Garuda, is the King of the birds, and the vahana (mount) of Sriman Narayana.
Garuda is not separately worshipped as an independent God. He is worshipped together with Vishnu. He acts as a messenger between Heaven and Earth.
OM TAT PURUSHAYA VIDMAHE
SUVARNA PAKSHAYA DHIMAHI, TANNO GARUDA PRACHODAYAT
Meaning: Om, I offer my salutations to the Great Bird with golden wings, bless me and illuminate my mind.
ASPECTS OF GARUDA
Garuda, is the King of the birds, and the vahana (mount) of Sriman Narayana. Garuda is described as emerald or gold in colour, with the beak of an eagle, roundish eyes, golden wings, with four arms and a torso like those of a man.
He is also depicted anthropomorphically, with wings and hawk-like features. Two of his hands are folded in adoration (anjali mudra), and the other two carry an umbrella and the pot of amrita.
Vinata and her husband Kasyapa gave birth to Garuda. He is the carrier of Lord Vishnu and sometimes we see images of Lord Vishnu on his shoulders.
In the Rigveda the sun is compared to a bird in its flight across the sky, and an eagle carries the ambrosial soma plant from heaven to earth. On the Salmalidvipa Island there is a salmali tree, which is described as being 800 miles broad and over 8,000 miles tall. This tree is the residence of Garuda. The mythological account of Garuda’s birth in the Mahabharata identifies him as the younger brother of Aruna, the charioteer of the sun God, Surya.
The Garuda Mantra is dedicated to Lord Garuda and invokes the bird form of the Divinity to eradicate all fears and anxiety.
It was composed and sung by a scholar known as Venkatesa to please Lord Garuda. The benefits of chanting the Garuda Mantra is:
- It eradicates the fear of poisonous reptiles and snakes.
- It is believed that chanting this mantra with devotion helps remove all diseases and ailments like the viral fever and even poisonous bites.
- It eliminates bad energy, evil eyes, and negative thoughts and feelings.
- Those who are affected by sarpa dosha can chant this mantra to worship Lord Garuda.
- This mantra also helps you thwart off any ill effect of accidentally killing a snake.
- It is believed that cancer and tumors are caused by curses of snakes and thus, it is advisable for those who are diagnosed with such illnesses to pray to Lord Garuda for relief from such death causing diseases.
- According to Hindu religion, praying to Lord Garuda before Lord Vishnu speeds up the prayers and effects.
- Lord Garuda can be worshipped for an increase in confidence and courage and removal of all kinds of fears.
STORIES OF GARUDA
Garuda and Indra
A story tells of Garuda, snatching away a nectar pot from the hands of the Gods in heaven in order to liberate his mother, Vinata, from the clutches of his stepmother, Kadru, the mother of the serpents.
On learning of this, Indra, the King of the heaven, hurled His thunderbolt against Garuda. With a view to respect the infallibility of Indra’s weapon, Garuda, though otherwise invincible, shows respect for Indra; since he knew that Indra’s weapon must destroy something, he offered his wing, which was shattered to pieces by the thunderbolt. The Supreme Lord Narayana seeing such humility blesses Garuda and allows another wing to grow.
The Sparrow and the Ocean
A sparrow laid her eggs on the shore of the ocean, but the big ocean carried away the eggs on its waves. The sparrow became very upset and asked the ocean to return her eggs. The ocean did not even consider her appeal.
So the sparrow decided to dry up the ocean. She began to pick out the water in her small beak, and everyone laughed at her for her impossible determination. The news of her activity spread, and at last Garuda, the King of the birds heard it.
He became compassionate toward his small sister bird, and came to see the sparrow. Garuda was very pleased by the determination of the small sparrow, and he promised to help. Thus Garuda at once asked the ocean to return her eggs lest he himself take up the work of the sparrow. The ocean was afraid at this, and returned the eggs at once.
Garuda and the Churning of the Ocean
Lord Vishnu lifted Mandara Mountain with one hand and placed it on the back of Garuda. Then, He too got on the back of Garuda and went to the ocean of milk, surrounded by the Devas and demons.
The Lord sat on the mountain and was carried to the spot of the churning by Garuda, who placed the mountain in the middle of the sea. Then the Lord asked Garuda to leave that place because as long as Garuda was present, the snake Vasuki, who was to be used as the rope for churning, could not go there in the presence of Garuda.
Garuda, is not a vegetarian. He eats big snakes. Vasuki, being a great snake, would be natural food for Garuda. Lord Vishnu therefore asked Garuda to leave so that Vasuki could churn the ocean with the Mandara Mountain, which became the churning rod.