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Garuda - the king of birds

GARUDA with the head and wings of eagle and sometimes with the rest of his body like that of a man is called the king of birds and he is also the carrier of god Vishnu.

Garuda is the subject of numerous mythological stories in Mahabharata and other Purana. Vinita, the wife of Kashyap, the progenitor of gods and men, laid an egg and became the mother of this bird-god. As soon as Garuda was born, his body expanded and touched the sky, his eyes were like lightning; the mountains trembled with the spread of his wings.

Garuda - the remover of obstacles

Garuda is also known by another name of Vinayak, which name he shares with god Ganesh. Thus this god-bird is thought to be the remover or destroyer of obstacles.

It is stated that as a result of a dispute between Vinita, the mother of Garuda, and Kadru, the mother of serpents, a continuous enmity has been going on between the two and Garuda is on the look out to devour all the serpents he can find.

The story of his becoming the carrier of god Vishnu is related thus. Garuda with his great strength surmounted many dangers. At last one day Garuda seized the moon and concealed it under his wings. This worried all the gods in heavens and under the leadership of lndra the gods attacked Garuda. He overcame all gods but could not conquer Vishnu. However, when Garuda relented god Vishnu made the bird immortal and permitted him the honor of being Vishnu's carrier.

Garuda - the vehicle of Vishnu

The elder brother of Garuda is called Urud or Aruna and he is the charioteer of Surya, the sun god. The image of this bird is shown as that of a man without thighs.

Garuda is also said to have stolen Amrit (ambrosia) from the gods in order to purchase his mother's freedom from the thralldom of Kadru, the mother of a thousand powerful many headed serpents. Indra discovered this theft and fought a fierce battle with Garuda. The amrit was recovered but the thunderbolt of lndra was smashed in the battle.

Garuda is identified with the all consuming sun's rays and popular belief credits him with the power to cure those suffering from snakebite. The mantra (hymn) that is effective in such cases reads thus, "Om Tarakishya (Garuda), cast down my enemies, trample the diseases and venom that might invade me". The emerald stone traditionally deemed as the antidote of poison, is also associated with Garuda. Garuda is not separately worshipped widely as an independent god; he is worshipped together with Vishnu. His image is placed near Vishnu in temples and in pictures he is shown as carrying Vishnu in the skies on its back.

The name of Garuda's son is Jatayu. This bird tried to rescue Sita, when Ravana was fleeing after kidnapping her. Ravana fights him and wounds him fatally. Rama himself cremated this bird after death and sent it to heaven.