Vibhavasu the Tortoise and Supritika the Elephant

Image of Kaurava warrior Bhagadatta seated on another elephant also called Supratika during the Kurukshetra war (Chennakesava Temple, Belur)

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Note: In the previous post, we read about the interaction between Sage Kasyapa and Garuda. When Garuda expressed that he needed to eat more food before he could fight the gods for the amrit, Kasyapa suggested that he eat a violent elephant and tortoise who lived in a sacred lake.

In this post, we will find out the identity of that elephant and tortoise and why they constantly fought with each other.

Sage Kasyapa said to Garuda, “O son, now I will tell you who this violent elephant and tortoise were in their past lives.”

There was once a great but wrathful rishi called Vibhavasu. He had a younger brother called Supritika.

These brothers had inherited wealth which they managed jointly. However, Supritika did not like keeping his share of the wealth jointly with Vibhavasu. Therefore, at every opportunity, he would insist upon partitioning the wealth so he could get full ownership of his share.

Annoyed by his continuous insistence, Vibhavasu told Supritika, “It is due to foolishness that people who are blinded by wealth wish to partition their inheritance. Such deluded people continue to fight with each other even after they have taken their share. Moreover, there are people in society who are enemies in the guise of friends. Such people will create further quarrels between siblings after they’ve separated. Such siblings, once separated, stop following the shastras and live in constant fear of each other. Eventually, the separated family faces absolute ruin. That is the reason wise people do not approve of partitioning ancestral wealth.”

As Vibhavasu spoke, he became angrier and cursed Supritika saying, “O Supritika, but you always insist on partitioning your share of the wealth. Therefore, you shall become an elephant.”

Hearing his brother’s words, Supritika also cursed Vibhavasu. He said, “Then you shall become a tortoise who lives in water.”

Sage Kasyapa explained to Garuda how, because of their anger, Supritika and Vibhavasu became inferior animals and, proud of their strength, still continue to fight with each other.

“Look there!” Kasyapa once again pointed to the lake. 

Garuda saw a huge elephant roaring with anger. Hearing the loud voice of the elephant, the tortoise, who lived deep within the lake, came to the surface and moved his feet wildly to create turbulence in the water. Following the tortoise, the elephant also curled his trunk and began to agitate the water with his curled trunk and feet.

These two animals were huge. The elephant’s height was six yojanas and his overall circumference was twelve yojanas. The tortoise was three yojanas in height and ten yojanas in circumference. Both animals rushed toward the other, with their heads raised, for an encounter, bent upon killing each other.

Sage Kasyapa said, “O Garuda, eat these fierce animals, and then, accomplish your task of bringing the amrit.”

Note: In the next post, we will read about how Garuda seized the violent brothers (who had become animals) and went in search of a place where he could eat them. However, due to a certain incident, Garuda had to take a detour to protect a group of tiny, thumb-sized rishis, called Valakhilya rishis.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

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