Hanuman painted in Pahari style
|Affiliation||Rama and Sita (Vaishnavism)|
|Texts||Ramayana, Ramcharitmanas, Hanuman Chalisa, Bajrang Baan|
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Hanuman (//; IAST: Hanumān, Sanskrit: हनुमान्) is an ardent devotee of Lord Rama and one of the central characters in the various versions of the epic Ramayana found in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. As one of the Chiranjivi, he is also mentioned in several other texts, such as the Mahabharata, the various Puranas and some Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh texts. Several later texts also present him as an incarnation of Shiva. Hanuman is the son of Anjana and Kesari and is also son of the wind-god Vayu, who according to several stories, played a role in his birth.
His theological origins in Hinduism are unclear. Alternate theories include him having ancient roots, being a non-Aryan deity who was Sanskritized by the Vedic Aryans, or that he is a fusion deity who emerged in literary works from folk Yaksha protector deities and theological symbolism.:39–40
While Hanuman is one of the central characters in the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana, the evidence of devotional worship to him is missing in the texts and archeological sites of ancient and most of the medieval period. According to Philip Lutgendorf, an American Indologist known for his studies on Hanuman, the theological significance and devotional dedication to Hanuman emerged about 1,000 years after the composition of the Ramayana, in the 2nd millennium CE, after the arrival of Islamic rule in the Indian subcontinent. Bhakti movement saints such as Samarth Ramdas expressed Hanuman as a symbol of nationalism and resistance to persecution. In the modern era, his iconography and temples have been increasingly common. He is viewed as the ideal combination of "strength, heroic initiative and assertive excellence" and "loving, emotional devotion to his personal god Rama", as Shakti and Bhakti. In later literature, he has been the patron god of martial arts such as wrestling, acrobatics, as well as meditation and diligent scholarship. He symbolizes the human excellences of inner self-control, faith and service to a cause, hidden behind the first impressions of a being who looks like a monkey.
Besides being a popular deity in Hinduism, Hanuman is also found in Jainism and Buddhism. He is also a legendary character in legends and arts found outside Indian subcontinent such as in Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Bali Indonesia. Outside India, Hanuman shares many characteristics with the Hindu versions in India, but differs in others. He is heroic, brave and steadfastly chaste, much like in the Sanskrit tradition, but not celibate. He marries and has children in other cultures, as is the case in a few regional versions in India. Hanuman is stated by scholars to be the inspiration for the allegory-filled adventures of a monkey hero in the Xiyouji (Journey to the West) – the great Chinese poetic novel influenced by the travels of Buddhist monk Xuanzang (602–664 CE) to India.
The meaning or the origin of word "Hanuman" is unclear. In the Hindu pantheon, deities typically have many synonymous names, each based on the noble characteristic or attribute or reminder of that deity's mythical deed.:31–32 Hanuman has many names like Maruti, Pawansuta, Bajrangbali, Mangalmurti but these names are rarely used. Hanuman is the common name of the monkey god.
One interpretation of the term is that it means "one having a jaw (hanu) that is prominent (mant)". This version is supported by a Puranic legend wherein baby Hanuman mistakes the sun for a fruit, attempts to heroically reach it, is wounded and gets a disfigured jaw.:31–32
A second, less common interpretation is that the name derives from the Sanskrit words Han ("killed" or "destroyed") and maana (pride); the name implies "one whose pride was destroyed". This epithet resonates with the story in the Ramayana about his emotional devotion to Rama and Sita. He combines two of the most cherished traits in the Hindu bhakti-shakti worship traditions: "heroic, strong, assertive excellence" and "loving, emotional devotion to personal god".:31–32
A third conjecture is found in Jain texts. This version states that Hanuman spent his childhood on an island called Hanuruha, which served as the origin of his name.:189
Outside the Indian subcontinent, though his iconography and the details of his legends vary, his names are phonetic similar to the Indian version:
The earliest mention of a divine monkey, interpreted by some scholars as the proto-Hanuman, is in hymn 10.86 of the Rigveda, dated to between 1500 and 1200 BCE. The twenty-three verses of the hymn are a metaphorical and riddle-filled legend. It is presented as a dialogue between multiple characters: the god Indra, his wife Indrani and an energetic monkey it refers to as Vrisakapi and his wife Kapi.:39–40 The hymn opens with Indrani complaining to Indra that some of the soma offerings for Indra have been allocated to the energetic and strong monkey, and the people are forgetting Indra. The king of the gods Indra responds by telling his wife that the living being (monkey) that bothers her is to be seen as a friend, and that they should make an effort to coexist peacefully. The hymn closes with all agreeing that they should come together in Indra's house and share the wealth of the offerings.:39–40
This hymn, which includes an explicit discussion of sex and differences between species, has been interpreted in a number of ways by contemporary scholars.:305 R.N. Dandekar states that it may metaphorically refer to another fertility god, while Wendy Doniger compares it to a horse sacrifice. Stephanie Jamison states that the hymn mentions a bull-monkey, a euphemism for a horse and fertility ritual, very different from the later era Hanuman. According to Philip Lutgendorf, there is "no convincing evidence for a monkey-worshipping cult in ancient India".
The orientalist F. E. Pargiter (1852-1927) theorized that Hanuman was a proto-Dravidian deity.:40 According to this theory, the name "Hanuman" derives from the Tamil word for male monkey (ana-mandi), first transformed to "Anumant" – a name which remains in use. "Anumant", according to this hypothesis, was later Sanskritized to "Hanuman" because the ancient Aryans confronted with a popular monkey deity of ancient Dravidians coopted the concept and then Sanskritized it.:39–40 According to Murray Emeneau, known for his Tamil linguistic studies, this theory does not make sense because the Old Tamil word mandi in Caṅkam literature can only mean "female monkey", and Hanuman is male. Further, adds Emeneau, the compound ana-mandi makes no semantic sense in Tamil, which has well developed and sophisticated grammar and semantic rules. The "prominent jaw" etymology, according to Emeneau, is therefore plausible.:39–40
Hanuman is mentioned in both the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. A twentieth-century Jesuit missionary Camille Bulcke, in his Ramkatha: Utpatti Aur Vikas ("The tale of Rama: its origin and development"), proposed that Hanuman worship had its basis in the cults of aboriginal tribes of Central India.
Hanuman is mentioned in the Puranas. A medieval legend posited Hanuman as an avatar of the god Shiva by the 10th century CE (this development possibly started as early as in the 8th century CE). Hanuman is mentioned as an avatar of Shiva or Rudra in the medieval era Sanskrit texts like the Mahabhagvata Purana, the Skanda Purana, the Brhaddharma Purana and the Mahanataka among others. This development might have been a result of the Shavite attempts to insert their ishta devata (cherished deity) in the Vaishnavite texts.
Other mythologies, such as those found in South India, present Hanuman as a being who is the union of Shiva and Vishnu, or associated with the origin of Ayyappa. The 17th century Odia work Rasavinoda by Dinakrishnadasa goes on to mention that the three gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – combined to take to the form of Hanuman.
In Valmiki's Ramayana, estimated to have been composed before or in about the 3rd century BCE, Hanuman is an important, creative character as a simian helper and messenger for Rama. The character evolved over time, reflecting regional cultural values. It is, however, in the late medieval era that his profile evolves into more central role and dominance as the exemplary spiritual devotee, particularly with the popular vernacular text Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas (~ 1575 CE). According to scholars such as Patrick Peebles and others, during a period of religious turmoil and Islamic rule of the Indian subcontinent, the Bhakti movement and devotionalism-oriented Bhakti yoga had emerged as a major trend in Hindu culture by the 16th-century, and the Ramcharitmanas presented Rama as a Vishnu avatar, supreme being and a personal god worthy of devotion, with Hanuman as the ideal loving devotee with legendary courage, strength and powers.
Hanuman evolved and emerged in this era as the ideal combination of shakti and bhakti. Stories and folk traditions in and after the 17th century, began to reformulate and present Hanuman as a divine being, as a descendent of deities, and as an avatar of Shiva. He emerged as a champion of those religiously persecuted, expressing resistance, a yogi,:85 an inspiration for martial artists and warriors,:57–64 a character with less fur and increasingly human, symbolizing cherished virtues and internal values, and worthy of devotion in his own right. Hindu monks morphed into soldiers, and they named their organizations after Hanuman. This evolution of Hanuman's character, religious and cultural role as well as his iconography continued through the colonial era and in post-colonial times.
In Indian mythology, Hanuman was born to Anjana and father Kesari. Hanuman is also called the son of the deity Vayu (Wind god) because of legends associated with Vayu's role in Hanuman's birth. One story mentioned in Eknath's Bhavartha Ramayana (16th century CE) states that when Anjana was worshiping Shiva, the King Dasharatha of Ayodhya was also performing the ritual of Putrakama yagna in order to have children. As a result, he received some sacred pudding (payasam) to be shared by his three wives, leading to the births of Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrughna. By divine ordinance, a kite snatched a fragment of that pudding and dropped it while flying over the forest where Anjana was engaged in worship. Vayu, the Hindu deity of the wind, delivered the falling pudding to the outstretched hands of Anjana, who consumed it. Hanuman was born to her as a result.[verification needed]
According to Valmiki's Ramayana, one morning in his childhood, Hanuman was hungry and saw the rising red colored sun. Mistaking it for a ripe fruit, he leapt up to eat it. In one version of the Hindu legend, the king of gods Indra intervened and struck his thunderbolt. It hit Hanuman on his jaw, and he fell to the earth unconscious with a broken jaw. His father, Vayu (air), states Ramayana in section 4.65, became upset and withdrew. The lack of air created immense suffering to all living beings. This led Prajapati, the god of life, to intervene and resuscitate Hanuman, which in turn prompted Vayu to return to the living beings.
In another Hindu version of his childhood legend, which Lutgendorf states is likely older and also found in Jain texts such as the 8th-century Dhurtakhyana, Hanuman's Icarus-like leap for the sun proves to be fatal and he is burnt to ashes from the sun's heat. His ashes fall onto the earth and oceans. Gods then gather the ashes and his bones from land and, with the help of fishes, from the water and re-assemble him. They find everything except one fragment of his jawbone. His great-grandfather on his mother's side then asks Surya to restore the child to life. Surya returns him to life, but Hanuman is left with a disfigured jaw.
Hanuman has many attributes:
The Sundara Kanda, the fifth book in the Ramayana, focuses on Hanuman. Hanuman meets Rama in the last year of the latter's 14-year exile, after the demon king Ravana had kidnapped Sita. With his brother Lakshmana, Rama is searching for his wife Sita. This, and related Rama legends are the most extensive stories about Hanuman.
Numerous versions of the Ramayana exist within India. These present variant legends of Hanuman, Rama, Sita, Lakshamana and Ravana. The characters and their descriptions vary, in some cases quite significantly.
The Mahabharata is another major epic which has a short mention of Hanuman. In Book 3, the Vana Parva of the Mahabharata, he is presented as a half brother of Bhima, who meets him accidentally on his way to Mount Kailasha. A man of extraordinary strength, Bhima is unable to move Hanuman's tail, making him realize and acknowledge the strength of Hanuman. This story attests to the ancient chronology of the Hanuman character. It is also a part of artwork and reliefs such as those at the Vijayanagara ruins.
Apart from Ramayana and Mahabharata, Hanuman is mentioned in several other texts. Some of these stories add to his adventures mentioned in the earlier epics, while others tell alternative stories of his life. The Skanda Purana mentions Hanuman in Rameswaram.
In a South Indian version of Shiva Purana, Hanuman is described as the son of Shiva and Mohini (the female avatar of Vishnu), or alternatively his mythology has been linked to or merged with the origin of Swami Ayyappa who is popular in parts of South India.
The 16th-century Indian poet Tulsidas wrote Hanuman Chalisa, a devotional song dedicated to Hanuman. He claimed to have visions where he met face to face with Hanuman. Based on these meetings, he wrote Ramcharitmanas, an Awadhi language version of Ramayana.
Hanuman appears with a Buddhist gloss in Tibetan (southwest China) and Khotanese (west China, central Asia and northern Iran) versions of Ramayana. The Khotanese versions have a Jātaka tales-like theme, but are generally similar to the Hindu texts in the storyline and character of Hanuman. The Tibetan version is more embellished, and without attempts to include a Jātaka gloss. Also, in the Tibetan version, novel elements appear such as Hanuman carrying love letters between Rama and Sita, in addition to the Hindu version wherein Rama sends the wedding ring with him as a message to Sita. Further, in the Tibetan version, Rama chides Hanuman for not corresponding with him through letters more often, implying that the monkey-messenger and warrior is a learned being who can read and write letters.
In the Sri Lankan versions of Ramayana, which are titled after Ravana, the story is less melodramatic than the Indian stories. Many of the legends recounting Hanuman's bravery and innovative ability are found in the Sinhala versions. The stories in which the characters are involved have Buddhist themes, and lack the embedded ethics and values structure according to Hindu dharma. According to Hera Walker, some Sinhalese communities seek the aid of Hanuman through prayers to his mother. In Chinese Buddhist texts, states Arthur Cotterall, myths mention the meeting of the Buddha with Hanuman, as well as Hanuman's great triumphs. According to Rosalind Lefeber, the arrival of Hanuman in East Asian Buddhist texts may trace its roots to the translation of the Ramayana into Chinese and Tibetan in the 6th-century CE.
In both China and Japan, according to Lutgendorf, much like in India, there is a lack of a radical divide between humans and animals, with all living beings and nature assumed to be related to humans. There is no exaltation of humans over animals or nature, unlike the Western traditions. A divine monkey has been a part of the historic literature and culture of China and Japan, possibly influenced by the close cultural contact through Buddhist monks and pilgrimage to India over two millennia. For example, the Japanese text Keiranshuyoshu, while presenting its mythology about a divine monkey, that is the theriomorphic Shinto emblem of Hie shrines, describes a flying white monkey that carries a mountain from India to China, then from China to Japan. Many Japanese shrines and village boundaries, dated from the 8th to the 14th centuries, feature a monkey deity as guardian or intermediary between humans and gods.
The Jātaka tales contain Hanuman-like stories. For example, the Buddha is described as a monkey-king in one of his earlier births in the Mahakapi Jātaka, wherein he as a compassionate monkey suffers and is abused, but who nevertheless continues to follow dharma in helping a human being who is lost and in danger.
Paumacariya (also known as Pauma Chariu or Padmacharit), the Jain version of Ramayana written by Vimalasuri, mentions Hanuman not as a divine monkey, but as a Vidyadhara (a supernatural being, demigod in Jain cosmology). He is the son of Pavangati (wind deity) and Anjana Sundari. Anjana gives birth to Hanuman in a forest cave, after being banished by her in-laws. Her maternal uncle rescues her from the forest; while boarding his vimana, Anjana accidentally drops her baby on a rock. However, the baby remains uninjured while the rock is shattered. The baby is raised in Hanuruha, his great-uncle's island kingdom, from which Hanuman gets his name.:51–52 Hanuman's strength is not his own achievement, but attributed to his mother's asceticism. In Jain texts, Hanuman is depicted as the 17th of 24 Kamadevas, the one who is ultimately handsome.:330
In the Jain version, Hanuman is not celibate, Rama is a pious Jaina who never kills anyone, and it is Lakshamana who kills Ravana. Hanuman is a sexually active personality in the Jain versions, marries princess Anangakusuma, the daughter of Kharadushana and Ravana's sister Chandranakha. Ravana also presents Hanuman one of his nieces as a second wife. After becoming an ally of Sugriva, Hanuman acquires a hundred more wives. Hanuman becomes a supporter of Rama after meeting him and learning about Sita's kidnapping by Ravana. He goes to Lanka on Rama's behalf, but is unable to convince Ravana to give up Sita. Ultimately, he joins Rama in the war against Ravana and performs several heroic deeds.:50–51 Later Jain texts, such as Uttarapurana (9th century CE) by Gunabhadra and Anjana-Pavananjaya (12th century CE), tell the same story.
In several versions of the Jain Ramayana story, there are passages that explain to Hanuman, and Rama (called Pauma in Jainism), that attachment to women and pleasures are evil. Hanuman, in these versions, ultimately renounces all social and material life to become a Jain ascetic.
In Sikhism, the Hindu god Rama has been referred to as Sri Ram Chandar, and the story of Hanuman as a siddha has been influential. After the birth of the martial Sikh Khalsa movement in 1699, during the 18th and 19th centuries, Hanuman was an inspiration and object of reverence by the Khalsa. Some Khalsa regiments brought along the Hanuman image to the battleground. The Sikh texts such as Hanuman Natak composed by Hirda Ram Bhalla, and Das Gur Katha by Kavi Kankan describe the heroic deeds of Hanuman. According to Louis Fenech, the Sikh tradition states that Guru Gobind Singh was a fond reader of the Hanuman Natak text.
During the colonial era, in Sikh seminaries in what is now Pakistan, Sikh teachers were called bhai, and they were required to study the Hanuman Natak, the Hanuman story containing Ramcharitmanas and other texts, all of which were available in Gurmukhi script.
The non-Indian versions of Ramayana, such as the Thai Ramakien, mention that Hanuman had relationships with multiple women, including Svayamprabha, Benjakaya (Vibhisana's daughter), Suvannamaccha and even Ravana's wife Mandodari. According to these versions of the Ramayana, Macchanu is the son of Hanuman borne by Suvannamaccha, daughter of Ravana. The Jain text Paumacariya mentions that Hanuman married Lankasundari, the daughter of Lanka's chief defender Bajramukha.
Another legend says that a demigod named Matsyaraja (also known as Makardhwaja or Matsyagarbha) claimed to be his son. Matsyaraja's birth is explained as follows: a fish (matsya) was impregnated by the drops of Hanuman's sweat, while he was bathing in the ocean. According to Parasara Samhita, Hanuman married Suvarchala, the daughter of Surya (the Sun God).
The Hanuman in southeast Asian texts differs from the north Indian Hindu version in various ways in the Burmese Ramayana, such as Rama Yagan, Alaung Rama Thagyin (in the Arakanese dialect), Rama Vatthu and Rama Thagyin, the Malay Ramayana, such as Hikayat Sri Rama and Hikayat Maharaja Ravana, and the Thai Ramayana, such as Ramakien. However, in some cases, the aspects of the story are similar to Hindu versions and Jaina or Buddhist versions of Ramayana found elsewhere on the Indian subcontinent.
Hanuman became more important in the medieval period and came to be portrayed as the ideal devotee (bhakta) of Rama. Hanuman's life, devotion, celibacy and strength inspired wrestlers in India.
According to Philip Lutgendorf, devotionalism to Hanuman and his theological significance emerged long after the composition of the Ramayana, in the 2nd millennium CE. His prominence grew after the arrival of Islamic rule in the Indian subcontinent. He is viewed as the ideal combination of shakti ("strength, heroic initiative and assertive excellence") and bhakti ("loving, emotional devotion to his personal god Rama"). Beyond wrestlers, he has been the patron god of other martial arts. He is stated to be a gifted grammarian, meditating yogi and diligent scholar. He exemplifies the human excellences of temperance, faith and service to a cause.
In 17th-century north and western regions of India, Hanuman emerged as an expression of resistance and dedication against Islamic persecution. For example, the bhakti poet-saint Ramdas presented Hanuman as a symbol of Marathi nationalism and resistance to Mughal Empire.
Hanuman in the colonial and post-colonial era has been a cultural icon, as a symbolic ideal combination of shakti and bhakti, as a right of Hindu people to express and pursue their forms of spirituality and religious beliefs (dharma). Political and religious organizations have named themselves after him or his synonyms such as Bajrang. Political parades or religious processions have featured men dressed up as Hanuman, along with women dressed up as gopis (milkmaids) of god Krishna, as an expression of their pride and right to their heritage, culture and religious beliefs. According to some scholars, the Hanuman-linked youth organizations have tended to have a paramilitary wing and have opposed other religions, with a mission of resisting the "evil eyes of Islam, Christianity and Communism", or as a symbol of Hindu nationalism.
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Hanuman's iconography shows him either with other central characters of the Ramayana or by himself. If with Rama and Sita, he is shown to the right of Rama, as a devotee bowing or kneeling before them with a Namaste (Anjali Hasta) posture. If alone, he carries weapons such as a big Gada (mace) and thunderbolt (vajra), sometimes in a scene reminiscent of a scene from his life.
In the modern era, his iconography and temples have been common. He is typically shown with Rama, Sita and Lakshmana, near or in Vaishnavism temples, as well as by himself usually opening his chest to symbolically show images of Rama and Sita near his heart. He is also popular among the followers of Shaivism.
Hanuman is often worshipped along with Rama and Sita of Vaishnavism, sometimes independently. There are numerous statues to celebrate or temples to worship Hanuman all over India. In some regions, he is considered as an avatar of Shiva, the focus of Shaivism. According to a review by Lutgendorf, some scholars state that the earliest Hanuman murtis appeared in the 8th century, but verifiable evidence of Hanuman images and inscriptions appear in the 10th century in Indian monasteries in central and north India.:60
Tuesday and Saturday of every week are particularly popular days at Hanuman temples. Some people keep a partial or full fast on either of those two days and remember Hanuman and the theology he represents to them.:11–12, 101
Major temples and shrines of Hanuman include:
Hanuman is a central character in the annual Ramlila celebrations in India, and seasonal dramatic arts in southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand; and Bali and Java, Indonesia. Ramlila is a dramatic folk re-enactment of the life of Rama according to the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana or secondary literature based on it such as the Ramcharitmanas. It particularly refers to the thousands of dramatic plays and dance events that are staged during the annual autumn festival of Navratri in India. Hanuman is featured in many parts of the folk-enacted play of the legendary war between Good and Evil, with the celebrations climaxing in the Dussehra (Dasara, Vijayadashami) night festivities where the giant grotesque effigies of Evil such as of demon Ravana are burnt, typically with fireworks.
The Ramlila festivities were declared by UNESCO as one of the "Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity" in 2008. Ramlila is particularly notable in the historically important Hindu cities of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan, Almora, Satna and Madhubani – cities in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
Hanuman's birthday is observed by some Hindus as Hanuman Jayanti. It falls in much of India in the traditional month of Chaitra in the lunisolar Hindu calendar, which overlaps with March and April. However, in parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Hanuman Jayanthi is observed in the regional Hindu month of Margazhi, which overlaps with December and January. The festive day is observed with devotees gathering at Hanuman temples before sunrise, and day long spiritual recitations and story reading about the victory of good over evil.
Hanuman is a revered heroic figure in Khmer history in southeast Asia. He features predominantly in the Reamker, a Cambodian epic poem, based on the Sanskrit Itihasa Ramayana epic. Intricate carvings on the walls of Angkor Wat depict scenes from the Ramayana including those of Hanuman.
In Cambodia and many other parts of southeast Asia, mask dance and shadow theatre arts celebrate Hanuman with Ream (same as Rama of India). Hanuman is represented by a white mask. Particularly popular in southeast Asian theatre are Hanuman's accomplishments as a martial artist and as an amorous seducer of women, in interpolated plays that are missing from most versions of the Indian Ramayana.
Hanuman is the central character in many of the historic dance and drama art works such as Wayang Wong found in Hindu communities of Bali, Indonesia. These performance arts can be traced to at least the 10th century. He has been popular, along with the local versions of Ramayana in other islands of Indonesia such as Java.
In major medieval era Hindu temples, archeological sites and manuscripts discovered in Indonesian and Malay islands, Hanuman features prominently along with Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Vishvamitra and Sugriva. The most studied and detailed relief artworks are found in the Candis Panataran and Prambanan.
Hanuman has been a historic and popular character of Ramakien in Thai culture. He appears wearing a crown on his head and armor. He is depicted as an albino white, strong character with open mouth in action, sometimes shown carrying a trident. In Ramkien, Hanuman is a devoted soldier of Rama. Unlike in Indian adaptations, he is not celibate, and he is presented as a ladies man, according to Paula Richman. He meets the mermaid Suvannamaccha and the couple have a son. Hanuman plays a dominant role in the Thai version of the Ramayana epic.
As in the Indian tradition, Hanuman is the patron of martial arts and an example of courage, fortitude and excellence in Thailand.
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