Garuda Wants to Eat Before Battling for the Amrit

This image is from the Ramayana where Guha, the king of the Nishadas, helps Shri Ram cross the Ganga

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Garuda Questions his Slavery

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Garuda questioned his Slavery to the serpents and agreed to bring the amrit, they desired, to free his mother and himself.

In this post, Garuda will begin his quest to get the amrit from the gods. However, the young bird is hungry, so his mother directs him to food, along with a cautionary note about what he should not eat.

Garuda turned to his mother and said, “I am leaving to bring the amrit, but I’m hungry. I want to eat before I go to heaven. Please tell me where I can get food.”

Vinata replied, “The Nishadas live in a beautiful place in a remote region in the middle of the ocean. Eat all the Nishadas that live there and proceed to bring the amrit.”

Along with guiding Garuda towards food, Vinata also gave him some cautionary advice. She said, “But remember son, don’t ever eat a brahmana. When angered, a brahmana becomes like fire. He becomes dangerous like a sharp weapon or like poison. It has been said that the brahmana is the master of all creatures. It is for this and various other reasons that Brahmanas are adored by the virtuous. However angry you are, you should be careful to never slay a brahmana. O sinless Garuda, when a brahmana of rigid vows becomes angry, he can cause more destruction than the fire or the sun.”

Upon hearing his mother’s advice, Garuda asked, “O mother, what does a brahmana look like? What is his behaviour? What are his powers? Does a brahmana shine like fire or does he have a calm demeanour? What auspicious signs does he bear? O mother, advise me on how to recognise a brahmana.”

Vinata replied, “O Garuda, if you ever swallow a good brahmana, you will immediately feel as if a fish hook is torturing your throat or you will feel as if a blazing fire is burning you. You will never be able to digest a good brahmana.”

Vinata blessed Garuda and said, “May the god of wind protect your wings, may Surya and Soma protect your spine, may Agni protect your head, and may the Vasus protect your entire body.”

After blessing Garuda, Vinata said, “I will sit here and perform ceremonies for your safety and welfare. Go safely, O child, and bring the amrit.”

Blessed by Vinata, Garuda stretched his wings and ascended to the sky. When he reached the place where the Nishadas stayed, he swooped down upon them with great strength. At that moment, he was like another Yama

The powerful bird raised a dust storm covering the entire sky. Then he blocked all the exit roads of the Nishadas and enlarged his beak in such a way that the fleeing Nishadas went straight into his mouth. Then the hungry lord of the bird closed his mouth, eating a large number of Nishadas who worked as fishermen.

A brahmana and his wife also got caught in Garuda’s mouth along with the Nishadas. The great bird’s throat began to burn like a flaming charcoal when the brahmana reached his throat.

Garuda remembered his mother’s cautionary words. He immediately addressed the brahmana, saying, “O brahmana, I will open my mouth for you. Come out quickly because I will not slay a brahmana even if he’s engaged in sinful practices.”

The brahmana replied, “O Garuda, this Nishada woman with me is my wife. Allow her also to escape with me.”

“Take your wife and come out of my mouth without any delay,” Garuda said.

As soon as the brahmana and his wife came out of Garuda’s mouth, the great bird once again spread his wings and ascended the sky.

After some time, as he flew across the sky, Garuda saw Sage Kasyapa, his father.

Note: In the next post, we will read about Garuda’s interactions with his father.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Garuda Meets His Father, Sage Kasyapa