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There are different types of incarnations of the Supreme personality of Godhead. In the Shaastra, it is said that Garud, Lord Shiv and Bhagavaan Anant all are very powerful incarnations of the Brahm feature of the Lord. Garud is the ride of Bhagvaan Vishnu, the son of Kashyap and Aditi (a daughter of Daksh), and Indra's younger brother. His name is mentioned almost everywhere wherever Vishnu's name is mentioned. So his name is not confined to Raamaayan only. Mahaabhaarat, Puraan also mention about him.
Who is Garud?
On Shaalmali Dweep (island), there is a Shaalmali tree, from which the island takes its name. That tree is as broad and tall as the Plaksh tree--in other words 100 Yojan [800 miles] broad and 1,100 Yojan [8,800 miles] tall. This tree is the residence of Garud. Garud is also said to be an inhabitant of the planet known as Kinnar Lok. The inhabitants of the Kinnar planet also have the same features as Garud. Their bodily features are like those of a human being, but they have wings.
It is believed that the hymns forming the basis of the Saam Ved were vibrated by the flapping wings of the Lord's carrier, Garud. In the Vaidik literature it is stated that the two wings of the transcendental bird Garud, who carries the Lord everywhere, are two divisions of the Saam Ved known as Brihat and Rathantar. Garud works as the carrier of the Lord; therefore he is considered the transcendental prince of all carriers. With his two wings, Garud began to vibrate the Saam Ved, which is chanted by great sages to pacify the Lord. The Lord is worshiped by Brahmaa, by Shiv, by Garud and other demigods with selected poems, and great sages worship Him with the hymns of Vaidik literatures, such as the Upanishad and Saam Ved. These Saam Ved utterances are automatically heard by the devotee when another great devotee of the Lord, Garud, flaps his wings. Kardam Muni, who was a liberated soul, saw the Supreme Lord in person, face to face. He could also see Garud carrying the Lord on the way to Vaikunth and hear the flapping of his wings vibrating the sound of Hare Krishna, the essence of the Saam Ved.
Garud is the highest flying bird - world record is 37,000 feet.
Birth of Garud
Vinataa (Suparnaa) and her husband Kashyap Jee gave birth to Garud, and to Anuru, or Arun, the chariot driver of the Sun god. As Garud was born, he grew up a lot in a very short time. The he asked for food from his mother. Seeing Garud's huge body, Vinataa said to him - "Your father will give you food, so go to your father." Garud Jee went to his father and greeted him introducing himself as his son. Kashyap Jee got very pleased to see him. After the greetings, Garud Jee said - "Father I am hungry, I need something to eat."
Kashyap Jee said - "Putra, An elephant and a tortoise live there on seashore. Both are very mighty. They are looking for an opportunity to kill each other. You can go there and eat them, they can satisfy your hunger." Garud immediately went there, killed them and flew with them carrying them in his beak and paw. At that time, even Mandaraachal mountain could not support him, so he flew 200,000 (2 Lakh) Yojan far from there and sat on a huge branch of a Jaamun tree. As he sat on the branch, it broke; Garud had to hold that branch in his paw with the fear that it would kill cows and Braahman under it if it fell, and resumed his flight.
He continued to fly for long time, so Vishnu appeared before him in human form and asked - "O King of birds, Who are you and why are you flying carrying this elephant, tortoise and branch in the sky?" Garud Jee said - "I am Garud and because of my Karm I am born as a bird. I am the son of Kashyap Muni and Vinataa. See, I have caught these huge animals to eat, but even huge mountain and trees cannot support me. Seeing a very huge Jaamun tree, I tried to sit on one of its branch, but it broke as I sat on it. With the fear that many Rishi and cows would be killed, I flew carrying this branch also. Where should I go, who can support me?"
Vishnu said - "Come and sit on my arm and eat this elephant and tortoise." Garud Jee said - "Even the huge mountains are unable to support me, how will you support me on your arm? Who else is that, except Shree Naraayan, who can support me?" Vishnu said - "A wise man should be concerned only with his own work, therefore you do your own work. When your work will be done you will know me."
Garud thought for a while and sat on His arm. Although Garud sat on the arm with a considerable weight, still His arm didn't even shake a bit. Garud threw that branch on a mountain peak, ate elephant and tortoise and asked Vishnu - "Now you tell me what can I do for you?" Vishnu said - "Know me as Naaraayan. I have come here to do something good to you." And He showed him His real form. He said - "You are very mighty, You be my ride." Garud said - "I am blessed having your Darshan. I will come after taking permission from my parents."
Vishnu said - "You be immortal, your Karm and grace should be like mine, you can go anywhere, your all desires should be fulfilled, and you can get the food of your liking without any problem. You will soon make your mother happy." And He disappeared. When Garud told this to Kashyap Jee, he got very happy. He said - "Today we all are blessed. Our family is also blessed in which a son like you has been born. People can't get Vishnu's Darshan even after doing severe Tap etc, but you have got Him easily. Your mother is in trouble, so first you get her free, then you go to Vishnu."
When Garud Jee was returning bringing Amrit with him, he met Vishnu on his way. Vishnu was very pleased with him as he was bringing Amrit without drinking it, so he asked Garud Jee to ask for any boon. He said - "I should be above you and I should be immortal and disease free without drinking Amrit." Vishnu said - "So be it." Garud Jee sxaid - "I also want to grant you a boon, ask for it." Vishnu said - "You be my ride." And to grant the boon asked by Garud that he should be above Vishnu, He kept him on the flag of His chariot.
Why Garud Jee is Called Suparn
Garud Jee's Life
Garud Jee Frees His Mother
Now it so happened that the chariot appeared again in the sky and both saw that the tails of the horses were black. Vinataa lost the bet and she started her life as a slave of Kadroo. In fact Kadroo knew that the horse's tail was white, but because of fear to lose the bet she asked her sons (Naag) to wrap around his tail so that it would look black. And she was successful, the tail looked black and she won the bet. Vinataa started her life as the maidservant of her sister Kadroo.
When Garud Jee came to know about this cheating, he vowed that he would eat all Naag. Since then Garud Jee became the enemy of Naag. Wherever he saw a Naag he used to eat it. And since then their enmity is known and Naag are always careful about their lives. Even Kaaliya Naag also hid himself in Kaaliya Daha only because of fear of Garud (read this story on Next Page). Then Krishn danced on his heads and made him fearless saying that "when Garud will see my footprints on your head he wouldn't say anything to you." and sent him to sea.
Now how Vinataa could be released from this slavery? Garud Jee asked her mother to ask her sister what she wanted to free her? So VInataa asked her and Kadroo asked her to bring the pot of Amrit for her, and as she would give her that pot, she would release her from her slavery. The pot of Amrit was in the custody of Indra. So he flew and stole that pot. The caretaker of that pot reported the incident to Indra. Indra got very angry. Garud explained him that he had to take that pot and give it to his mother and free her from Kadroo's slavery.
Indra was not happy with this as others who were not worthy of the Amrit will become immortal by drinking it. So Indra struck him with his Vajra. With a view to respect the infallibility of Indra's weapon, Garud, 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, Garud Jee wanted to show respect for Indra; since he knew that Indra's weapon must destroy something, he offered his wing.
Then Garud Jee found a way to take that Amrit pot, he said to him - "I take this pot and give it to my mother. She will give it to Kadroo and Kadroo will release my mother after getting the pot. Then you may steal it or whatever to get it back from her." Indra agreed at this and as soon as Kadroo handed over the pot to Kadroo, she got released from slavery, and Indra ran away snatching it from Kadroo's hands.
In another version, Kadroo kept the pot on a Kush Aasan, called her sons and said to them - "Go and take bath, Amrit is here, after taking bath drink this Amrit which will make you immortal." All Naag got very happy to hear this and went to take bath. Vinataa also wen away from that place after keeping the Amrit pot on that Aasan. As Vinataa left the place, Indra came and exchanged the Amrit pot with his poison pot. All Naag came after taking bath and asked the Amrit from Vinataa. Vinataa showed them the pot and told them to drink to their satisfaction. They drank it, but it was not the Amrit, it was the poison.
Garud Becomes the Means of Death of a Bird
Just then Yam, the god of death who rides a buffalo, also came passing by with the intention of meeting Shiv. As he crossed the arch, his eyes fell over to the bird and he raised his brows in a quizzical expression. Then he took his eyes off the bird and disappeared inside.
Now, as it is known to everybody, even a slight glance of Yam is said to be the harbinger of death. Garud, who had observed Yam's action, told himself, "Yam is looking intently at the bird. It 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." Garud's heart was filled with pity for the helpless creature. That it was oblivious of its own impending doom further agonized Garud 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 and he returned to Kailaash and regained his position at the entrance gate.
Soon after, Yam emerged from inside, and nodded to Garud in recognition. Garud also 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?" Yam Raaj Jee said : "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. And I went inside. Then I forgot. Surely it must have happened somehow." Saying this, Yam Raaj Jee smiled and went away. Did he know about Garud's specific role in the matter or is it just a story? Nobody can know for sure. Garud sat perplexed, mulling over the surprising turn the events had taken.
Created by Sushma Gupta On 5/27/04
Modified on 03/22/13