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Garuda of Hindu Mythos - Lord of the Twirling Sky



 

Garuda in the mythical and colourful Hindu mythos is the King of the Birds and acts as messenger between Gods and Humans.

His domain is the everlasting sea of land and sky.
 

Astralasia - The Sea



Garuda is depicted as having the golden body of a strong man with a white face, red wings, and the beak of an eagle, with a crown on his head and is said to be large enough to block out the sun.

The story of Garuda's birth and deeds is told in the first book of the great Mahabharata. When Garuda first burst forth from his egg, he appeared as a raging inferno equal to the cosmic conflagration that consumes the world at the end of every age. Frightened, the gods begged him for mercy. Garuda, hearing their plea, reduced himself in size and energy.

Garuda's mother is Vinata and his father is Kasyapa, the strong-willed grandfather of the world, identified with the Pole Star.

When young Garuda shuffled out of his egg, five hundred years after it had been laid by Diti, mother of giants, he was very hungry. Vinata sent Garuda to get advice from Kasyapa, who in turn sent him to the mortal world where he could eat the natives of the plains. Garuda was advised to spare Brahmin, who was living with the natives. Garuda swallowed Brahmin by accident who got stuck in his throat. The Brahmin said that he would give up his life if Garuda would not let go all of his relatives. Out of fear to murder a Brahmin, Kasyapa ordered Garuda to spit out the natives with their Brahmin.

Still hungry, Kasyapa sent him to the ocean, where a giant elephant and a tortoise were fighting. He took them, flew to the sky and perched on the branch of a tree which broke and again Garuda was full of fear of killing cows and Brahmins with the falling branch, so he caught it. Meanwhile Vishnu saw the bird and asked what Garuda was doing. The bird replied that no tree or mountain seemed able to support his weight. Vishnu offered his arm to sit on and did not tremble when Garuda took place on it.

Even after eating, Garuda was still hungry, so Vishnu offered the flesh of his arm. When Garuda ate from it, no wound showed. Garuda bowed his head to Vishnu, realizing his divine nature and became his heroic friend for all time.



One day, Vinata entered into and lost a foolish bet, as a result of which she became enslaved to her sister, Kadru. Resolving to release his mother from this state of bondage, Garuda approached the serpents and asked them what it would take to purchase her freedom. Their reply was that Garuda would have to bring them the elixir of immortality, which would be difficult to obtain. The amrita at that time found itself in the possession of the gods, who guarded it jealously, since it was the source of their immortality. They had ringed the elixir with a massive fire that covered the sky and had blocked the way to the elixir with a fierce mechanical contraption of sharp rotating blades. They had also stationed two gigantic poisonous snakes next to the elixir as deadly guardians.

Undaunted, Garuda hastened toward the abode of the gods intent on acquiring the elixir. Knowing of his designs, the gods met him in full battle-array. Garuda defeated the entire host and scattered them in all directions. Taking the water of many rivers into his mouth, he extinguished the protective fire the gods had thrown up. Reducing his size, he crept past the rotating blades of their murderous machine and destroyed the two gigantic serpents they had posted as guards. Taking the elixir into his mouth without swallowing it, he launched into the air and headed toward the eagerly waiting serpents.

En route, he encountered Vishnu. Rather than fight, the two exchanged promises. Vishnu promised Garuda the gift of immortality even without drinking from the elixir, and Garuda promised to become Vishnu's mount. Flying onward, he met Indra the god of the sky. Another exchange of promises occurred. Garuda promised that once he had delivered the elixir, thus fulfilling the request of the serpents, he would make it possible for Indra to regain possession of the elixir and to take it back to the gods. Indra in turn promised Garuda the serpents as food.

At long last, Garuda alighted in front of the waiting serpents. Placing the elixir on the grass, and thereby liberating his mother Vinata from her servitude, he urged the serpents to perform their religious purification before consuming it. As they hurried off to do so, Indra swooped in to make off with the elixir. The serpents came back from their purifications and saw the elixir was gone, with small droplets of it on the grass. They tried to lick the droplets and thereby split their tongues in two. From then onwards, serpents have split tongues and shed their skin as a kind of immortality.

From that day onward, Garuda was the ally of the gods and the trusty mount of Vishnu, as well as the implacable enemy of snakes, upon whom he preyed at every opportunity.


 

"It happened that Diti, having lost a wager, was put under bondage by the demons, and could not be released until she caused the amrita to be taken from a Celestial mountain where it was surrounded by terrible flames, moved by violent winds, which leapt up to the sky. Assuming a golden body, bright as the sun, Garuda drank up many rivers and extinguished the fire. A fiercely revolving wheel, sharp-edged and brilliant, protected the amrita, but Garuda diminished his body and entered the spokes. Two fire-spitting snakes had next to be overcome. Garuda blinded them with dust and cut them to pieces. Then, having broken the revolving wheel, that bright sky-ranger flew north with the amrita which was contained in the moon goblet.

The gods went in pursuit of Garuda. Indra flung his thunderbolt, but the bird suffered no pain and dropped but a single feather. When he delivered the amrita to the demons his mother was released, but ere the demons could drink Indra snatched up the golden moon-goblet and wended back to the heavens. The demon snakes licked the grass where the goblet had been placed by Garuda, and their tongues were divided. From that day all the snakes have had divided tongues. Garuda became afterwards the vehicle of Vishnu; he has ever 'mocked the winds with his fleetness.'"

- Indian Myth and Legend (Donald A. MacKenzie)


This journey took Garuda twelve days which symbolizes the twelve houses of the sacred Zodiac. As Garuda is the representation for the constellation Aquila, this journey symbolizes Aquila's journey throughout the course of a Zodiacal cycle. Garuda is also portrayed as a Phoenix.

Garuda is known as the eternal sworn enemy of the Nāga serpent race and known for feeding exclusively on snakes. The image of Garuda is used as a charm to protect the bearer from snake attack and poison.

Garuda is known by various names; Chirada, Gaganeshvara, Kamayusha, Kashyapi, Khageshvara, Nagantaka, Sitanana, Sudhahara, Suparna, Tarkshya, Vainateya and Vishnuratha. The Vedas provide the earliest reference to Garuda by the name of Śyena, where this magnificent bird is said to have brought nectar to earth from heaven.



Garuda wears the serpent Adisesha on his left wrist and the serpent Gulika on his right wrist. The serpent Vasuki forms his sacred thread. The cobra Takshaka forms his belt on his hip. The snake Karkotaka is worn as his necklace. The snakes Padma and Mahapadma are his ear rings. The snake Shankachuda adores his divine hair. He is flanked by his two wives Rudra and Sukeerthi.

Garuda plays an important role with Krishna in which Krishna and Satyabhama ride on Garuda to kill Narakasura. On another occasion, Lord Hari rides on Garuda to save the devotee Elephant Gajendra. It is said that Garuda's wings chant the Vedas while in flight.

Garuda is also involved in the myth of Ganesha, the four-armed elephant-headed god of wisdom;

 

"A myth in one of the Puranas relates that the planet Saturn, being under a curse, decapitated Ganesa simply by looking at him. Vishnu mounted on the back of the man-eagle Garuda and came to the child's aid. He cut off the head of Indra's elephant and placed it on Ganesa's neck. In a conflict with a Devarishi Ganesa lost one of his tusks. Several myths have gathered round this popular, elephant-headed deity, who is also identified with the wise rat."

- Indian Myth and Legend (Donald A. MacKenzie)



 

Garuda's helpful Nature is also shown in the story
of aiding Rama in the Ceylon war;

 

"Indrajit obtained a new chariot by offering up in sacrifice a black goat, and returning to the battlefield with his forces he shot arrows at Rama and Lakshmana. Then he threw a serpent noose, which bound the two brothers so that they were unable to move. Great was their peril, but Vayu, god of wind, sent to their aid the great Celestial bird Garuda, the serpent-killer, and the snakes which formed the noose fled from before it, whereat the brethren, who had meantime fallen in a swoon."

- Indian Myth and Legend (Donald A. MacKenzie)


Garuda teaches us the gift of Spiritual flight and to flow the divine forms of helpfulness and temperance from our Sacred Nature.


 

 

 

Pyreaus