From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

The Rāmāyana of Vālmīki describes the story of Rāma and unfolds many interesting personalities involved in it. One such personality of the wise old man is Jāmbavān. He is said to have sprung out of the mouth of Brahmā, the creator, when once he yawned.[1] He was the king of bhallukas or bears. He had an unusually long span of life. He had witnessed many battles between the devas (gods) and the dānavas (demons). He had helped the gods during the churning of the ocean.[2] He drank all the amṛta (ambrosia or nectar) and became very strong.

During a sacrifice performed by the asura king Bali, he was in charge of medicinal herbs. He was a great devotee of Śiva and regularly visited Kailāsa. Initially he was the commander-in-chief of Vāli and later he switched over his loyalties to Sugriva after the latter’s banishment. He was one of the prominent members of the group of monkeys that was sent to the south by Sugrīva in search of Sītā. He encouraged and inspired the monkeys when they were very much dejected by not finding Sītā and Hanumān to cross the ocean to bring the news of Sītā.

During the Rāmāyaṇa war, he rendered invaluable help especially by his counsels and timely intervention. When Kṛṣṇa was implicated in the loss of the Syamantakamaṇi, a jewel that used to give a lot of gold every day, he traced the jewel ultimately to Jāmbavān’s cave. Kṛṣṇa fought with him for 28 days before vanquishing him. Jāmbavān had to concede defeat and give not only the jewel but also his daughter Jāmbavatī in marriage.


  1. Jṛbhaṇa means yawning.
  2. It is referred as samudramathana.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore