Tuesday, December 31, 2013

16. Garuda's Quest for Food

Garuda took leave of his mother, saying “I  shall go and bring Amrita. But I am terribly hungry and needd to eat something on the way. Where can I find something to eat?”  

Vinata replied, "You can eat the Nishadas who live in a region in the midst of a ocean. But be careful to not eat a Brahmin. Even Surya and Agni won’t burn you as intensely as the anger of a Brahmin observing rigid vows will.”

Garuda asked his mother how he could identify a Brahmin. Vinata advised him to use his best judgement and cautioned him that if he ate a Brahmin, the Brahmin would torture him like a fish hook, once he entered his throat and would burn like a charcoal. A Brahmin would not be digested in the stomach, added Vinata.

She then blessed her son by saying, “Let Marut, the God of Winds protect your wings, Surya and Soma your head and the Vasus (there are eight of them called ‘Ashtavasus.’) your whole body. I will also perform rituals for your welfare.”

Garuda stretched his wings and ascended the skies. And endowed with great strength, he soon fell upon the Nishadas. He was very hungry and it was as if he was another Yama, the God of Death. He raised a huge quantity of dust that spread over the firmament. He sucked up water from the ocean and shook the trees on the mountains. He then obstructed the major roads of the town of the Nishadas by his mouth, increasing its orifice at will. The Nishadas, blinded by the dust, entered Garuda’s mouth in large numbers and were swallowed by him.

A Brahmin, along with his wife,  had entered the throat of Garuda. He began to burn Garuda’s throat like a piece of burning charcoal. Garuda prayed to him to come out of his mouth. The Brahmin asked Garuda to let his wife who belonged to the Nishada caste, also to come out along with him. Garuda agreed to this. The Brahmin came out of his mouth, along with his wife and blessed Garuda.

As Garuda continued his flight, he met his father Sage Kasyapa. Kasyaa enquired him of the welfare of his family members and also asked him whether Garuda got sufficient food to eat everyday.

Garuda replied, “My mother and brother are well. I do not always get enough food to satisfy my hunger. I have been sent by the snakes to fetch the Amrita. I expect to get hold of the Amrita today. My mother and I will then be emancipated from slavery. My mother advised me to eat the Nishadas. I had eaten them by thousands, but my hunger is not satiated. Therefore, I would request you to advise me on what I should eat to appease my hunger and thirst.”

His father did not answer his question but showed him a lake in which an elephant was trying to pull a huge tortoise out of water, using his trunk. He then narrated a story.

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