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Desika Darsanam - 27. Sri Garuda Panchasath
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar, Chennai.

Desika DarsanamThe glory of Garuthmaan has been extensively covered in Sri Vishnu Thilakam, Sri Paancha Raathram, Sri Garuda Upanishad, Sri Maha Bharatham, Sri Garuda Puranam, etc. but it is beyond the common man to be well-versed in legends such as these. That would have meant that only persons of erudite knowledge could have access to Garuda-manthra or his greatness. Swami Desika, an epitome of compassion and magnanimity, would not leave it at that.

Our Acharya at the behest of Garuda himself as narrated below composed Sri Garuda Panchasath, a powerful hymn of 52 verses capturing the greatness and exploits of Vainatheya. Very much like the Garuda-manthra, which consists of five letters, the sthothra comprises five parts called 'Varnakas', each dealing with a particular facet of the characteristics of Suparna, in detail. They are as follows:

  1. Para-Vyuha Varnaka (slokas 1 to 8) describing Garuda's form in Sri Vaikunta and that in Vyuha with Sankarshana, a manifestation of the Lord Himself, assuming the form of Garuda;
  2. Amruthaaharana Varnaka (9 to 25) dealing with the episode involving Garuda fetching nectar from Deva Loka;
  3. Naagadhamana Varnaka (26 to 35) essaying Garuda's crushing of serpents in the bottom of the nether world (Pathaala);
  4. Parishkaara Varnaka (36 to 45) extolling the serpents that adorn Garuda's person as ornaments;
  5. Adhbhutha Varnaka (46 to 51) recounting the wondrous deeds of Garuda.

We have seen in Hayagriva Sthothram that it was Garuda, one who has Vedas as his soul (Vedaathma), initiated Sri Desika into the Hayagriva-mantra on the Aushadha Giri (the Mountain of Medicine) in Thiruvahindrapuram; that our Acharya chanted the mantra repeatedly and perfected it; that a pleased Hayagriva presented Himself before him and poured his grace on him.

The same night, after finishing his customary routines as laid down in Sasthras, Sri Desika kept meditating on the Garuda-manthra. In the wee hours of the next day, Garuda appeared in his dreams and said, "only four persons Sounaka, Bruhaspathi, Narada and Kasyapa have had my direct blessings and the boons of my manthra, the Pancha Varnee. Now that you have joined the great souls it would be nice if you can compose a hymn on me for the benefit of even the common man. Swami Desika immediately took the devout order to its logical conclusion by composing Garuda Panchasath.

The hymn begins with explaining the correct method of chanting the Garuda-manthra. Before enunciating the manthra and the chanting procedure, a word of caution would be in order. This is an austere manthra and has to be chanted only with proper initiation through an Acharya. Otherwise not only will it not yield the desired results but also land the erring ones in trouble.

The manthra consists of five Aksharas (letters) the Pranavam, the letters 'Pa' and Kshi' with 'Swaahaa' bringing up the rear. There are four forms in which it can be chanted and one has to go strictly by the way he has been taught. The four forms are:

  1. The Pranavam + Pa + Kshi + Swaahaa
  2. The Pranavam + Kshi + Pa + Swaahaa
  3. Pa + Kshi + the Pranavam + Swaahaa
  4. Kshi + Pa + the Pranavam + Swaahaa

The author's poetic brilliance is written all over the hymn and we shall enjoy glimpses of the same.

As phala sruti, in the final verse, Swami Desika says, "Venkatesa, who is a veritable lion to the hordes of elephants in the form of poets and logicians, has composed this hymn in compliance with the directive of Vainatheya himself, in his praise. Those who recite this will be free from fear of serpents; will rid of mental afflictions and diseases; will have their wishes fulfilled even before expressing them; and why, will even become like Garuda himself in accomplishment."

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Next in series: 28. Sri Yathiraja Sapthathi, on March 16, 2008.

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