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RANGASWAMY_at_plh.af.mil
Date: Wed Jan 22 1997 - 06:35:39 PST

Dear Members of the Bhakti List,

			(Garuda Vaibhavam Continued)

Sage Kashyapa was very pleased to see his son. Upon enquiring about the 
welfare of Vinata, Garuda narrated the entire story of deceit practised on
her and informed his father of his journey to Indra's capital to obtain 
Amrit. Garuda also asked his father if he could find food to satisfy his 
ravenous hunger before proceeding on his mission. Sage Kashyapa blessed his 
son and pointed Garuda to a tortoise and and an elephant who were constantly 
at war and told him that they would be the right food for satisfying his 
hunger. Garuda located them and carried them away in search of a suitably place 
(which could withstand his weight) to perch on and enjoy his meal. He found a
tree branch which he thought would be a good place to perch on. However,
the tree branch, which had a few Rishis hanging on it and engaged in Tapas, 
gave way under his tremendous weight. Concerned about the interruption of 
their penance and causing any harm to the Rishis, Garuda grabbed the tree 
branch with his beak before it could touch the ground and carried the branch 
and the rishis to the top of a mountain. The Rishis were pleased with his feat 
and his concern for their welfare and named him as Garuda (one of great 
strength). After setting the Rishis on firm ground, Garuda enjoyed his 
meal and set out to get Amrit.

Meanwhile evil omens were seen in the Indra's kingdom. The concerned Devas 
headed by Indra approached their perceptor, Brihaspati, to learn from him 
what these omens portended. Brihaspati informed them that a mighty bird, 
possessing immense strength, in search of Amrit was about to invade Indra's 
kingdom. He advised the Devas to prepare for Garuda's attack by arming 
themselves with their favorite weapons and guard the pot of Amrit from all 
sides. Accordingly, the Devas took up their positions around the pot of 
Amrit, which was located at the center of a revolving wheel with sharp edged 
teeth capable of tearing to shreds anything that came in contact with it. The 
wheel itself was protected by a massive wall of fire. Finally, two venomous 
serpents from under the spinning wheel stood guard around the pot of Amrit. 
Thus, the pot of Amrit was located in an impregnable fortress. 

Garuda's flight from the mountain to the city of Indra raised a loud noise. 
Perhaps, Swami Desikan had this in mind when he describes the flight of 
Garuda as "Bam" in the Garuda Dandakam. The approach of Garuda threw up 
blinding dust. Indra ordered Vayu clear up the dust, which Vayu promptly 
obeyed. Thus, the Devas were able to see their enemy and attack him. 
They used their deadly weapons against Garuda. However, these weapons 
harmlessly grazed Garuda's body. Garuda then launched a telling attack 
which instilled fear in the hearts of the Devas and put them to flight, thus 
abandoning their posts around the pot of Amrit. Next, Garuda had to contend 
with the wall of fire. He changed his form to one of a bird with many 
beaks and filled them with water from several oceans and used this to 
put out the deadly fire. Garuda shrunk his body and slid under the 
rotating wheel. As the serpents prepared to sting him, he flapped his wings 
to raise a lot of dust. Before the blinded serpents realized what happened, 
they were slain by Garuda. Garuda then increased his size and broke the 
spinning wheel into smithereens. Finally, Garuda laid his hands on the pot of 
Amrit.

Having obtained the pot of Amrit, Garuda 
was on his way to secure his mother's freedom. Lord Narayana observed that 
although Garuda had the nectar of immortality in his hand, he did not 
partake of even a single drop. Pleased with Garuda's self-denial, Lord 
Narayana summoned him to grant him a boon. Garuda asked that he be 
ever free from all diseases, constantly be by the side of the Lord. Lord 
Narayana made him a Nitya Suri right there and then and asked Garuda to 
perch on his flagstaff. Thus, Lord Narayana came to be known as Garudadwaja. 
In return for this blessing, Garuda asked Lord Narayana how he could be of 
service to the Lord. The Lord requested Garuda to be his vehicle. 

Garuda promised Lord Narayana that he would return to serve the Lord as soon 
as he procured his mother's freedom. As Garuda departed, Indra had caught 
up with him and decided to attack him. Indra used the mighty 
Vajrayudha against Garuda. Due to the grace of Lord Narayana, the Vajra 
proved ineffective and could not even ruffle a single feather of Garuda. 
Amazed by the strength of this bird (which had withstood the Vajra that 
destroyed Vritra), Indra became a humbled person and desired eternal 
friendship with Garuda and wanted to know the extent of Garuda's strength. 
Garuda revealed to Indra that on a tiny feather, he could carry the weight 
of the three worlds including all its animate and inanimate objects. 

Indra also realized that Garuda did not seek Amrit for his personal benefit
and therefore, he requested Garuda to return the pot of Amrit to him 
(Indra), because anyone who partook of the Amrit would oppose the Devas. 
Garuda informed Indra that the pot of Amrit was necessary to win his 
mother's freedom from slavery. However, he devised a plan according to 
which Indra could recover it. Indra was pleased to hear this and wished to 
grant Garuda a boon. Garuda thought of the deception practised by the snakes 
on his mother and requested Indra "Henceforth let snakes become my natural 
food". Indra granted his wish and disappeared. Thus, Garuda had unrestrained 
power to vent his hatred and anger on the sons of Kadru.

Garuda carried the pot of Amrit to the overjoyed serpents and sought his 
mother's freedom in return. The overjoyed seprents declared that Vinata 
was free from that moment. Garuda told the serpents that he would place 
the pot of Amrit near a river and instructed the serpents to have a bath 
before partaking of the Amrit. As the serpents headed to the river, Indra 
appeared and took away the pot of Amrit as per his agreement with Garuda.
Garuda returned to serve Lord Narayana as his vehicle. 

Garuda is famous for: 

(1) His Tapas to Lord Narasimha at Ahobilam and being blessed with a 
    brilliant Darshanam of Jwala Narasimhar.

(2) His penance for Lord Srinivasa at Garudachala.

(3) His service to Lord Rama and Lakshmana when they were bound by the 
    Nagapasha of Indrajit. Indrajit had used poisonous snakes in his 
    Astram. As a result, Rama and Lakshmana were bound by the coils of the 
    Astra. However, the snakes fled in terror at the arrival of Garuda, who 
    was their nemesis. Garuda embraced Rama and Lakshmana and restored their 
    bodies to their original form. It is said in the Ramayanam that the two 
    brothers appeared more resplendent than ever before due to the embrace of 
    Garuda.

(4) His famous battle with Kaliya (the serpent who was later subdued by 
    Lord Krishna). Kaliya was an arrogant young snake who thought of defying 
    Garuda. In an attempt to secure peace, the Nagas had agreed to provide 
    Garuda with a Bali, periodically. Kaliya argued with the Naga king and 
    convinced him to stop this practice. When Garuda came to know about this,  
    he was enraged and decided to teach Kaliya a lesson. Kaliya tried to 
    stand up bravely to Garuda. Kaliya attempted to sting Garuda with his 
    poisonous fangs. However, the blessings of Lord Narayana rendered these 
    stings futile. Garuda dismissed Kaliya's attack with contempt and struck 
    him with a powerful blow. Kaliya was sent reeling as a result of the 
    impact and was bleeding profusely. Realizing that Garuda was too strong, 
    Kaliya began to flee, with Garuda in hot pursuit. Kaliya chanced to see 
    a lake (Madu) which could give him sanctuary, since Garuda could not 
    enter it due to the curse of a rishi. Kaliya began to pollute the lake 
    with poison until Lord Krishna decided to stop the carnage.

(5) As Periyazhwar, he was the father of Andal and subsequently became the 
    father-in-law of Lord Ranganatha himself. Periyazhwar's Pasurams about 
    Lord Srinivasa are very moving indeed.

Garuda and Swami Desikan had a special relationship. Swami Desikan belonged 
to the family of ApuLLar (ApuLLar is the Tamizh equivalent of Garudachar, a 
last name frequently amongst Iyengars in Karnataka). Swami Desikan engaged in 
worship of Garuda and hence, was blessed with constant protection by Garuda. 
Pleased with Swami Desikan's worship Garuda appeared before him and instructed
him to proceed to Oushadadri and engage in the worship of Bhagavan Hayagriva. 
Garuda also initiated Swami Desikan to the practice of the Hayagriva Mantram. 

A snake charmer once challenged Swami Desikan to his title of Sarvatantra 
Svatantarar and asked the latter to handle his poisonous serpents. Swami 
Desikan drew a line with a piece of chalk and declared that none of the 
serpents would cross this line. However, when one of the serpents crossed 
the line and advanced menacingly towards, Swami Desikan, he meditated on 
Garuda. Garuda promptly appeared and took away all the serpents. Realizing 
the greatness of Swami Desikan and his own Apacharam, the snake charmer 
begged to be forgiven, and requested Swami Desikan to restore the snakes 
to him since his livelihood would be deprived. Full of compassion for the 
sanke charmer, Swami Desikan meditated again on Garuda and pleaded with 
Garuda to restore the serpents to the snake charmer. Garuda again heeded 
the request of his protege.

Swami Desikan has two brilliant works in praise of Garuda, i.e., the 
Garuda Panchasat and Garuda Dandakam. These two works contain the essence of 
the Garuda Mantram. Daily recitation of Garuda Dandakam while meditating 
on the vehicle of Lord Vishnu, keeps the recantor ever free from the fear of 
serpents. Sri Sadagopan posted an excellent translation of the Garuda Dandakam 
a sometime ago. I request him to re-post this article for the benefit 
of new members on this forum, if he has the article archived.

Tat PurushAya VithMahe SwarNa PakshAya Dheemahe Tanno Garuda PrachodayAt,

Muralidhar Rangaswamy