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While we spoke about Sudarshana last month, it is with great pleasure that we continue our series on one of Perumal’s eternal servants - Garudan.
NithyaSooris are living beings who have broken the cycle of life and death. They are eternally serving the Lord and are at his beck and call. In addition to Garudan, Vishakvesena and Adisesha are Nityasooris.
Today, August 5th, being Garuda Jayanthi, let us learn about Garudan.
‘Asanam vAhanam vEdAtmA vihagEshvarO’, is an excerpt from the first stanza of Swami Yamunacharya’s Chatusloki. It succinctly describes Garudan’s role. Garudan is a seat(Asanam) for Perumal.
He is also the Lord’s vehicle (Vahana), transporting him beyond yonder.
He is also referred to as Vihageshvaran in addition to Pakshindran (King of Birds) and Suparnan (Beautiful Winged).
Garudan as VedAtmA -
Sage Kashyapa decided to perform a sacrifice and had invited a set of diminutive/dwarf rishis called ‘Valakhilyas”. Indra was also invited to this sacrifice and happened to tease them about their abilities. The Rishis, filled with wrath performed a yagna and chanted vedic mantras to invoke and appease the Lord. They vowed to subjugate Indra by creating someone who was more powerful than him. This person was none other than Pakshi-Indran otherwise called Garudan. Since Garuda rose from the holy chant of Vedas he is said to be an embodiment of Vedas- VedAtmA.
Swami Desikan’s Reverence towards Garudan -
Swami Desikan’s Uncle Kidambi Appular advised him to chant the Garuda Mantra at Thiruvahindrapuram. It is believed that Garuda came to his aid and provided a secret mantra in praise of Lord Hayagriva-the abode of all knowledge. On reciting this mantra Swami Desikan is said to have been blessed with sound intellect. Swami later on went to compose several Sanskrit Stotras, Granthas and Tamil Prabhandam. Out of complete gratitude to Garudan he composed two works on Garuda -’Garuda Panchasat’ and ‘Garuda Dandakam’.
MAthru DevO Bhava -
A very famous tale associated with Garuda is that of him fighting the Devas and bringing the pot of nectar - AmritaKalash. Garuda’s mother Vinata was tricked into slavery by Sage Kashyapa’s other wife called Kadru. The Nagas headed by Kadru’s children said that Vinata would be free to go if Garuda could get the pot of nectar which was surrounded by fire and a spiked, spinning wheel.
Garuda as a dutiful son displayed valour and strength and got the AmritaKalash for his mother.
Garuda in Temples -
At the start of every festival the Dwajastambham or the entrance staff has a flag with Garuda’s emblem. This denotes that the Lord’s ArchAavatarm is going to step outside the precincts of the temples. You might have all noticed that Garuda is always opposite to Vishnu in temples. If not, please have a look next time. Garudan is supposed to be waiting as a mount for Perumal. Perumal’s Kaustubha gem in his chest is supposed to have come out of the milky ocean after Hala Hala Poison. This gem is supposed to reflect Garuda’s image and remove itself from any impurity due to his divine presence. Also, do not miss the royal Garuda Sevai at Kanchipuram. The pomp and splendour with which Varadaraja Perumal travels around town with Garuda is a treat to our eyes.
On this auspicious day of Garuda Panchami, let us pray to one of Perumal’s eternal servants - Garudan to lead us on a righteous path and achieve purity of thought, word and deed.
नमः पन्नगनद्धाय वैकुण्ठवशवर्तिने । श्रुतिसिन्धु सुधोत्पादमन्दराय गरुत्मते ॥
Namah pannaga naddhAya vaikunTa vasavarthinE!
sruthisindhu sudhOthpAda mandarAya garutmatE!!
Salutations to you, Garuda, who adorns the serpents as ornaments, one who is bound by his duties and service to the lord of vaikuntam, one who is capable of churning out the nectar from the milky ocean of Vedas just like the Mandara mountain.
Click below to download Garuda Jayanthi Workbook for children: