Jambavan (Sanskrit: जाम्बवान, Kannada : ಜಾಂಬುವಂತ, Malay: Jambuwana, Burmese: Zabaman, Tamil: Sambuvan, Hindi:Jhambhavan 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 Brahma. 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.
- 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
- 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