28. The hunt of Garuda

“Soota said, ‘Thus addressed by the snakes, Garuda then said to his mother, ‘I shall go to bring Amrita, I desire to eat something in the way. Direct me to it.’

“Vinata replied, ‘In a remote region in the middle of the ocean, the Nishaadaas have their fair home. Having eaten the thousands of Nishaadaas that live there, you bring Amrita. But let not your heart be ever set on taking the life of a Brahmana. Of all creatures, a Brahmana must not be slain. He is, indeed, like fire. A Brahmana, when angry, becomes like Agni or Surya, like poison or an edged weapon. It has been said, a Brahmana is the master of all creatures. For these and other reasons, a Brahmana is the adored of the Dharmic people. O child, he is never to be slain by you even in anger. Hostility with Brahmanas, therefore, would not be proper under any circumstances. O sinless one, neither Agni nor Surya truly can consume so much as does a Brahmana of rigid vows (Vrata in Sanskrit), when angry. By these various indications must you know a good Brahmana. Indeed, a Brahmana is the first-born of all creatures, the foremost of the four varna, the father and the master of all.’

“Garuda then asked, ‘O mother, of what form is a Brahmana, of what behaviour, and of what skills? Does he shine like Agni, or is he of peaceful appearance? O mother, it is your responsibility to tell my inquiring self, those auspicious signs by which I may recognise a Brahmana.’

“Vinata replied, saying, ‘O child, you should know him as the best amongst Brahmanas who having entered your throat would torture you as a fish-hook or burn you as blazing charcoal. A Brahmana must never be slain by you even in anger.’

“Vinata out of affection for her son, again told him these words, ‘You should know him as a good Brahmana who would not be digested in your stomach.’

“Although she knew the incomparable strength of her son, yet she blessed him heartily, for, deceived by the snakes, she was very much pained by sadness. She (Vinata) said, ‘Let Marutaa protect your wings, and Surya and Soma (the Moon God) your vertebral regions; let Agni protect your head, and the Vasus your whole body. I also, O child, shall sit here for your welfare. Go then, O child, in safety to accomplish your purpose.’

“Soota continued, ‘Then Garuda, having heard the words of his mother, stretched his wings and ascended the skies. Endued with great strength, he soon fell upon the Nishaadaas, hungry and like another Yama. Bent upon slaying the Nishaadaas, he raised a great quantity of dust that overspread the sky, and sucking up water from amid the ocean, shook the trees growing on the adjacent mountains. Then that lord of birds (Garuda) obstructed the principal route of the town of the Nishaadaas by his mouth, increasing its opening at will. The Nishaadaas began to fly in great speed in the direction of the open mouth of the great snake-eater (Garuda). As birds in great pain ascend by thousand into the skies when the trees in a forest are shaken by the winds, so those Nishaadaas blinded by the dust raised by the storm entered the wide-extending split of Garuda’s mouth open to receive them. Then the hungry lord of all traveller of the skies (Garuda), that oppressor of enemies, endued with great strength, and moving with greatest swiftness to achieve his end, closed his mouth, killing innumerable Nishaadaas following the occupation of fishermen.’”


Author: Prasanna TG on

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