Today being Vasant Panchami, the post’s featured image is a statue of Goddess Saraswathi (from the Fine Arts College, Davanagere)

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Garuda Takes a Detour to Protect the Valakhilya Rishis

Note: In the previous post, we read how Garuda went in search of a place where he could put the massive elephant and tortoise to eat them. Invited by a huge banian tree, he tried sitting on its branch, but the branch broke with his weight. Garuda immediately caught the branch with its beak because it was home to tiny Valakhilya Rishis who were hanging upside down performing ascetic penances. In his attempt to understand how to ensure the rishis’ safety, Garuda reached Mount Gandhamadana, where his father, Sage Kasyapa, was engaged in ascetic practices.
In this post, we will read about how Sage Kasyapa guided Garuda and the Valakhilya Rishis.

As Garuda approached Mount Gandhamadana, he looked like a huge mountain filled with divine splendor. This noble bird, who could fly with the speed of the wind or even the mind, possessed immense strength. He was invincible. No human, deva, or danava could defeat him in battle. Even the invincible rakshasas were incapable of defeating him. He looked frightful like Agni himself, and indeed, he was capable of splitting mountain peaks, sucking up all the water from the great oceans, and even destroying the three worlds. 

Sage Kasyapa, who was performing ascetic devotions on the mountain, also saw his son. The great sage immediately noticed the Valakhilya Rishis hanging on the branch that Garuda held in his beak.

“Be careful, my child,” the sage cautioned his son. “These Valakhilya Rishis, who sustain themselves with the rays of the sun, have acquired great powers through their ascetic penances. When angered, they are capable of blasting anything, including you.”

Kasyapa turned to the Valakhilya Rishis, whose sins had been burnt away through ascetic penances, and propitiated them to help Garuda. He said, “O great ones whose wealth is asceticism, the work Garuda is doing right now is for the good of all creatures. This task is immensely difficult, therefore, it is fitting that you give him your permission.”

When the Valakhilya Rishis heard Sage Kasyapa’s words, they immediately left the branch and went to the sacred Himavat mountains to continue their penances. 

After the rishis had left, Garuda spoke to his father, with the huge branch still in his beak. “O illustrious one, where shall I throw this branch? Please recommend a place that doesn’t have any human beings.”

Kasyapa directed Garuda to a snow-clad mountain, that was incapable of being approached by ordinary creatures and asked him to throw the branch there. 

The mountain indicated by Sage Kasyapa was hundreds of thousands of yojanas away, yet, Garuda, still holding the huge branch, elephant, and tortoise, reached it within a few moments. As Garuda flew over the mountain, the flapping of his wings created such a storm that the entire mountain shook. All the trees swayed violently dropping their flowers to the ground. The peak of the mountain was filled with gold and jewels. When the mountain shook, the gold and precious stones started tumbling down the slopes.

Finally, Garuda released the branch, whose circumference was so huge that even a thousand cow hides were less to tie it. When that branch fell on the mountain it took down several trees that bore golden flowers and had trunks covered with bright mountain metal.

After dropping the branch, Garuda sat on the mountain peak to eat the elephant and the tortoise. Once his meal was over and hunger satisfied, he flapped his wings once again and flew with great speed towards the abode of the gods to take the amrit.

Note: In the next post, we will read about the strange omens that appeared in Indra’s abode when Garuda flew to accomplish his mission.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

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

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