Friday, January 3, 2014

18. Garuda in Quest of Amrita

Even at the touch of the tree by Garuda’s feet, the branch of the tree broke. He noticed that some sages known as Valakhilya Rishis hanging from the tree with heads downwards and doing penance. Fearing that if the branch was broken, the sages would have a fatal fall, Garuda held the broken branch of the tree with the sages hanging from it on his beak, even while holding the elephant and the tortoise still more firmly with his claws and rose on his wings. The sages were struck with wonder at this feat and gave him the name Garuda meaning bearer of heavy weight. (It has to be presumed that he was not christened till then. Garuda had another name Vainatheya, meaning son of Vinata.)

Shaking the mountains by his wings, Garuda rose on the sky holding the branch in his beak and the two animals in his claws. Not finding any spot to rest on, he travelled long and went to the mountain called Gandhamadana. There he saw his father Kasyapa engaged in ascetic rituals.  Kasyapa also saw his son and advised him against landing on the mountain  lest the sages should get hurt and curse him. He then appealed to the Valakhilyas to help Garuda. The sages abandoned the tree branch and went to the sacred Himavat mountain to continue their penance.

Garuda asked his father where he should drop the branch of the tree. Kasyapa directed him to a mountain always covered with snow and beyond the reach of ordinary creatures. Garuda travelled a long distance to reach the place and let the giant branch fall. And it fell with a great noise.

Garuda then sat on the summit of that mountain, ate both the elephant and the tortoise, and rose on his wings with great speed from the top of the mountain.

Various omens began to appear among the Devas foreboding danger. Indra asked his Guru Brihaspati the reasons behind these omens. Brihasati  said that the son of Kasyapa and Vinata, a bird with immense strength and having the blessings of Valakhilyas was coming to take away the Soma (Amrita) from Indra and that he was capable of achieving his goal.

Hearing this Indra cautioned those who guarded the Amrita to be wary of Garuda’s plan to take away the Amrita by force. The guards tightened the security by arming themselves with powerful weapons.

Next Post:   The Genesis of Garuda's Birth

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