A sandstone statue of Garuda made in the 1st half of the 10th century, during the Angkor period, on display at the National Museum of Cambodia (image credit: User aks.9955 own work distributed on a Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, license).

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Sage Kasyapa’s Decision Regarding a Second Indra

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Sage Kasyapa arbitrated on the matter of the second Indra. It balanced Brahma Deva’s appointment of the current Indra as well as the sacrifice of the Valakhilya Sages. In this post, we will return to the battle between Garuda and the Devas for amrit. 

If you remember from earlier posts, disturbing omens started appearing in heaven when Garuda flew towards the abode of the devas to seize the amrit and free his mother from slavery. When Indra and the other devas realized what was happening when they went to their teacher, Brihaspati, to inquire about the omens. The devas prepared for battle in response to the threat.

In this post, we will read about the fierce encounter between Garuda and the devas.

Even though the devas were prepared for battle, they shook with fear when they saw the mighty Garuda approaching them. In that fear and the confusion that followed, some devas even struck one another with their weapons.

The first deva to fight Garuda was a deva called Brahmana. He was a celestial architect and was of immeasurable strength and bright like an electric fire. However, his encounter with Garuda did not last long. The great bird struck the deva called Brahmana with his beaks, talons, and wings, and within a moment, Brahmana lay dead on the battlefield.

Having vanquished Brahmana, Garuda flapped his wings with great force and raised a dust storm in heaven. Everything became dark and the devas, blinded by the dust, could no longer see their foe, Garuda. The mighty bird then struck the confused devas with his wings and beak and mangled them with wounds.

Seeing the devas confused and wounded, Indra (the deva of a thousand eyes) commanded Vayu to dispel the dust storm, and, following Indra’s command, the mighty Vayu drove away the dust giving respite to the devas. As soon as Garuda was visible, the devas attacked him in unison.

Garuda roared at the devas. His roar was like the sound that is heard in the universe at the end of the yugas. Garuda then ascended the skies with his mighty wings and swooped down attaching the devas who were with various weapons like double-edged swords, lances, arrows, simple maces, spiked maces, and discusses as bright as the sun. A fierce encounter took place between the devas and Garuda where the devas hurled their weapons with all their might at Garuda and, in response, Garuda moved swiftly and attacked them from all sides with his beak, talons, and wings.

The devas were no match for the mighty Garuda. Their bodies became mangled with the wounds inflicted by the great bird and they lay bleeding on the battlefield. The remaining devas fled to save their lives. The Sadhyas and the Gandharvas ran towards the east, the Vasus and the Rudras escaped from the south, the Adityas escaped from the west, and the Aswin twins fled in the northern direction. The devas, who were endued with great energy, retreated from the battle, making a few glances at their enemy while fleeing.

The valiant Yakshas, however, remained on the battlefield and continued to fight with Garuda. There was Aswakranda of great courage, Rainuka, the brave Krathanaka, Tapana, Uluka, Swasanaka, Nimesha, Praruja, and Pulina. They attacked Garuda with all their might, but the king of birds vanquished them with the power of his beak and talons and he wreaked havoc like the enraged Siva (the holder of the Pinaka) does at the end of a yuga. Those mighty and brave Yakshas, who fought without fleeing, lay dead, and the battlefield was filled with blood all around. After having vanquished the Yakshas, Garuda went to the place where the amrit was kept. He saw that the amrit was surrounded by a huge fire on all sides.

Note: In the next post, we will find out how Garuda seized the amrit that was protected by multiple layers of security.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Garuda Breaks Past Obstacles to Seize the Amrit

Garuda is known as Karura in Japan. This is a statue of the wingless Karura in the Kofukuji Temple in Nara, Japan.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Garuda’s Mission Causes Disturbing Omens in Heaven

Note: In the previous post, we read about the disturbing omens that appeared in heaven when Garuda flew toward heaven to seize the amrit. 

In this post, we will find out how Indra responded when Brihaspati, the teacher of the devas, told him that Garuda was on his way to heaven to take the amrit.

Upon hearing Brihaspati’s words, Indra addressed the devas who guarded the amrit. He said, “A bird possessing great strength and energy is determined to take away the amrit from us. Brihaspati told me that his strength is immeasurable and that nothing is impossible for him. Therefore, O devas, be very careful. Protect the amrit and do not allow him to take it.”

The gods who guarded the amrit were surprised to learn that a bird might have the power to take it from them, but they took note of Indra’s words and surrounded the amrit determined to protect it. Indra himself also stood guard with them.

The other devas started preparing for the battle by putting on their armor and getting their weapons. They wore expensive golden breastplates set with gems, over which they put on a tough bright leather armor. Having protected themselves with the breastplate and armor, they took sharp weapons in their hands. Some took maces with spikes, some took double-edged swords, some took tridents, while others took a discuss. Some devas even took various types of missiles. Each warrior equipped himself with a weapon that suited his body type. These weapons emitted smoke and sparks as the devas raised them.

Decked with celestial ornaments and equipped with bright and terrible weapons, the devas of incomparable strength, capable of splitting towns of asuras, stood there to protect the amrit

Note: In the next post, we will find out what Indra had done in the past to create a karmic situation that threatened heaven, and in the post after that, we will return to the battle between Garuda and the devas.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Indra’s Past Mistake That Created Karmic Disturbances in Heaven

Thunder and Lightening: Photo by Rahul Viswanath on Unsplash

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Sage Kasyapa Guides Garuda and the Valakhilya Rishis

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Sage Kasyapa requested the Valakhilya Rishis, who were doing penances on the branch that Garuda had mistakenly broken, to leave the branch and grant permission to Garuda to continue with his mission. After the Valakhilya Rishis left, Garuda ate the elephant and the tortoise on a remote mountain peak and proceeded toward heaven to seize the amrit.

In this post, we will read about the disturbing omens that appeared in heaven when Garuda flew toward Indra’s abode.

As Garuda proceeded toward Indra’s abode, various disturbing omens began to appear in the heavens. 

Indra’s favorite weapon – the thunderbolt – suddenly caught fire and blazed into a frightful flame. 

Thousands of meteors filled with smoke and fire began to rain from the sky.

The weapons of the Vasus, Rudras, Adityas, Sabhyas, Maruts, and other gods began to direct their force against each other. This was unheard of. An event like this, where the weapons of the devas turned against each other, had never happened in any war between the gods and the asuras.

The sky resounded with loud thunder even though no clouds could be seen in it.

The flowery garlands that the devas wore around their necks started to fade and the devas felt as if they were losing their power.

And then, suddenly, the sky filled up with dense clouds and started raining showers of blood. The god of gods (Mahadev) had caused those showers.

Gusts of winds began to blow raising a storm of dust that made everything in heaven, including the crown of the devas, appear dark.

These events filled the devas with fear. Even the king of the devas, Indra – the deva of one thousand sacrifices – was confused and afraid. Seeking to understand these omens, the devas, along with Indra, approached their teacher, Brihaspati (Jupiter).

Indra said to him, “O worshipful one, why have these disturbances of nature started occurring? I do not see any foe, capable of oppressing us in war, approaching.”

Brihaspati replied to Indra, “O king of the devas, these fearsome omens are a result of your own fault and the ascetic penances of the Valakhilya Rishis. These two reasons have combined to become the cause for Garuda, the immensely strong son of Vinata and Kasyapa, to come to your abode to seize the amrit. O king of the devas, everything is possible for Garuda. He is capable of achieving the impossible.”

Note: I am sure you are eager to find out what Indra had done in the past to bring this misfortune to heaven. We’ll read about Indra’s mistake the day after tomorrow, because, even though Brihaspati mentioned it, Indra did not acknowledge any mistake at that time. Instead of asking Brihaspati about his mistake, Indra decided to first safeguard heaven by getting the devas ready for a battle with Garuda. 

In the next post, we will find out how the devas got ready for the impending battle, and in the post after that, we will return to Indra’s actions that were the root cause for Garuda’s hostile arrival in Indra’s abode.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: The Devas Get Ready For a Battle With Garuda

The battle between devas and asuras depicted in the temple at Angkor Wat

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Rahu Tries to Drink the Amrit by Deceit

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Narayana prevented Rahu from drinking the amrit. In this post, we will learn about the battle that ensued between the devas and asuras after the Churning of the Ocean and how the devas won the battle.

Those of you who enjoy suspense stories might have noticed a literary quality of the Mahabharata — which is, we always know what’s going to happen, however, the anticipation is in finding out how it happened and how it aligns with the thread of subtle dharma.

Soon after that, Narayana left his enchanting female form and returned to his normal form and hurled weapons at the asuras, which made them tremble. Thus, a frightening battle between the devas and the asuras began on the shores of the salt-water ocean, filling every direction with various kinds of weapons like javelins and lances.

The asuras were wounded and mangled with swords, darts, maces, and the discus. Some had their head cut off with double-edged swords, while some lay there vomiting blood, while others lay prostrate on the ground. The battleground became filled with the heads of the asuras with their golden adornments making that place look as if it was scattered with red-dyed mountain peaks.

The next day, when the Sun rose in its splendor, the battle restarted and the devas fought the asuras with bare hands, maces, and iron missiles. Cries and alarming sounds of ‘cut’, ‘pierce’, ‘hurl down’, etc were heard from everywhere.

Nara and Narayana entered the battlefield when the battle was already raging fiercely. Nara had in his hands, the celestial bow. Seeing him, Narayana invoked his own weapon – the Sudarshan Chakra (discus) which came to him from from the skies as soon as Narayana had thought about it  Thousands of asuras were devoured by Narayana’s discus – that dreadful weapon capable of destroying hostile cities.

However, even though they were assaulted with such force, the asuras were brave and strong. They withstood the attack and used their powers to rise into the sky, and from there, they threw mountains upon the devas.

Nara took his celestial bow and released gold-tipped arrows onto those mountains splitting and reducing them to dust before they could fall on the earth.

The onslaught of Nara’s arrows, Narayana’s discus, and the devas’ weapons overwhelmed the asuras. Many of them dived deep into the earth while others plunged into the depths of the ocean.

Thus, after a fierce battle, the devas finally obtained victory over the asuras. They offered proper respect to Mount Mandara and placed him once again on his base. With the nectar in their hands, the devas returned to the heavens making it resound with their shouts of victory. The devas rejoiced upon entering heaven and Indra, as well as the other deities, gave the pot of nectar to Narayana for safe-keeping.

Note: In the last few posts, we have discussed the Churning of the Ocean (Samudra Manthan) and the events after it. I want to take this opportunity to remind you that we got into this discussion because, a few posts back, Sauti had started narrating the story of Sage Kasyapa’s wives: Kadru and Vinata, and their children (a thousand snakes of Kadru and two sons of Vinata). Sauti mentioned that Kadru and Vinata saw the celestial horse (Uchchaihsravas) soon after Garuda’s birth. When the ascetics of Naimisha forest heard about Uchchaihsravas, they wanted to know how that celestial horse came into being. That’s why Sauti took a diversion into the story of Samudra Manthan because Uchchaihsravas was one of the beings that emerged when the ocean was churned.

Now that we know how Uchchaihsravas came into being, we will go back to the story of Kadru and Vinata in the next post. You might remember that Vinata had been cursed by her first son because she broke open the egg before his body was fully formed. He cursed that she would become a slave and that her second son would bring her freedom. In the next post, we will read about a bet that Kadru had with Vinata.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: The Bet Between Vinata and Kadru