Chapter 2

Embark on a mythic journey with Chapter 2 as we unravel the tale of Garuda, the mighty bird born of cosmic destinies. In the age of Devas and Asuras, Durvasa Muni's curse led to the churning of the milk ocean for the nectar of immortality. The captivating narrative introduces Vishnu's avatar, Kurma, and Shiva's sacrifice, painting a vivid backdrop for the emergence of various celestial beings. The intricate web of co-wives' rivalry unfolds as Kadru and Vinata, mothers of serpents and birds, influence the course of events. Kadru's cunning bet with Vinata sows the seeds of the snake sacrifice, entwining destinies and igniting a cosmic drama. Delve into the genesis of Garuda's servitude, a tale of jealousy, curses, and unyielding spirits. Garuda's quest for freedom and the subsequent events, including encounters with Devas, a spinning wheel of blades, and his alliance with Lord Vishnu, showcase his indomitable will. The climax of Garuda's story revolves around the coveted Amrita and a strategic play to break free from servitude. Witness the clever interplay between Garuda, the Nagas, and Indra, culminating in a surprising turn of events. The enduring legacy of Garuda echoes through time, leaving an indelible mark on the Mahabharata's grand tapestry. As we unfold the intricate layers of Garuda's saga, we invite you to immerse yourself in a world where destiny, duty, and divine play intertwine in a mesmerizing dance. Join us on this captivating exploration of Chapter 2, where each revelation unveils the profound connections that shape the timeless narrative of the Mahabharata.

11/12/20239 min read

My post content

Chapter 2: The Story of Garuda

At the beginning of time, two great groups of beings existed: the Devas and the Asuras, who were in constant conflict with each other. On one occasion, Durvasa Muni wanted to congratulate Indra for his victories and presented him with a flower garland. However, Indra gave the garland to his elephant, which disdainfully threw it down and trampled on it. Durvasa became furious with Indra and cursed him.

Due to the curse, the Devas faced continuous defeats and were at a loss for what to do. Vishnu proposed that they work together to churn the milk ocean and obtain the Amrita, the nectar of immortality. They brought a giant golden mountain to serve as the churning rod and enlisted Vasuki, the king of serpents, as the churning rope. Although the serpents had just been born, Vasuki was already enormous.

During the churning, the fire-breathing serpent scorched the demons when they grabbed him by the head. As the churning continued, the fire from Vasuki's mouth set the mountain ablaze, resulting in the death of plants and animals on the mountain. The friction caused by the churning crushed aquatic creatures, and all of this combined with the ocean of milk. Vishnu's avatar, Kurma (the tortoise), came to hold up the sinking mountain in the ocean.

Initially, a poisonous substance called Hayhaya emerged, terrifying the Devas. Shiva drank the poison and held it in his throat without swallowing or spitting it out. As a result, his neck turned blue, earning him the name Nalinikantha or Blue Necked. Following the poison, various other entities emerged, including Apsaras and the goddess Lakshmi. Indra recited a beautiful prayer called the Indrakrit Mahalaxmi Stotra to attract Lakshmi towards the Devas. Reciting this prayer is believed to bring Lakshmi into one's life as well. The moon planet also rose out of the ocean, and an eight-legged horse named Uchchaihshravas appeared. Interestingly, in Norse mythology, Odin is said to have an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir.

In this story, two wives of Kashyap, Kadru and Vinata, play an important role. Vinata was the mother of the birds, and Kadru was the mother of the serpents. Kadru felt jealous of Vinata and devised a plan. She approached Vinata and said, "I heard a horse emerged from the ocean. What color do you think it is?" Vinata replied, "I think it is pure white, as it emerged from the ocean of milk." Kadru countered, "I think it is pure white with a black tail. Let's make a wager. Whoever is wrong shall become the servant of the other."

In the realm where co-wives abound, jealousy takes root and spreads like a venomous vine. This bitter rivalry between women is not a phenomenon unheard of, even among goddesses. Diti and Aditi, two celestial beings, found themselves entangled in such a web of envy. Aditi, the favored one, basked in the glow of adoration, while Diti seethed with jealousy. This cosmic drama manifested in the bitter hostilities between the Devas and the Asuras, the Adityas and the Dityas.

But let us delve deeper into the tale at hand. In truth, the horse that emerged from the ocean was resplendent in its purity, a creature of untarnished white. Yet, Kadru, with her brood of serpents, sought to manipulate the truth. Her serpentine offspring, resembling locks of hair, nestled themselves within the horse's tail, darkening its hue. Reluctant at first, for they recognized the immorality of their actions, the serpents were coerced by Kadru's curse. With grave words, she damned them to perish in a sacrificial fire, scorching their very existence. Thus, the snake sacrifice came to be, its origins rooted in Kadru's unyielding will.

As a consequence, Vinata, and subsequently her son Garuda, were bound to serve Kadru and her Naga progeny. This servitude birthed a deep enmity within Garuda, fueling the countless tales of his battles against and devouring of snakes. To be the slave of those he despised, from the very moment of his birth, left an indelible mark upon his spirit. In his primal form, Garuda blazed with the brilliance of light and fire, traversing the vastness of the universe. Gradually, his essence condensed, transforming him into a magnificent golden eagle.

It was the serpents who burdened Garuda with their demands, compelling him to ferry them across the expanse of planets. Yet, when Garuda sought solace in play, their fear overcame them, and they sank their fangs into his flesh. Powerless as they were to harm him, their incessant biting gnawed at his patience. At last, unable to bear their torment any longer, Garuda turned to his mother and inquired about their servitude. She revealed the wager made long ago.

Fueled by a desire to break free from the shackles of servitude, Garuda approached the serpents with a proposition. "Give me a task, a chore that I can fulfill, one that will liberate me from this eternal bondage," he beseeched them. The Nagas pondered over his words, and after much contemplation, they spoke. "Retrieve for us the Amrita, the immortal nectar churned from the ocean. We, too, are great beings, children of Kashyapa, and yet we remain overshadowed by the worship bestowed upon the gods. Grant us the Amrita, and let the world pay homage to our might."

And thus, the stage was set for Garuda's epic quest, his path fraught with perils and challenges, as he embarked on a mission to obtain the coveted Amrita for the Nagas. The fate of Garuda, the Nagas, and the very fabric of existence intertwined in a grand tapestry of myth and destiny.

Garuda, resolute in his mission, sought counsel from his father, Kashyapa, as he prepared to venture into the realm of the powerful Devas to claim the Amrita. Kashyapa imparted upon him the importance of consuming the right nourishment. In the ethereal realm of Bhurloka, where the laws of nature are altered, they encountered a grand spectacle. A colossal turtle and a massive elephant locked in a bitter feud, their rivalry born from a shared history of animosity in a past life. Despite their pious origins in Bhurloka, their envy and anger had consigned them to existence as animals.

Garuda, undeterred, seized the opportunity before him. He devoured both the turtle and the elephant, absorbing their strength and fortitude into his being. With every bite, he grew mightier, his resolve unyielding.

Meanwhile, the Devas, attuned to the art of interpreting omens, began to perceive signs of impending calamity. Alarmed, they sought the guidance of their venerable guru, Brihaspati, who deciphered the portents. The omens spoke of an audacious attempt to steal the nectar of immortality, and Brihaspati cautioned the Devas to guard the precious elixir at all costs. The Devas, armed with their celestial weaponry, meticulously devised a secure chamber replete with intricate traps to safeguard the Amrita.

Curiosity gnawed at Indra, the leader of the Devas, prompting him to approach Brihaspati in search of answers. The sage, ever wise, reminded Indra of a forgotten tale, the very origin of Garuda and the subsequent challenge he posed to the celestial king. In the grand tapestry of the Mahabharata, every event unfolded for a reason, interconnected by an intricate web of causes and effects.

The story harkened back to a time when Kashyapa performed a grand Yajna, and all desired to contribute. Indra, as the son of Kashyapa, sought to assist by supplying fuel for the sacred fire. Laden with a colossal mound of wood, he strode forth. In that very moment, the diminutive sages known as the Valakiliyas, no larger than a thumb, also yearned to contribute. United in purpose, these five or six tiny sages carried a dry leaf, which had inadvertently lodged itself within a cow's hoofprint.

As fate would have it, Indra chanced upon this peculiar scene. He beheld the minuscule sages clutching the leaf, their efforts paling in comparison to his monumental burden of wood. A condescending smirk crept across his face, and he derisively laughed at their seemingly insignificant contribution. Enraged by Indra's disdainful mockery, the sages, despite their diminutive stature, possessed a reservoir of Brahmin tejas, accumulated through their rigorous austerities.

Thus, the sages cast their curse upon Lord Indra, proclaiming the birth of another who would supersede him in might, a new Indra a thousandfold more powerful. This successor would wield superior rulership and bring about Indra's humiliation, serving as a stern reminder that one's stature does not determine their worth.

Indra, stricken with fear, sought the counsel of Kashyapa, who, in turn, approached the Valakiliyas, urging them to reconsider their curse. Kashyapa reminded them of the divine order established by Lord Brahma, emphasizing the potential chaos that would ensue from the creation of another Indra. Responding to this plea, the Valakiliyas proposed a revised destiny for Garuda. They ordained that he would become an Indra among the avian species, a mighty bird who would confront and humble the current Indra.

Thus, Garuda, the chosen one, emerged. Despite being an eternal companion of Lord Vishnu, his descent to the mortal realm was part of a divine play, a lila. Anantasesha, the elder brother of Vasuki, who had renounced his claim to the serpent kingdom, was chosen by Vishnu to serve as his celestial bed. In this way, even spiritual personalities like Anantasesha manifest in the material realm to set an example for others.

Upon learning of Garuda's arrival and his destined victory, Indra, being a Kshatriya, refused to cower before any perceived threat. The gods assembled, donning their gleaming armor and wielding their formidable weapons, surrounding a vault encircled by roaring flames.

As Garuda swooped down, his massive wings creating a tumultuous dust storm, he swiftly attacked the Devas, biting, clawing, and thrashing them with relentless force. The gods were scattered, tossed about, bruised, and bloodied in an instant. Though the Devas attempted to resist, they were swiftly overcome by Garuda's might. In no time, they were forced to retreat, fleeing in panic. Witnessing the wall of fire encircling the vault, Garuda devised a solution.

With his myriad of heads, he reached the Akshaganga, the celestial Ganga river that flowed through the heavenly abode of the Devas before descending to the earthly plane. He drank the river's water into his many mouths, transforming himself into a living hydrant, and extinguished the raging flames. With the barrier vanquished, Garuda ventured inside the vault, where he encountered a spinning wheel adorned with a hundred blades, each spoke a lethal weapon.

Utilizing his extraordinary siddhis, Garuda diminished himself to a microscopic size, allowing him to traverse the narrow gaps between the blades. On the other side awaited formidable guardians, colossal serpents exuding such toxicity that a mere gaze from them could spell instant death. However, Garuda, swift as thought, dispatched the guardians before they could even perceive his presence. With the path cleared, he obtained the coveted Amrita and, displaying his prowess, shattered the wheel before soaring out of the vault with his prize.

As Garuda soared through the skies, carrying the precious Amrita, Indra pursued him with determination. With a mighty throw, Indra hurled his thunderbolt at Garuda, striking his wing. To Indra's astonishment, only a single feather fell from Garuda's wing. Intrigued, Indra questioned the bird, "How is it that you possess such incredible strength?" Garuda, displaying his humility, replied, "Out of respect for Rishi Dadhichi, whose bones were used to forge your Vajra scepter, I dropped a feather. In truth, I did not even need to do so." With those words, Garuda continued his flight, leaving Indra behind.

As Garuda journeyed onwards, he encountered Lord Vishnu himself. Impressed by Garuda's prowess in battle, Vishnu approached him and asked if he would serve as his personal carrier. Honored by this request, Garuda gladly accepted the divine invitation, forging an eternal bond with Vishnu.

As Garuda neared the Nagas, who awaited the nectar of immortality, Indra humbly approached him, beseeching him not to give the Amrita to the serpents. Garuda, recognizing his duty to free himself from bondage, expressed his intention to offer the nectar to the Nagas. However, Indra pleaded for assistance, unable to allow the serpents to possess such power. Understanding Indra's predicament, Garuda assured him that he would find a solution.

Approaching the Nagas, Garuda placed the pot of Amrita on a mat made of Kusha grass. Delighted, the serpents expressed their gratitude. Sensing an opportunity, Garuda inquired, "Am I now released from my bondage to you?" The Nagas eagerly affirmed his freedom. However, Garuda cunningly suggested that they purify themselves through a bath before partaking in the nectar. Obliging his request, the Nagas left to cleanse themselves, leaving the pot unattended.

Seizing the moment, Indra stealthily approached and, under Garuda's watchful gaze, retrieved the nectar, silently departing. Garuda, no longer bound by his connection to the Nagas, had no need to intervene. When the serpents returned and questioned Garuda about the turn of events, he explained that Indra had arrived and, weary from his arduous adventures, Garuda could not prevent him from taking the nectar. Unaware of the truth, the Nagas began licking the drops of nectar that had fallen on the Kusha grass mat.

Unbeknownst to them, Kusha grass possesses sharp edges, earning it the name "sword grass." As the Nagas licked the nectar, their tongues were lacerated by the grass, resulting in their distinctive forked tongues that can be observed in snakes to this day.

Thus concludes the remarkable tale of Garuda, his valiant battles, and his instrumental role in the events surrounding the Amrita.