Garuda – King of Birds

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Is the sacred vehicle of lord sri Vishnu. Garuda is the main enemy of the nagas (serpents). Being the son of sage kashyapa and Vinita, he is also known as vainartaya. This ancient deity was said to be massive, large enough to block out the sun.

His stature in the Hindu religion can be gauged by the fact that an independent Upanishad, the garudopanishad, and a purana, is devoted to him. Various names have been attributed to garuda – chirada, gaganeshwara, kamayusha, kashyapi, khageshwara, nagantaka, sitanana, sudhahara, suparna, tarkshya, vainateya, vishnuratha.

Garuda King Birds

The Vedas provide the earliest reference of garuda, thought by the name of syena, where this mighty bird is said to have brought nectar to earth from heaven. The puranas, which came into existence much later, mention garuda as doing the samething, which indicates that syena (sanskrit – eagle) and garuda are the same. One of the faces of sri panchamukhi anjaneya deva (praanadevaru) is mahaveera garuda.

This face points towards the west. Worship of garuda is believed to remove the effects of poisons from one’s body.

In the bhagavad gita – in the middle of the battlefield kurukshetra, sri Krishna explaining the omnipresence, says – “of birds, i am the son of vinita (garuda)” indicating the importance of garuda. Garuda plays an important role in krishna avatar in which sri krishna and satyabhama ride on garuda to kill narakasura. On another occasion, sri hari rides on garuda to save the devotee elephant gajendra. It is also said that garuda’s wings when flying will chant the Vedas.

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The story of garuda’s birth and deeds is told in the first book of the great epic Mahabharata. According to the epic, when garuda first burst forth from his egg, he appeared as a raging inferno equal to the cosmic conflagration that consumes the world at the end of every age. Frightened, the gods begged him for mercy. Garuda, hearing their plea, reduced himself in size and energy.

Garuda’s father was the creator – rishi kashyapa. His mother was Vinita, whose sister was kadru, the mother of serpents.

According to the Mahabharata, garuda had six sons from whom were descended the race of birds. Sri vishnu was their protector. Throughout the Mahabharata, garuda is invoked as a symbol of impetuous violent force of speed and of marital prowess. Defeated warriors are like snakes beaten down by garuda. The field marshal drona uses a military formation named after garuda. Sri Krishna even carries the image of garuda on his banner.

NOTE: A national symbol of Indonesia. The garuda panchashila is coloured or glit gold, symbolizes the greatness of the nation and is a representation of jawa or javan hawk – eagle nisaetus bartelsi. The black colour represents nature. There are 17 feathers on each wing, 8 on the tail and 45 on the neck, which represent the date Indonesia proclaimed its independence – 17 august, 1945. The shield it carries with the Indonesian pancha shila heraldry symbolizes self-defence and protection in struggle.

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