Jambavan (Sanskrit: जाम्बवान, Telugu:జాంబవంతుడు, Kannada : ಜಾಂಬುವಂತ, Malay: Jambuwana, Burmese: Zabaman, Tamil: Sambuvan, Hindi: जाम्बवन्त, Thai: Chomphuphan) also known as Jamvanta, Jambavantha, Jambavat, or Jambuvan the King of the Bears, is a sloth bear in Indian epic tradition (though he is also described as a monkey in other scriptures), immortal to all but his father Vishnu. Several times he is mentioned as Kapishreshtha (Foremost among the monkeys) and other epithets generally given to the Vanaras. He is known as Riksharaj (King of the Rikshas). Rikshas are described as something like Vanaras but in later versions of Ramayana Rikshas are described as bears. He was created by Brahma, to assist Rama in his struggle against Ravana. Jambavan was present at the churning of the ocean, and is supposed to have circled Vamana seven times when he was acquiring the three worlds from Mahabali. He was the King of the Himalayas who had incarnated as a bear in order to serve Rama. He had received a boon from Lord Rama that he would have a long life, be handsome and would have the strength of ten million lions.
In the epic Ramayana, Jambavantha helped Rama find his wife Sita and fight her abductor,Ravana. It is he who makes Hanuman realize his immense capabilities and encourages him to fly across the ocean to search for Sita in Lanka.
In the Mahabharata, Jambavantha had killed a lion, who had acquired a gem called Syamantaka from Prasena after killing him. Krishna was suspected of killing Prasena for the jewel, so he tracked Prasena's steps until he learned that he had been killed by a lion who had been killed by a bear. Krishna tracked Jambavantha to his cave and a fight ensued. After eighteen days, realizing who Krishna was, Jambavantha submitted. He gave Krishna the gem and also presented him his daughter Jambavati, who became one of Krishna's wives.
Role in Ramayana
Jambavantha was considered very experienced and intelligent.He had a good knowledge of running a kingdom. Sugriva’s advisers included Jambavantha, Nala, Neela, Hanuman and a few others. Sugriva was residing on mount Rishyamukha with these advisers. Jambavantha advised Sugriva to send Hanuman to identify Rama and Lakshmana, to find out who they were and what their purpose was.
He was very powerful when he was young. He said this while he was encouraging Hanuman to cross the 100 Yojana Sea and go to Lanka in search of Sita. He was so powerful that he circled 7 times to God when God grew so huge to measure all three loka i.e. heaven, earth, and patal (below earth) in two simple steps. Jambavantha circled (parikrama) seven times to God in a brief time. So he could have easily jumped 100 Yojana Sea had he been young.
Once during a duel with Ravana, Jambavan was quick and ferocious. He gave Ravana mighty punches with his hands and finally kicked him on his chest, knocking Ravana unconscious and making him fall flat in his chariot. As a result, the charioteer withdrew Ravana from the battle. Earlier, Ravana had dueled Hanuman, who is considered to be the incarnation of Lord Vayu, and Sugriva, known to be the sun God Suriya .
The city of Jamvanta
- Jamthun (जामथुन) - Jamthun village in Ratlam tahsil in Ratlam district in Madhya Pradesh, located in northwest of Ratlam city, has traces of ancient habitation. It is known as the city of Jamvanta (जाम्वन्त) or Jamvanta Nagari. Ancient bricks have been found in excavations. There need for further excavation.
Jambavan mentions two incidents in his life in the Ramayana. Once at the foot of Mount Mahendra, where Hanuman is about to take a leap and mentions that he could have jumped over the ocean to Lanka except that he got injured when he was beating the drum for Vishnu during the Vamana Avatara when the great god measured the three worlds. Vamana's shoulder struck Jambavan and he was injured which limited his mobility. And once during the Samudra-Manthan,he was present at the time of the event. He got to know about the all-curing plant Vishalyakarni from the gods there and he later used this information to order Hanumana to help an injured and unconscious Laxmana in the great battle with the Lanka emperor,Ravana.
There was a Ramji temple in the village where Nilkanth Varni(Swaminarayan) rested. In the village, there were two daughters who would learn about Ramayan. One day the bawa who had requested Nilkanth to stay in his village could not answer the daughters’ questions. Nilkanth stepped in and satisfactorily answered their questions. The girls were pleased and went home to tell their parents. They wanted to invite Him to their house for dinner. Their father persuaded Neelkanth to come. Neelkanth came and ate dinner. Their father requested Him to stay longer to teach his son, Jairamdas since he wasn’t educated. Nilkanth agreed to stay for a few days and He taught Jairamdas scriptures and yoga.
Jairamdas’ friend, Krishna Tamboli, would come to have darshan of Nilkanth everyday. He would often bring lotus fruits to Nilkanth. Nilkanth asked him, “From where do you bring these lotus fruits, they are sweet indeed.” Tamboli replied, “There is a lake near my house.” Nilkanth wanted Tamboli to take Him there, so that evening Nilkanth and Jairamdas met Tamboli at the lake and Tamboli had a raft ready for them. As they were sailing, Nilkanth asked if He could steer the raft. While He was steering, the wind changed direction and was headed toward the forest with the wild animals. Nilkanth told them that they should all get off and rest, but Jairamdas and Tamboli were scared.
As they entered the forest, they heard a loud noise and a black bear came running toward Nilkanth . As soon as Nilkanth looked into the bear’s eyes, it calmed down and bowed to Him. Tears began rolling down from its eyes. Nilkanth told the bear, “You will be redeemed, You shall attain Akshardham in a few days. Nilkanth explained that the bear was Jambavan in a previous life and could not recognize Ram so had to pass through cycles of births, but that today, he recognized Him as the supreme Lord.
Jambavan, together with Parasuram and Hanuman, is considered to be one of the few to have been present for both Ram and Krishna avatars. Said to have been present for the churning of the ocean and thus witness to the Kurma avatar, and further the Vaman avatar, Jambavan may well be the longest lived of the chiranjivis and have been witness to the most avatars than any other earthly being. 
- Patricia Turner, Charles Russell Coulter. Dictionary of ancient deities. 2001, page 248
- Dr Ajit Raizada: Art, Archaeology and History of Ratlam, Sharada Prakashan Delhi, 1992, ISBN 81-85320-14-4, p.115
- "Jambavan: The only one who saw Lord Rama and Krishna".
- Jambavantha motivating Hanuman for the task of leaping the ocean. in Valmiki Ramayana - Kishkindha Kanda in Prose Sarga 65 - Accessed August 14, 2006.
- Story of Syamantaka from www.tirumala.org - Accessed August 14, 2006.
- Jambavantha - A Rksha Warrior