Kalnemi was a Rakshas (demon) with miraculous powers. He was one of the main ministers in Ravana’s court. His spies told Ravana that Hanuman was going to fetch the Sanjeevani herb to revive Lakshman who had been made unconscious by the Shakti (weapon) used by Meghnad. Ravana ran to Kalnemi at once. He woke him up and told him to use any ruse or magic to stop Hanuman on his way and kill him so that Lakshman would die untreated by dawn. At first Kalnemi tried to dissuade Ravana. He said, “This vanara (monkey) had set your entire Lanka on fire, how can anyone hope to kill him? It’s impossible.” This made Ravana very angry and he threatened to kill Kalnemi if he did not obey him. But on the other hand, if he stopped Hanuman from fetching the Sanjeevani herb, he would receive half of Lanka as a reward.
Kalnemi thought, “It better to die at the hands of Hanuman rather than at the hands of Ravana.” He set off to stop Hanuman. On Hanumans path, on a mountain, he magically created an ashram with fruit laden orchards and flowering trees. Kalnemi sat there in the guise of a Brahmin (holy man) in meditation and when he espied that Hanuman was approaching he began to sing praises of Rama.
Thinking he was a devotee of Rama, Hanuman paused on his way. Kalnemi said, “I know you are an envoy of Rama, by the power of my yogic energy. You will surely succeed in your venture. But you must be tired, so refresh your self in the pond and come to me, I will teach you a wonderful mantra.”
Hanuman went to the pond to drink water but a huge crocodile caught hold of his foot. Hanuman clamped its mouth underwater and killed it. But as soon as it died, it turned into a lovely apsara.
“That cunning Brahmin is really the Rakshasa Kalnemi”, she said. “I too was a Rakshasni (female demon). We were earlier Gandharva and Gandharvi (celestial couple). One day we both laughed at Durvasa rishi and he cursed us to become Rakshasa (demons). When we beseeched him, he said that at the end of Tretayug, when Shri Rama appears in human guise, Hanuman will go to fetch the Sanjeevani, he will kill you both on the way and free you from your curse and you can return to heaven. I am now free but kill that cunning Brahmin too so that he can be free too.” Hanuman went to the Brahmin and said, “Take my guru dakshina (fees for teaching), then give me mantra diksha (ceremony of giving a holy sound to someone).” He pulled Kalnemi’s leg and threw him to the cliff. With a loud cry of Jai Shri Rama on his lips, he died and took his Gandharva (celestial) form. He went to heaven and Hanuman continued on his way.
Kalnemi – Ramayana Characters