The victorious Garuda

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Previous Post: How the Snakes Became Garuda’s Natural Food

Note: In the previous post, we read how the snakes became Garuda’s natural food.

In this post, we will find out how Garuda frees his mother from slavery.

Upon reaching the island with the pot of amrit in his claws, Garuda addressed the snakes joyfully in the following words, “Here, I have brought the amrit for you. I’ll place it on a bed of kusa grass. O snakes, sit here and drink the amrit after performing your ablutions and religious rites.”

Garuda continued, “Since I have brought the amrit, free my mother as you had promised.” 

The snakes said to Garuda, “So be it,” and went to perform their ablutions so they could drink the amrit.

As soon as the snakes went to perform their ablutions, Indra came to that spot, quickly took the amrit, and returned to heaven. 

The snakes returned after completing their ablutions, but, to their dismay, the bed of Kusa grass was empty. The amrit was no longer there.

Note: Here, Vyasa Muni mentions the plan that Garuda and Indra had made, as a counter-act of deceit.

Disappointed and saddened at not finding the amrit, the snakes began to lick the kusa grass on which the amrit was placed. Licking the kusa grass caused the initial part of the snakes’ tongues to become split into two parts.

From that day onwards, having come in contact with amrit, kusa grass became sacred.

Thus, the illustrious Garuda brought the amrit by battling the devas, freed his mother, did not allow the snakes to take the amrit, and also caused the snakes’ tongues to be split.

Garuda, that bird of fair feathers, roamed the beautiful woods of that island with his mother. He also gratifiedehis mother by devouring the snakes.

It is said that great merit is acquired by the person who listens to this story or recites it to an assembly of good brahmanas.

Reading or reciting this story of Garuda’s feats creates the conditions for a person to go to heaven.

Note: It’s worth contemplating on Garuda’s decisions of not battling the snakes but, instead, battling the devas to seize the amrit, and then, eventually supporting Indra and not allowing the snakes to drink the amrit, and finally, devouring the snakes after freeing his mother. 

In the next post, we will find out the names of the principle snakes involved in this tryst with Garuda.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Names of the Principal Snakes Involved in the Tryst With Garuda

Garuda returning with the vase of amrit — from a series of 100 drawings of Hindu deities created in South India. (Image by Unknown (production), Public Domain)

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Garuda’s Fierce Battle With the Devas

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Garuda battled with the devas and vanquished them. After winning the battle, Garuda proceeded to the place where the amrit was kept. There, he noticed that the amrit was surrounded by massive flames and was also protected by other layers of security.

In this post, we will read about how Garuda went past the various obstacles, devised by the devas, and took possession of the pot of amrit.

Garuda saw that the amrit was surrounded by massive flames of fire that covered the entire sky. Violent winds blew on these flames causing them to leap and sway from one side to the next. It seemed as if the flames were determined to burn the Sun itself. Garuda’s sharp mind immediately thought of a way to conquer the challenge. He changed his form to add more mouths to his body. He assumed 99 times 99 mouths, and with these 9801 mouths, Garuda drank water from several rivers on earth and released that water with great speed on the fire from all directions. It was like aiming 9801 powerful water hoses on a fire. And the fire that blocked access to the amrit was indeed extinguished. 

With the fire put down, Garuda once again changed his form. This time, he reduced the size of his body and assumed a small, bright, golden body and crossed the ashes and water with great speed like a torrent entering the ocean. There he encountered the next obstacle.

The amrit was surrounded by a treacherous machine designed by the devas. The machine consisted of a rapidly rotating wheel that had sharp, razor-like blades which could slash to pieces anyone who tried to take the amrit. However, Garuda’s keen eyes spotted a passage through the spokes of the machine. He immediately made his body very small, and, with great speed, flew through that passage that opened for a brief moment.

Having gone past the rotating wheel, Garuda came face to face with the third and most dangerous obstacle. The amrit was protected by two great snakes. These snakes blazed with fire. They had sharp and bright eyes filled with anger. And these angry glowing eyes, ever watchful for an intruder, never blinked. Their tongues were like lightning and their mouth constantly emitted fire. These venomous snakes, filled with anger, were capable of burning any transgressor to ashes.

Garuda, the bird of fair feathers, acted quickly to raise an immense amount of dust with his wings. The dust covered the snakes’ eyes, and unseen by the snakes, he attacked them from all sides and tore their body into pieces.

Having vanquished the snakes, he seized the amrit, and without wasting any time, the mighty son of Vinata, who was currently within the machine made of a rotating wheel and sharp blades, spread his wings and expanded his body. As he rapidly grew in size, he shattered the apparatus into pieces.

Finally, having overcome all the obstacles, he did not stop to drink the amrit. Instead, he held the pot with his claws and ascended the skies. Garuda headed back to the island where Kadru and her snake sons had enslaved his mother, Vinata.

Note: In the next post, Garuda will meet Vishnu. We will read about the interaction they had that led Garuda to become Vishnu’s vehicle.

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Next Post: How Garuda Became Vishnu’s Vehicle

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

Garuda at Srivilliputur Temple, Tamil Nadu, India

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: An Island Called Ramanayika

Note: In the previous post, we read about the island called Ramanayika that the creator (Brahma) had dedicated to the Makaras (crocodiles). Kadru and her snake sons had commanded Vinata and Garuda to take them to the beautiful island on their backs.

In this post, we will find out what happened when the snakes made further demands of Garuda.

The snakes began to enjoy themselves after arriving in the forest in Ramanikiya. After they had satisfied themselves, they commanded Garuda once again.

“O Garuda, ranger of the skies, you must have seen many beautiful regions while flying. Now take us to another excellent island that has pure water.” The snakes said to Garuda.

When Garuda was thus commanded for the second time, he reflected for a moment and asked his mother, Vinata, “Mother, why do I have to obey the snakes?”

Vinata looked at her son who had been blessed with immense energy, strength, and every virtue. She said, “The snakes committed an act of deception and caused me to lose a bet because of which I was enslaved by my co-wife, Kadru.”

A word of thanks to the sponsor of this page: Shri Srinivas Solapurkar.

I met Srinivas Ji at Sri Aurobindo Nivas in Vadodara. He was very generous in sharing his spiritual knowledge and wisdom about the “Guru Charitra Granth — A text about the Leela of Shri Bhagwan Dattatreya.

Along with yoga and naturopathy guidance, he also offers services as a Heritage Tour Guide in Vadodara.

Garuda became dejected after hearing his mother’s story. He was filled with sadness. Wanting to find a way out of slavery, he asked the snakes, “Tell me O snakes, how can we gain freedom from this bondage to you? Do you desire an object or some knowledge? I can bring them for you to win our freedom. If you desire, I can do an act that requires immense strength. Tell me, what can I do to acquire freedom?”

The snakes replied, “O great bird, bring us the amrit from the gods, even by force, if you must. You and your mother will be freed if you can do this for us.”

Note: The next few posts contain the adventures of Garuda as he goes to heaven and battles with the devas for the amrit.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Garuda Begins his Quest for the Amrit

1st Century BC image of Surya Deva found at Bhaja Caves

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Gods Request Garuda to Reduce His Brightness

Note: In the previous post, we read about how the gods praised Garuda with love to request him to reduce his size. In this post, we will find out why Surya Deva wanted to destroy the world.

After reducing his size, Garuda said, let no creature be afraid of me. And having said that, Garuda, that ranger of the skies, took his elder brother, Aruna, and went to his mother, who was on the other side of the great ocean.

Then he placed his brother, Aruna, of great brightness and immense size in the eastern regions, just when the Sun God, Surya, had resolved to burn the worlds with his fierce rays.’

Saunaka Kulapati, the sage of Naimisha Forest, was surprised to hear Sauti’s words about Surya Deva wanting to burn the world. He asked Sauti, “When did the revered Surya decide to burn the world? What provoked his anger?”

Sauti explained the issue to Saunaka Kulapati in these words.

After the gods got the amrit from Samudra Manthan, Surya (the Sun God) and Soma (the Moon God) had pointed out to everyone that the daitya, Rahu, had disguised himself as a Deva to drink the amrit. 

From that day Rahu bore ill will towards Surya and Soma and Rahu decided to devour Surya. 

When Surya reflected upon this matter, he felt that his enmity with Rahu was created because he (Surya) wanted to benefit all the devas by preventing Rahu from drinking the amrit, however, even though everyone benefited from that action, only Surya had to bear the consequences of the enmity with Rahu. All the other devas remained quiet at Surya’s misfortune without getting themselves involved in the matter. This angered Surya, and when he set in the west at the end of the day, he resolved to destroy the world during sunrise on the next day.

Note: In the next post, we will find out how the world was saved from Surya Deva’s anger.

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Next Post: How Aruna Shielded the Earth From Surya Deva’s Wrath

Sculpture of Mohini: Image by Nomu420 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Neelkantha Mahadev Saves the World From the Kalakuta

Note: In the previous post, we read about the emergence of Goddess Lakshmi, Soma, Uchchaihsravas (the celestial horse), Airavata (the double-tusked elephant), the Kaustubha gem, Dhanwantari with the pot of amrit, and the deadly poison Kalakuta from the ocean as it was churned. Mahadev drank the Kalakuta and held it in his throat to save the world.

In this post, we will read about what happened when the asuras decided to fight the gods in order to possess Goddess Lakshmi and the amrit.

The asuras were filled with despair when they saw all the wonderful things and beings that had emerged from the ocean. They wanted to possess Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth and abundance) and the amrit (nectar), therefore, they prepared for a battle with the devas. 

Narayana understood what was going on in the asuras’ minds. He immediately used his power of illusion and transformed himself into a graceful and beautiful woman called Mohini. This is the Mohini avtaar of Narayana. 

Mohini approached the asuras and stunned them with her exquisite beauty and grace. And when she started flirting with them, the asuras totally lost their senses. They themselves placed the pot of amrit in Mohini’s hands as they prepared to fight with the gods.

While the asuras were fighting with the gods, Narayana (still in the form of Mohini) took help from Nara to deceive the asuras and quickly left the camp of the asuras with the pot of amrit and took it to the gods.

While still engaged with the asuras in battle, the gods (although frightened) drank the amrit, which they had just received from Narayana’s hands, with great delight.

Note: In the next post, we will read about what happens when Rahu tries to deceive the gods and drink the amrit without permission.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Rahu Tries to Drink the Amrit by Deceit