Hanuman’s Warriors – Grey Langur

According to Hindu scripture, during the great battle of Lanka, Hanuman, the monkey god, was in trouble. He had been captured, and fires raged all around. Help came in the unlikely form of a troop of Grey Langurs, who rushed to assist Hanuman, resulting in scorched black faces, and a revered status in Hindu culture that persists to this day.

While visiting the great north Indian state of Rajasthan, I traveled from Jaipur to Ranthambhore National Park, chasing a dream of seeing a wild Royal Bengal Tiger.  Ranthambhore oozes history, spirituality, and a spellbinding sense of the exotic. Since 1754, the wilderness now known as Ranthambhore National Park, was maintained as the private hunting preserve of the Maharajas of Jaipur. In 1980 the Indian government declared the 392 km² (150 square miles) area a National Park, dedicated to the protection of tigers.

A Ranthambhore Royal Bengal Tiger studies me through the trees

On the first drive through the park I encountered Grey Langurs in their natural habitat, standing guard from treetops, barking a tiger alarm to wildlife foraging below. It was not until later, when visiting UNESCO site, Ranthambhore fort, that I began to understand the cultural significance of this animal.

Ranthambhore Fort
A chalk depiction of Lord Ganesh

Ranthambhore fort is within the national park boundary, with access to the old fort ruins only possible by foot. As I approached the main area of the ruins, I was struck by three things: It was clearly a place of intense worship, there were clouds of pigeons, and there were langurs, everywhere.

Ruins of Ranthambhore fort

I arrived at the main ruins to find every stretch of wall adorned with monkeys, like statues, in the amber glow of the Indian sun. It is an intimidating experience to walk through a huge troop of monkeys that are studying your every move. I had encountered troops of macaques in other parts of Asia, and knew that they could be very aggressive. It felt like a scene from the movie Apocalypse Now, arriving at Colonel Kurtz’s jungle camp while his warriors look on in impassive silence. Very quickly I realized that these monkeys are not aggressive as they sat, relaxed and somewhat disinterested.


I was able to approach the langurs, and get very close without them showing even the slightest concern. When revered as a warrior of the gods it appears that you have very little need to be fearful of humans.

Grey Langur welcoming party

Small groups of langurs positioned themselves along the main walking path, through the ruins, to the temple at the far end of the fort. I walked the path, entered the temple and paid my respects to an orange painted icon of Hanuman. I shared no language with the guardians of the temple, but as is so often the case, we communicated through smiles and human values. I was given a sweet, spiced offering with a motion to eat it. Some offerings were taken by worshipers to the langurs along the path. Perhaps this partly explained the reason for the guard of honour that they gave to worshippers.

The social langurs appeared to enjoy close contact with each other


Grooming takes place while a new born baby stays close to mum

The langurs spent large amounts of time grooming one another, sunbathing or (as seen below) just airing themselves in the fresh air and gentle warming sunshine of a December morning.

A little fresh air

The Grey langur is a large primate, growing to around 68 cm (27 inches) in height, and weighing in at around 17 kg (37 lbs), with males a little smaller than females. They have been recorded as living for over 30 years, which is not surprising considering the life of luxury they appear to enjoy.

It isn’t all peace and relaxation in the monkey troop. The entire adult group is female, presided over by one Alpha male. It appears to me that he has three duties in life which are to protect the troop, rest frequently, and mate with every female as often as possible.  He certainly appeared to take two of his jobs very seriously, setting about them with a steely determination. This may seem like an idyllic life for the Alpha, but reality is that he will only hold this position for around eighteen months, at which time a new boss will take over. The new Alpha’s first job is to kill the infants in the troop. This grizzly behaviour ensures that his reign is successful in producing his own young as soon as possible, and in doing so, guaranteeing the future of his genes.

Only the Alpha Male gets to mate.

India is hot, and dry, and liquid isn’t easy to come by. Back at the car parking area a leaky tap provides a welcome drink for thirsty langurs. They wait in line and take turns to drink.

A Grey Langur takes a drink from a leaky tap

Even the babies need a drink from time to time, to compliment mum’s milk. This little guy (below) waited patiently for mum to slake her thirst first.

Mum and baby Grey Langur take a drink

As I walked to the exit of the fort I watched a powerful demonstration of the reverence in which this monkey is held. A family walked the stone path, carrying a bag of belongings, including a snack or two. A large, active monkey leapt down from the walls above, and with the sense of entitlement of a spoilt child, ripped open the bag, looked inside and grabbed what it wanted. In some cultures it is not difficult to imagine this behaviour being met with a swift kick. Here the moment was met with mirth from the ladies and the unlikely scene of the man reasoning with the monkey that perhaps this wasn’t the most appropriate behaviour to engage in.

A Grey Langur helps himself

The Grey langur is protected by Indian law, despite being listed as ‘Least Concern’. While I welcome this protection, it feels a little unnecessary as it is clear that it is respect for this revered creature that guarantees its ability to survive and thrive. The belief that the god Hanuman protects Hindus ensures that in turn the Hindus protect Hanumans warriors. If a Grey langur is found dead a funeral service is held with the same level of service and dignity afforded to a human.


My own experience of the Grey langur was not one of a warrior monkey charging selflessly into great battles between gods. When I looked into the face of this young monkey (above) all I could see was a beautiful, shy creature, surviving in the same world that I am, in its own way. One wonders, though, what that world could look like if all wildlife was afforded the same respect that has been afforded to the Grey, or Hanuman Langur.


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I am a wildlife blogger and traveler, using images & stories to inspire wild connections.


  1. Wow, David! I feel like I just took an amazing trip! Thank you for the beautiful photos, so sharp and clear; the learning, which I always appreciate so much; and the enjoyment =)) Your descriptions and working make it easier to feel and imagine the experience! And always love your mission of education and continued support of the natural world. We are all in it, not separate from or above it. Thanks again!

    Liked by 6 people

  2. One of the friends I made while in Belize was a Hindu man originally from Nepal. There were no langur monkeys around, but I was struck by how differently he acted towards living beings than most of the other people I met. He seemed to have more of a “live and let live” mentality, even to the point of actively planting fruit trees in empty lots. That sort of behavior was not overly common.

    My observations of my friend, and other bits of information I’ve come across (like this post), make me quite interested to travel to India and/or Nepal. I’m curious to see how people treat the natural world there, and if it differs in any way from my previous experiences.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi josh, thank for the comment! My India articles have rightly focused on the Royal Bengal tiger and these amazing langurs, but what I haven’t written about is the everyday interactions with wildlife that I witnessed. I saw huge, urban populations of rats, mice, pigeons, and squirrels living in colonies, unharmed by local people. Huge kites swooped down to grab scraps of meat or fish in the markets of Mumbai, without fear of being shot, trapped or poisoned. I really experienced a sense of living together with nature. I have not been to Nepal (yet) but I certainly recommend India. Not everyone can enjoy it because of the terrible conditions that some people live in, but I loved the place! I know that you would love spending time in the company of tigers.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you for an interesting post. I too wish more human primates would respect other primates and wild creatures. The last picture is lovely. How special to be observed in such a relaxed fashion with such quiet regard by an animal that has not learnt fear and defensiveness, in contrast to persecuted monkeys in other parts of the world, including where I live in South Africa.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Hi, loved your article on grey Langurs written with humor and respect to our hairy ancestors. Being a Hindu myself I can validate the fact that they are somewhat revered in some parts of the country as Hanuman’s warriors. There are certain places of worship in India where monkeys are somewhat of a mild menace – snatching what they find exciting from visitors. But all in all they are so cute, they remind of our friendly dogs with an attitude.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. thingsthatmatterxyz

    Love it! The grey langurs and the reverence for them is so fascinating. I absolutely love India and Nepal and the whole Hindu culture. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rsnoel

    Great article, I enjoyed learning about the transition from one Alpha male to another. It gives us humans incredible insight about how the natural/primate world works like. Definitely following you, thanks for the great article man!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I absolutely love this post! We are currently living in Sri Lanka and our little house is nestled in nature. We often get groups of gray langurs coming to visit mostly due to the huge jackfruit trees that are on the property and which they absolutely love to eat when they are ripe. The langurs as you came to observe, are not aggressive and do not usually bother humans in the way other types such as macaques might.

    We have spent time in India and I too was fascinated with the monkeys which hang around scared sites, one such was the Sacred Lake in Pushkar where we spent several weeks. Thank you for the interesting history and information much of which was new to me. Your photographs are absolutely gorgeous ~ So enjoyed them!


    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Peta, thank you for this wonderful comment. You’re so lucky (I’m certain that you made your own luck) to be living in Sri Lanka. I loved it there! So much wildlife. I have some posts from Sri Lanka (Blue whales, Elephants, Peacocks, Bee Eaters) which you might be interested in. Thanks for you kind words. I’m very happy to introduce you to some new information on your local wildlife. Cheers, David.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. These monkey’s army even assisted God Rama to build the pool to pave the path of Lanka (shree Lanka) in Ramayana and later they fought against army of Ravana. Even tiger has religious symbolism in Hindu mythology, known as ride of goddess Durga. I liked your perception here about how in friendlier way Indian people treat these animals

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Mohit Sahu

    This was an excellent read David, you just took me there ! A piece of flowing narration about systematically gathered information. Photos are beautiful too.
    May I humbly seek the permission to add a few bits to this ?
    The males in a harem, except the alpha appear smaller than females because they are very young and immature. The matured youngsters are invariably ousted from the troop by the alpha to keep his supremacy.
    These bachelors form their own group. Occasionally they would raid a troop, force some females to mate, if the get a chance, by dodging the alpha. During such raids sometimes the supremacy of the alpha is toppled and a new leader takes over.
    Thanks once again for the intriguing journey !!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Such a thought provoking article…the intent as well as the content is indeed very refreshing. I stay at Assam, which is also the land of the golden langur, gorgeous creatures they are as well…I could definitely relate. Looking forward to reading more posts from you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Very informative and interesting reas on the Grey Langur. Despite being an Indian, I haven’t had the opportunity to travel to Ranthambore. Reading your writing was like taking a trip. Have seen the revered creatures all over Sri Lanka and in most parts of India and they can be agressive and difficult. They one snatched an ice-cream from my sister’s hands.😊

    Liked by 2 people

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