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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Sauti continued, ‘A certain Brahmana with his wife had entered the throat of that ranger of the skies. The former began to burn the bird’s throat like a piece of flaming charcoal. Him Garuda addressed, saying, ‘O best of Brahmanas, come out soon from my mouth which I open for thee. A Brahmana must never be slain by me, although he may be always engaged in sinful practices.’ Unto Garuda who had thus addressed him that Brahmana said, ‘O, let this woman of the Nishada caste, who is my wife, also come out with me.’ And Garuda said, ‘Taking the woman also of the Nishada caste with thee, come out soon. Save thyself without delay since thou hast not yet been digested by the heat of my stomach.’
“Sauti continued, ‘And then that Brahmana, accompanied by his wife of the Nishada caste, came out, and praising Garuda wended whatever way he liked. And when that Brahmana had come out with his wife, that lord of birds, fleet as the mind, stretching his wings ascended the skies. He then saw his father, and, hailed by him, Garuda, of incomparable prowess made proper answers. And the great Rishi (Kasyapa) then asked him, ‘O child, is it well with thee? Dost thou get sufficient food every day? Is there food in plenty for thee in the world of men?’
“Garuda replied, ‘My mother is ever well. And so is my brother, and so am I. But, father, I do not always obtain plenty of food, for which my peace is incomplete. I am sent by the snakes to fetch the excellent amrita. Indeed, I shall fetch it today for emancipating my mother from her bondage. My mother command me, saying, ‘Eat thou the Nishadas.’ I have eaten them by thousands, but my hunger is not appeased. Therefore, O worshipful one, point out to me some other food, by eating which, O master, I may be strong enough to bring away amrita by force. Thou shouldst indicate some food wherewith I may appease my hunger and thirst.’
“Kasyapa replied, ‘This lake thou seest is sacred. It hath been heard, of even in the heavens. There is an elephant, with face downwards, who continually draggeth a tortoise, his elder brother. I shall speak to you in detail of their hostility in former life. Just listen as I tell you why they are here.
“There was of old a great Rishi of the name of Vibhavasu. He was exceedingly wrathful. He had a younger brother of the name of Supritika. The latter was averse to keeping his wealth jointly with his brother’s. And Supritika would always speak of partition. After some time his brother Vibhavasu told Supritika, ‘It is from great foolishness that persons blinded by love of wealth always desire to make a partition of their patrimony. After effecting a partition they fight with each other, deluded by wealth. Then again, enemies in the guise of friends cause estrangements between ignorant and selfish men alter they become separated in wealth, and pointing out faults confirm their quarrels, so that the latter soon fall one by one. Absolute ruin very soon overtakes the separated. For these reasons the wise never speak approvingly of partition amongst brothers who, when divided, do not regard the most authoritative Sastras and live always in fear of each other. But as thou, Supritika, without regarding my advice impelled by desire of separation, always wishest to make an arrangement about your property, thou shall become an elephant.’ Supritika, thus cursed, then spake unto Vibhavasu, ‘Thou also shall become a tortoise moving in the midst of the waters.’
“And thus on account of wealth those two fools, Supritika and Vibhavasu, from each other’s curse, have become an elephant and a tortoise respectively. Owing to their wrath, they have both become inferior animals. And they are engaged in hostilities with each other, proud of their excessive strength and the weight of their bodies. And in this lake those two beings of huge bodies are engaged in acts according to their former hostility. Look here, one amongst them, the handsome elephant of huge body, is even now approaching. Hearing his roar, the tortoise also of huge body, living within the waters, cometh out, agitating the lake violently. And seeing him the elephant, curling his trunk, rusheth into the water. And endued with great energy, with motion of his tusks and fore-part of his trunk and tail and feet, he agitates the water of the lake abounding with fishes. And the tortoise also of great strength, with upraised head, cometh forward for an encounter. And the elephant is six yojanas in height and twice that measure in circumference. And the height of the tortoise also is three yojanas and his circumference ten. Eat thou up both of them that are madly engaged in the encounter and bent upon slaying each other, and then accomplish the task that thou desirest. Eating that fierce elephant which looketh like a huge mountain and resembleth a mass of dark clouds, bring thou amrita.’
“Sauti continued, ‘Having said so unto Garuda, he (Kasyapa) blessed him, saying, ‘Blest be thou when thou art in combat with the gods. Let water pitchers filled to the brim, Brahmanas, kine, and other auspicious objects, bless thee, thou oviparous one. And, O thou of great strength, when thou art engaged with the gods in combat, let the Riks, the Yajus, the Samas, the sacred sacrificial butter, all the mysteries (Upanishads), constitute thy strength.’
“Garuda, thus addressed by his father, wended to the side of that lake. He saw that expanse of clear water with birds of various kinds all around. And remembering the words of his father, that ranger of the skies possessed of great swiftness of motion, seized the elephant and the tortoise, one in each claw. And that bird then soared high into the air. And he came upon a sacred place called Alamva and saw many divine trees.
And struck by the wind raised by his wings, those trees began to shake with fear. And those divine trees having golden boughs feared that they would break. And the ranger of the skies seeing that those trees capable of granting every wish were quaking with fear, went to other trees of incomparable appearance. And those gigantic trees were adorned with fruits of gold and silver and branches of precious gems. And they were washed with the water of the sea. And there was a large banian among them, which had grown into gigantic proportions, that spoke unto that lord of bird coursing towards it with the fleetness of the mind, ‘Sit thou on this large branch of mine extending a hundred yojanas and eat the elephant and the tortoise.’ When that best of birds, of great swiftness and of body resembling a mountain, quickly alighted upon a bough of that banian tree, the resort of thousands of winged creatures-that bough also full of leaves shook and broke down.’”
So ends the twenty-ninth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
“Sauti said, ‘At the very touch by Garuda of great might with his feet, the branch of the tree broke as it was caught by Garuda. Casting his eyes around in wonder he saw Valakhilya Rishis hanging therefrom with heads downwards and engaged in ascetic penances. Reflecting that if that bough fell down, the Rishis would be slain, the mighty one held the elephant and the tortoise still more firmly with his claws. And from fear of slaying the Rishis and desire of saving them, held that bough in his beaks, and rose on his wings. The great Rishis were struck with wonder at the sight of that act of his which was beyond even the power of the gods, and gave that mighty bird a name. And they said, ‘As this ranger of the skies rises on its wings bearing a heavy burden, let this foremost of birds having snakes for his food be called Garuda (bearer of heavy weight).’
Desiring as he did to save the Valakhilyas, he saw not a spot whereon to sit. At last he went to that foremost of mountains called Gandhamadana. There he saw his father Kasyapa engaged in ascetic devotions. Kasyapa also saw his son, that ranger of the skies, of divine form, possessed of great splendour, and energy and strength, and endued with the speed of the wind or the mind, huge as a mountain peak, a ready smiter like the curse of a Brahmana, inconceivable, indescribable, frightful to all creatures, possessed of great prowess, terrible, of the splendour of Agni himself, and incapable of being overcome by the deities, Danavas, and invincible Rakshasas, capable of splitting mountain summits and sucking the ocean itself and destroying the three worlds, fierce, and looking like Yama himself. The illustrious Kasyapa, seeing him approach and knowing also his motive, spoke unto him these words:
“Kasyapa said, ‘O child, do not commit a rash act, for then thou wouldst have to suffer pain. The Valakhilyas, supporting themselves by drinking the rays of the sun, might, if angry, blast thee.’
“Sauti continued, ‘Kasyapa then propitiated, for the sake of his son, the Valakhilyas of exceeding good fortune and whose sins had been destroyed by ascetic penances.’ And Kasyapa said, ‘Ye whose wealth is asceticism, the essay of Garuda is for the good of all creatures. The task is great that he is striving to accomplish. It behoveth you to accord him your permission.’
“Sauti continued, ‘Those ascetics thus addressed by the illustrious Kasyapa, abandoned that bough and went to the sacred mountain of Himavat for purposes of ascetic penances. After those Rishis had gone away, the son of Vinata, with voice obstructed by the bough in his beaks, asked his father Kasyapa saying, ‘O illustrious one, where shall I throw this arm of the tree? O illustrious one, indicate to me some region without human beings.’ Then Kasyapa spoke of a mountain without human beings with caves and dales always covered with snow and incapable of approach by ordinary creatures even in thought. And the great bird bearing that branch, that elephant, and that tortoise, proceeded with great speed towards that mountain. The great arm of the tree with which that bird of huge body flew away could not be girt round with a cord made of a hundred (cow) hides.
Garuda, the lord of birds, then flew away for hundreds of thousand of yojanas within–the shortest time. And going according to the directions of his father to that mountain almost in a moment, that ranger of the skies let fall the gigantic bough. And it fell with a great noise. And that Prince of mountains shook, struck with the storm raised by Garuda’s wings. And the trees thereon dropped showers of flowers. And the peaks decked with gems and gold adorning that great mountain itself, were loosened and tell down on all sides. And the falling bough struck down numerous trees which, with golden flowers amid dark foliage, shone there like clouds charged with lightning. And those trees, bright as gold, falling down upon the ground and, dyed with mountain metals, shone as if they were bathed in the rays of the sun.
“Then that best of birds, Garuda, perching on the summit of that mountain, ate both the elephant and the tortoise, rose on his wings with great speed from the top of the mountain.
“And various omens began to appear among the gods foreboding fear. Indra’s favourite thunderbolt blazed up in a fright. Meteors with flames and smoke, loosened from the welkin, shot down during the day. And the weapons of the Vasus, the Rudras, the Adityas, the Sabhyas, the Maruts, and other gods, began to spend their force against one another. Such a thing had never happened even during the war between the gods and the Asuras. And the winds blew accompanied with thunder, and meteors fell by thousands. And the sky, though cloudless, roared tremendously. And even he who was the god of gods shed showers of blood. And the flowery garlands on the necks of the gods faded and their prowess suffered diminution. And terrible masses of clouds dropped thick showers of blood. And the dust raised by the winds darkened the splendour of the very coronets of the gods. And He of a thousand sacrifices (Indra), with the other gods, perplexed with fear at the sight of those dark forebodings spoke unto Vrihaspati thus, ‘Why, O worshipful one, have these natural disturbances suddenly arisen? No foe do I behold who would oppress us in war.’ Vrihaspati answered, ‘O chief of the gods, O thou of a thousand sacrifices, it is from thy fault and carelessness, and owing also to the ascetic penance of the high-souled great Rishis, the Valakhilyas, that the son of Kasyapa and Vinata, a ranger of the skies endued with great strength and possessing the capacity of assuming at will any form, is approaching to take away the Soma. And that bird, foremost among all endued with great strength, is able to rob you of the Soma. Everything is possible with him; the unachievable he can achieve.’
“Sauti continued, ‘Indra, having heard these words, then spoke unto those that guarded the amrita, saying, ‘A bird endued with great strength and energy has set his heart on taking away the amrita. I warn you beforehand so that he may not succeed in taking it away by force. Vrihaspati has told me that his strength is immeasurable.’ And the gods hearing of it were amazed and took precautions. And they stood surrounding the amrita and Indra also of great prowess, the wielder of the thunder, stood with them. And the gods wore curious breastplates of gold, of great value, and set with gems, and bright leathern armour of great toughness. And the mighty deities wielded various sharp-edged weapons of terrible shapes, countless in number, emitting, even all of them, sparks of fire with smoke. And they were also armed with many a discus and iron mace furnished with spikes, and trident, battle-axe, and various kinds of sharp-pointed missiles and polished swords and maces of terrible form, all befitting their respective bodies. And decked with celestial ornaments and resplendent with those bright arms, the gods waited there, their fears allayed. And the gods, of incomparable strength, energy, and splendour, resolved to protect the amrita. Capable of splitting the towns of the Asuras, all displayed themselves in forms resplendent as the fire. And in consequence of the gods standing there, that (would be) battle-field, owing to hundreds of thousands of maces furnished with iron spikes, shone like another firmament illumined by the rays of the Sun.’”
So ends the thirtieth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.