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RANGASWAMY_at_plh.af.mil
Date: Tue Jan 21 1997 - 05:50:07 PST

Dear Members of the Bhakti List,

Sri Sadagopan's provided a lucid description of Garuda's arrival to release 
Rama and Lakshmana from the bonds of the Naga Pasha in his summary of the 
Raghuveera Gadyam. This summary along with related references from 
the Ramayana spurred me to post this article on some aspects of Garuda 
Bhagavan. Much of the details in this note come from the Garuda PuraNam. 

Garuda is the son of Rishi Kashyapa through his wife Vinata. Rishi 
Kashyapa decided to perform a yajna to beget progeny through his wives 
Kadru and Vinata. All the Devas and sages arrived to participate in 
the yajna and to help Kashyapa with its performance. In the process of 
collecting the material necessary for the Yajna, a number of Rishis were 
struggling to carry a log of wood while Indra just by himself effortlessly 
carried a huge tree and passed by them. Extremely proud of his strength, 
Indra ridiculed the Rishis, who were incensed by this behavior and decided 
to teach Indra a lesson. Thus, when the sacrifice was performed, 
the sages put together the collective mite of their Tapas and sought the birth 
of another Indra who would be stronger and more powerful than the present 
Indra and that the new Indra should be capable of changing his form at 
will. Fearful of losing his status as the king of the Devas, Indra begged his 
father, Rishi Kashyapa, to intervene on his behalf and offer an apology to 
the sages. The apology of Indra through Rishi Kashyapa, served to pacify the 
sages who then declared that since they had already spoken there was no 
way of nullifying their request. Since the Yajna was meant for progeny for 
Kashyapa, the Rishis said that their prayers would result in the "New Indra" 
being born as the son of Kashyapa and that this new Indra would be the 
king of the birds (Pakshiraja).

After the Yajna, Rishi Kashyapa went to his wives Kadru and Vinata and asked 
them what they each wanted as their children. Kadru requested that she 
become the mother of a thousand powerful snakes, while Vinata sought the 
birth of two sons who would be more powerful than the thousand sons of 
Kadru. As per her wish, Kadru was blessed with the birth of a thousand 
serpents. Meanwhile Vinata, anxious for the birth of her progeny, and 
somewhat jealous of the birth of the sons of Kadru, decided to 
speed up the birth of one of her sons by breaking open the egg that 
contained him. As a result an half-formed child came out of the egg and 
cursed her that she would suffer from the bondage of slavery for her 
impatience and that if she was more patient with the second egg, his younger 
brother would release her from slavery. The half-born child then flew away to 
become the cahrioteer of the Sun-God. 

One day, Kadru and Vinata saw the celestial steed Uchhaisrava run by. Kadru 
asked Vinata the color of the horse to which Vinata replied that it was white. 
Kadru argued that the tail of the horse was black, whereas Vinata vehemently 
disagreed. Therefore, they both decided to visit the abode of the celestial 
horse and check out the color of its tail for themselves with the agreement 
that whoever was wrong would become the other's slave. Upon second thoughts
Kadru was plagued by self doubt especially because Vinata was quite confident 
in her reply. Since she did not want to be proved wrong and thereby become 
Vinata's slave, she decided to make the horse's tail appear black through 
deceit. Kadru commanded her thousand sons to wrap themseleves around the 
tail of the celestial steed and make it appear black. Eager to pelase 
their mother the serpents gladly did her bidding. As a result, when Kadru 
and Vinata went to examine the color of the horse's tail, it appeared 
black much to Vinata's chagrin and dismay. As a result, she was forced to 
become Kadru's slave and serve at the pleasure of Kadru and her sons. 

Meanwhile, the second egg containing Vinata's younger son hatched and 
Vainatheya was born with the face of an eagle and the body of a man. 
Blessed with immense strength, tremendous powers of locomotion, and capable 
of changing his form at will, Vainatheya announced his birth with a loud chirp 
and rushed to his mother's help. Vinata was pleased to see her son and 
welcomed his help in her efforts to please Kadru and the thousand serpents. 
Intrigued by his mother's sunservient bahvior towards Kadru and her 
sons, Garuda asked Vinata the reason for her slavery. Vinata wiping her 
tears narrated the episode of the wager and the subsequent deceit practised 
by Kadru and her thousand sons. Garuda was enraged to hear about this 
incident and resolved to teach the vile serpents a lesson. 

Kadru and the serpents commanded Vinata and Garuda to take them to an island 
where they wanted to spend sometime enjoying the surroundings. Accordingly, 
Vinata carried Kadru on her back and Garuda carried the thousand serpents on 
his back. The furious Garuda, who decided to kill all the snakes then and 
there, flew towards the Sun so that the serpents would be scorched to death by 
the Sun's heat. The snakes cried out to their mother in sheer helplessness. 
Kadru was alarmed by this sight and fervently prayed to Indra for help. 
Promptly, Indra sent down a torrential downpour, which thwarted Garuda's 
attempts to kill the serpents and forced him to take the serpents to the 
island.

Upon reaching the island Garuda asked the serpents what they would need in 
exchange for his mother's release from slavery. The serpents informed him 
that Vinata would be free from slavery if Garuda could get Amrit (nectar 
of immortality) for them. Garuda promised to get it. Before embarking on 
his journey to procure Amrit, Garuda decided to receive his father's 
blessings and proceeded to Rishi Kashyapa's hermitage. 

To be continued

Namo Narayana,

Muralidhar Rangaswamy