Garuda Takes a Detour to Protect the Valakhilya Rishis

A view of the western part of Pamban island from the summit of Mt. Gandhamadana which is the tallest peak on Pamban Island, which lies in the Palk Strait between mainland India and Sri Lanka. It is believed by many people that Hanuman Ji resides on this mountain. (The image is available on a Creative Commons — CC BY 2.5 IN — license and has been contributed by Ravichander84).

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Vibhavasu the Tortoise and Supritika the Elephant

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Vibhavasu became a tortoise and Supritika became an elephant.

In this post, we will read about how Garuda seized the fierce and violent animals and what happened when he went in search of a place where he could eat them.

After telling the story of the hostile brothers who were reborn as an elephant and a tortoise, Sage Kasyapa blessed his son, Garuda, with the following words. 

“O son may you be blessed when you have to fight the gods. May water pitchers filled to the brim, brahmanas, cows, and other auspicious objects bless you. O Garuda of great strength, when you are in combat with the gods, may the Riks, the Yajus, the Samas, the sacred sacrificial butter, and all the mysteries explained in the Upanishads contribute to your strength.”

Blessed by his father, Garuda went to the sacred lake of clear water with birds all around. The noble bird, who could move very quickly seized the elephant with one flaw and the tortoise with another.

With the violent animals in his claws, the noble bird soared high into the sky to search for a proper location where he could place the animals to eat them. In his search, he first reached a sacred place called Alamva which had many divine trees that were capable of granting any wish. When Garuda flew close to the trees the tremendous wind created by his flapping wings caused those holy trees, which had golden branches, to tremble with fear. Garuda saw the trees filled with fear and decided to go somewhere else.

As he flew ahead, he soon reached another sacred place that had huge trees adorned with fruits of gold and silver. The branches of these trees were covered with precious gems. Being close to the sea, these trees were washed by sea-water. Among these trees was an unusually large banian tree which had a branch that was a hundred yojanas long. The tree called out to Garuda and said, “Sit on this branch that is a hundred yojanas long and eat the elephant and tortoise.

However, when the massive bird, Garuda, who resembled a mountain, sat on the branch, it shook and snapped. The branch which was a hundred yojanas long and filled with leaves and birds, detached from the tree and fell due to Garuda’s impact. When Garuda looked around, he saw Valakhilya rishis, who were engaged in severe penances, hanging upside down from the branch. The noble bird was afraid that the rishis might die because of his fault and he also desired to save them. Therefore, without wasting any time, he caught the massive branch firmly in his beak while still clutching the elephant and the tortoise with his claws

The Valakhilya rishis were filled with wonder when they saw Garuda hold such a massive branch with his beak – a feat that would have been difficult even for the devas. The great rishis said, “May this foremost of birds be called Garuda.”

Note: The name, Garuda, means — one who can bear heavy weights.

Desirous to save the rishis, Garuda flew over many places searching for a location where he could gently place the huge branch and allow the rishis to escape unhurt. However, unable to find any suitable place, he flew towards Mount Gandhamadana, where he once again saw his father, Sage Kasyapa, performing ascetic devotions.

Note: In the next post, we will read about how Sage Kasyapa guides Garuda to avoid sin, and also guides the Valakhilya Rishis to safety.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Sage Kasyapa guides Garuda and the Valakhilya Rishis