to cheat Death - The Story of Garuda
the reaches of Mount Kailasha is the abode of Shiva, the Hindu
god of destruction. One evening Vishnu, the god responsible
for preserving the cosmic order, came to see Shiva. He left
behind at the entrance Garuda, the half-man, half-eagle composite,
who served as his vehicle.
sat alone, marveling at the natural splendor of the place.
Suddenly his eyes fell on a beautiful creature, a little bird
seated on the arch crowning the entrance to Shiva's place.
Garuda wondered aloud: "How marvelous is this creation!
One who has created these lofty mountains has also made this
tiny bird - and both seem equally wonderful."
then Yama, the god of death who rides a buffalo, came
passing by with the intention of meeting Shiva. As he crossed
the arch, his eyes went over to the bird and he raised his
brows in a quizzical expression. Then he took his eyes off
the bird and disappeared inside.
the ancient thought of India, even a slight glance of Yama
is said to be the harbinger of death. Garuda, who had observed
Yama's action, told himself, "Yama looking intently at
the bird can mean only one thing - the bird's time is up.
Perhaps on his way back he will carry away the bird's soul
with him." Garuda's heart was filled with pity for the
helpless creature. That it was oblivious of its own impending
doom further agonized Garuda and he resolved to save the bird
from the clutches of death. He swooped it up in his mighty
talons, rushed to a forest thousands of miles away and left
the bird on a rock beside a brook. Then he returned to Kailasha
and regained his position at the entrance gate.
after, Yama emerged from inside, and nodded to Garuda in recognition. Garuda greeted
the god of death and said: "May I put a question to you? While going in,
you saw a bird and for a moment you became pensive, why?"
him thus: "Well, when my eyes fell on the little bird,
I saw that it was to die in a few minutes, swallowed by a
python, far away from here in a forest near a brook. I wondered
how this tiny creature would traverse the thousand of miles
separating it from its destiny in such a short time. Then
I forgot. Surely it must have happened somehow."
this, Yama smiled and went away. Did he know about Garuda'
s specific role in the matter? Nobody can know for sure. Garuda
sat perplexed, mulling over the surprising turn events had
are different types of incarnations of the Supreme personality
of Godhead. In the sastras it is said that Garuda (the carrier
of Lord Visnu) and Lord Siva and Ananta are all very powerful
incarnations of the Brahman feature of the Lord.
[Suparna] and her husband Kasyapa gave birth to Garuda, the
carrier of Lord Visnu, and to Anuru, or Aruna, the chariot
driver of the sun-god. Kasyapa is the son of Marici, is one
of the prajapatis, and is one of the sons-in-law of Prajapati
Salmalidvipa Island there is a salmali tree, from which the
island takes its name. That tree is as broad and tall as the
plaksa tree--in other words 100 yojanas [800 miles] broad
and 1,100 yojanas [8,800 miles] tall. This tree is the residence
given elephants and tortoises as eatables, and is a favored
devotee of the Lord.
Garuda is also said to be an inhabitant of the planet known
as Kinnaraloka. The inhabitants of the Kinnara planet have the
same features as Garuda. Their bodily features are like those
of a human being, but they have wings.
upon a time, Garuda, the carrier of the Lord, snatched away
a nectar pot from the hands of the demigods in heaven in order
to liberate his mother, Vinata, from the clutches of his stepmother,
Kadru, the mother of the serpents. On learning of this, Indra,
the King of heaven, hurled his thunderbolt against Garuda. With
a view to respect the infallibility of Indra's weapon, Garuda,
though otherwise invincible, being the Lord's own mount, dropped
one of his wings, which was shattered to pieces by the thunderbolt.
The inhabitants of higher planets are so sensible that even
in the process of fighting they observe the preliminary rules
and regulations of gentleness. In this case, Garuda wanted to
show respect for Indra; since he knew that Indra's weapon must
destroy something, he offered his wing.
sparrow laid her eggs on the shore of the ocean, but the big
ocean carried away the eggs on its waves. The sparrow became
very upset and asked the ocean to return her eggs. The ocean
did not even consider her appeal. So the sparrow decided to
dry up the ocean. She began to pick out the water in her small
beak, and everyone laughed at her for her impossible determination.
The news of her activity spread, and at last Garuda, the gigantic
bird carrier of Lord Visnu, heard it. He became compassionate
toward his small sister bird, and so he came to see the sparrow.
Garuda was very pleased by the determination of the small
sparrow, and he promised to help. Thus Garuda at once asked
the ocean to return her eggs lest he himself take up the work
of the sparrow. The ocean was frightened at this, and returned
the eggs. Thus the sparrow became happy by the grace of Garuda.
hymns forming the basis of the Sama Veda were vibrated by the
flapping wings of the Lord's carrier, Garuda. In the Vedic literature
it is stated that the two wings of the transcendental bird Garuda,
who carries the Lord everywhere, are two divisions of the Sama
Veda known as brhat and rathantara. Garuda works as the carrier
of the Lord; therefore he is considered the transcendental prince
of all carriers. With his two wings Garuda began to vibrate
the Sama Veda, which is chanted by great sages to pacify the
Lord. The Lord is worshiped by Brahma, by Lord Siva, by Garuda
and other demigods with selected poems, and great sages worship
Him with the hymns of Vedic literatures, such as the Upanisads
and Sama Veda. These Sama Veda utterances are automatically
heard by the devotee when another great devotee of the Lord,
Garuda, flaps his wings.
Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, seated on Garuda,
personally appeared before Gajendra, the King of the elephants.
Gajendra, by lifting his trunk, offered obeisances to the
Lord, and the Lord immediately pulled him from the water along
with the crocodile who had captured his leg. Then the Lord
killed the crocodile and thus rescued Gajendra.
descends from His abode, Vaikuntha, in the spiritual sky,
and is carried by Garuda. Kardama Muni, who was a liberated
soul, saw the Supreme Lord in person, face to face. He could
also see Garuda carrying the Lord on the way to Vaikuntha
and hear the flapping of his wings vibrating the sound of
Hare Krishna, the essence of the Sama Veda.
snakes who live in the planetary system known as Mahatala
are very powerful and have many hoods. They live with their
wives and children and consider themselves very happy, although
they are always full of anxiety because of Garuda, who comes
there to destroy them. This is the way of material life. Even
if one lives in the most abominable condition, he still thinks
himself happy with his wife, children, friends and relatives.
of his pastimes, the Lord very easily lifted Mandara Mountain
with one hand and placed it on the back of Garuda. Then, He
too got on the back of Garuda and went to the ocean of milk,
surrounded by the demigods and demons. The Lord sat on the
mountain and was carried to the spot of the churning by Garuda,
who placed the mountain in the middle of the sea. Then the
Lord asked Garuda to leave that place because as long as Garuda
was present, the snake Vasuki, who was to be used as the rope
for churning, could not go there in the presence of Garuda.
Garuda, the carrier of Lord Visnu, is not a vegetarian. He
eats big snakes. Vasuki, being a great snake, would be natural
food for Garuda, the chief of birds. Lord Visnu therefore
asked Garuda to leave so that Vasuki could be brought to churn
the ocean with Mandara Mountain, which was to be used as the
Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in the house of Srivasa Thakura
in His Caturbhuja murti, Murari Gupta became His carrier in
the form of Garuda, and in these pastimes of ecstasy the Lord
then got up on his back.
the heavenly king, Indra, was sending torrents of rain over
Vrndavana. Garuda was observing the incident from above the
clouds, and because of his anger, he began perspiring. When
Krishna was fighting with the Kaliya snake by dancing on his
heads, Kaliya bit Krishna on the leg. At that time Garuda
became infuriated and began to murmur, "Krishna is so
powerful that simply by His thundering voice the wives of
Kaliya have had miscarriages. Because my Lord has been insulted
by this snake, I wish to devour him immediately, but I cannot
do so in the presence of my Lord, because He may become angry
with me." This is an instance of eagerness to act in
ecstatic love as a result of dishonor to Krishna.
also assured Kaliya: "You came here out of fear of Garuda,
who wanted to eat you in the beautiful land by the ocean.
Now, after seeing the marks where I have touched your head
with My lotus feet, Garuda will not disturb you."
Lord was fighting on the back of Garuda, and Garuda was also
helping the Lord by striking the horses and the elephants
with his wings and scratching their heads with his nails and
sharp beak. The elephants were feeling much pain by Garuda's
attack on them, they all were dispersing from the battlefield.
Bhaumasura alone remained on the battlefield, and he engaged
himself in fighting with Krishna. He saw that Krishna's carrier,
Garuda, was causing great disturbance to his soldiers and
elephants, and in great anger he struck Garuda with all his
strength, which defied the strength of the thunderbolt.
Fortunately, Garuda was not an ordinary bird, and he felt
the strokes given by Bhaumasura just as a great elephant feels
the impact of a garland of flowers.
Book Trust. Excerpted from various sources,
including text and Purport of HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
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