The Benevolent ‘Big Bird’ And His Special Status
Holding the feet of Lord Vishnu when on his mount is a unique privilege that Sri Garuda is endowed with. Those feet stand as both the ‘Upeya’ (goal) as well as ‘Upaya’ (means) for the entire universe to rid of the vicious circle of birth and death in the materialistic world, and hence, being in constant ‘touch’ with them puts in perspective the great Kainkaryam to the Lord that the ‘King of birds’ has been enjoying.
The divine and devout vehicle of the Lord that he is, Garuda has a horde of specialities attributed to him. He is a Nithya Soori, ever ready and literally waiting in his wings for the Lord’s call for a journey. He is also featured in the Lord’s flag. Not only is he an embodiment of the Vedas and called ‘Vedaathma’ hence, he is also profusely hailed therein. He is an incarnation of Sankarshana, a Vyuha-form of Vishnu. Garuda, whose other names include Garuthmaan, Vainatheya and Suparna, has five forms — as the presiding deities of the five elements. His Consorts are Rudhra and Sukeerthi.
There is even a legend that goes by his name — the Garuda Purana — which is one among the 18 marquee Puranas. It comprises the conversation between the Lord and the ‘Big Bird’. His glory has been extensively covered in Sri Vishnu Thilakam, Sri Paancha Raathram, Sri Garuda Upanishad and Sri Maha Bharatham, among others.
‘Garuda 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:
The Pranavam + Pa + Kshi + Swaahaa
The Pranavam + Kshi + Pa + Swaahaa
Pa + Kshi + the Pranavam + Swaahaa
Kshi + Pa + the Pranavam + Swaahaa
Chanting this Manthra will grant the four main goals (Purushaarthas).
Generally, in temples, we find Garuda’s shrine situated in the forefront so that his permission and blessing are sought first before devotees proceed to worship Thayar, Perumal and other deities. Fittingly, when our illustrious Acharya Swami Desika set to compose hymns, it was Garuda who initiated him into the Hayagriva-Manthra on the Aushadha Giri (the Mountain of Medicine) in Thiruvahindrapuram and blessed him. No wonder that Swami Desika, after starting with Sri Hayagriva Sthothram, went on to compose 27 more brilliant ones, concluding with Yathiraja Sapthathi on Sri Ramanuja. Two of those hymns — Garuda Dhandakam and Garuda Panchasath — are on the ‘Big Bird’.
Garuda Panchasath was born 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 order to its logical conclusion by composing the Panchasath.
An interesting, little anecdote is involved in the Acharya’s creation of Garuda Dhandakam. Once when Swami Desika was at Sri Kanchi, a snake-charmer challenged him to prove that he indeed was a ‘Sarva-thanthra Svathanthra’. He let loose a deadly serpent on our Acharya, who chanted the Garuda Manthra and invoked his grace. There emerged Garuda from the sky and whisked away the serpent. The bemused and humbled snake-charmer realised his folly and surrendered to Swami Desika and pleaded with him to secure the snake as it was his only source of sustenance. Our Acharya, ever so merciful, pardoned him and composed the Dhandakam. Garuda came back as if by magic and dropped the snake and flew away.
The Lord’s ‘Garuda Sevai’ which is considered extremely auspicious, and His banner insignia are favourite postures of the Azhwars and there are scores of references to the same in Divya Prabandham like the following:
|(Periyazhwar Thirumozhi 5-4-2)|
|... பொன்புரை மேனிக் கருளக் கொடியுடை...|
|(Naachchiyaar Thirumozhi 5-4)|
|... வையத்தெவரும் வணங்க அணங்கெழு மாமலை போலே தெய்வப் புள்ளேறி வருவான்...|
|(Periya Thirumozhi 3-3-6)|
|... போரானை கொம்பொசித்த புட்பாகன் என்னம்மான்...|
|(Periya Thirumozhi 3-6-6)|
|கருளக்கொடி ஒன்றுடையீர்! தனிப்பாகீர்!...|
|(Periya Thirumozhi 10-8-3)|
|... தொழுங்காதல் களிறளிப்பான் புள்ளூர்ந்து தோன்றினையே...|
|... ஆடும் பறவைமிசைக் கண்டு கைதொழுதன்றி...|
|... நீண்ட அசுரர் உயிரெல்லாம் தகர்த்துண்டுழலும் புட்பாகன்...|
|(Irandaam Thiruvanthaadhi – 96)|
Garuda blesses his devotees with true knowledge and strong mind. May we attain the same by reciting the Manthra (after formal initiation) and the two hymns as also meditating him.
Meet you in the next Note.
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