(Last Updated on : 17/01/2011)
Garuda was one of the three principal animal deities in the Hindu Mythology. The other two are Ganesha and Hanuman. Garuda is much revered by devout Hindus for his power and ability to dominate the evildoers. Garuda is king of the birds and mount of Lord Vishnu. He can fly faster than wings. He is the son of Kashyap, a great sage and Vinata, the daughter of Daksha. His elder brother is Aruna, the charioteer of Surya, the Sun God.
Garuda's birth was a miraculous episode. His mother Vinata laid an egg from which he emerged. He had a white face, red wings and golden body. When he was born his size was enormous and he was glaring so brilliantly that everybody mistaken him for Agni, the god of fire and worshipped him.
Garuda was born with a great hatred for the evil. He used to roam throughout the world punishing the bad, but he spared Brahmins as his parents asked him not to consume them. Garuda had inborn aversion for the snakes as he inherited the dislike from his mother Vinata. There is also story related to it.
Garuda's mother was Vinata. She was the younger wife of Kashyap. Vinata had much rivalry with her co wife Kadru. One day they had an argument over the body color of Uchchaisrava, the divine horse of Indra that evolved during churning of sea. They had a stake over it. The one who proved to be right could enslave the other. Kadru was proved to be correct and according to the agreement she took Vinata to Patala or underground where she imprisoned her. The serpents, who were the offspring of Kadru, surrounded Vinata and watched her.
Garuda heard about his mother's imprisonment. The serpents asked for a ransom of Amrita to release Vinata. So Garuda set his journey to the celestial mountain where Amrita was kept. Before he could reach the Amrita he had to overcome many hazards set by the Gods. First, there was a ring of fire that had high flames fanned by the high wind. Garuda drank many rivers and extinguished the flame. The second obstacle was a circular doorway, which had a very rapidly spinning wheel with sharp spikes on the spokes guarded it.
Garuda converted his body into much smaller form and slipped through the spokes. Lastly he had to defeat two fire spitting serpents guarding the Amrita. Garuda flapped his wings and blew dust on the eyes of the monsters and finally torn them into pieces. Garuda then grabbed the amrita and flew back to Patala. The Gods chased him. He encountered Lord Vishnu, to him he promised to be the mount of him. Garuda also met Indra, who struck him with his thunderbolt. But Garuda was a great warrior and defeated the Gods and continued his journey to the Patala.
When Garuda reached the Patala, he put the Amrita on grass. The serpents were overjoyed by seeing Amrita and they released Vinata. Garuda forced them to have religious ablution before having the Amrita. In the mean time Indra entered Patala by chasing Garuda and he seized and took away the cup of amrita. The serpents could only lick the few drops of amrita from the grass and their tongue split due to the strength of the ambrosia. The serpents or Nagas symbolized evil and automatically invoked Garuda's hatred.
Garuda is the symbol of violent force and power. Vedas provide the first reference of Garuda. One Upanishada, named 'Garudapanidad' and a Purana, the 'Garuda Purana' is devoted in the name of Garuda. Various names have been attributed to Garuda- Chirada, Gaganeshvara, Kamayusha, Kashyapi, Khageshvara, Nagantaka, Sitanana, Sudhahara, Suparna, Tarkshya, Vainateya, Vishnuratha and others.
Garuda had six sons. One of the son is famous Jatayu, who tried to save Sita from the grip of Ravana. Jatayu was fatally injured by Ravana and Rama cremated him after his death.