructibility
by any missile...'
- Sri Hanuman did not try to stop, though being capable, Indrajit when he was attacking, staying invisible by using his ascetic powers, Sri Rama and Lakshmana.
If he intervenes, their glory diminishes and ego gets hurt. Sri Rama and Lakshmana had to toil. After all it was their battle. He helped them by remaining in sidelines.
- Another question arises as to why Sri Hanuman helped Sugriva as well as Sri Rama in accomplishing their tasks, being a Realised Soul. Instead he can sit at a place silently and engrossed in deep contemplation, being a Jnani.
Sri Hanuman, being a Realised Soul, did not need a kingdom, or fame or followers, etc, to show off his valour. Being a Realised Soul, it was his topmost priority to see that the ordinary people/vanaras have a good king, to follow.
Ordinary people may venerate a Jnani, but follow a righteous King. It is the King, who exemplary life becomes a role model for ordinary people.
Righteous Kings like Sri Rama and Sugriva can do that. That was Why Sri Hanuman, being a Realised Soul, who wished the happiness to all people, served those righteous kings.
It was in subsequent puranas or other Ramayanas that depicted Sri Hanuman to be a devotee of Sri Rama.