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Garuda Panchami

Garuda Panchami is a special day of worshipping Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. The festival of Garuda Panchami is celebrated on the 5th day of the waxing moon phase (Shukla paksha) in the month of Shravan (August-September).

Garuda Panchami is celebration of devotion of Garuda towards his mother Vinita. This day is observed especially by mother and sons to share the same spirit of love, affection and devotion between each other. The deity of Garuda is worshipped on this day. Mothers pray for better health and future of their children. They bless their children so that they get the strength and devotion of Garuda to execute devotional activities.

Sage Kashyapa had two wives named Kadru and Vinita. Kadru gave birth to thousand snakes who are considered to be the ancestors of the Snakes on earth. Vinita gave birth to the powerful Garuda.

Once Kadru and Vinita put a bet on the color of the tail of the horse Uchaishravas – a seven-headed flying horse that was obtained during the churning of ocean or Samudra Manthan. Kadru(mother of the snakes/serpents) claimed the color was black and Vinita (mother of powerful Garuda) claimed it was white. The stake was whoever lost the bet will serve the other. Kadru cheated by asking her sons, the Nagas, to hang on to the tail of Uchaishravas. Thus the white tail of the divine horse turned black as the nagas hung on to them. Vinita and Garuda were thus forced to serve Kadru. They were treated badly by Kadru and her sons.

Later the nagas agreed to free Garuda and his mother if he brought the Amrit, or Elixer /Ambrosia which was in the possession of Indra, the king of Devas or demi gods. Garuda got Amrit from heaven and freed himself and his mother from servitude.

When Garuda stole the pot of Nectar/ambrosia from Indra, who was jealous of the Mighty birds strength, Vishnu was impressed with Garuda integrity as he did not take even a drop of the tempting nectar for himself and asked Garuda to ask a boon. Garuda immediately said that he wanted a position higher than Vishnu. Vishnu the eternal trickster that he was, asked Garuda to adorn his flag and sit atop the flagstaff. Garuda was so taken over by the Bhakti of the great Lord Vishnu that he promised to be his mount or Vahana.

Garuda is renowned for his great speed. He ranges in the sky like a meteor, throwing the clouds topsy turvy. The gush of wind produced from his wings causes a tremor in the mountains, a strong flutter in the water of the sea and overturns a large number of trees.

Garuda was married to Unnati, which means ‘the spirit of progress’. They had two sons – Sampati and Jatayu, both of whom play important roles in the Ramayana. He has many names as is suitable for a god who can assume all forms. He is Rakta-paksha, ‘Blood [red] winged’, Gaganeshwara, ‘Lord of the sky’, Suvarna kaya, ‘Golden bodied’, Sweta-Rohita, ‘The White and Red’, Khageshwara, ‘ King of the birds’, Taraswin, ‘The Swift’, Rasayana, ‘Who moves like Quicksilver’ and Vajrajit, ‘Conqueror of the Thunderbolt’. He is also known as “the senior servant of Hari [Vishnu]”, Hanuman being the junior servant. Garuda keeps appearing in stories about Vishnu but his stature arises from the fact that he renounced and restrained his colossal powers to serve the universe.

Importance and stature of Garuda in Hindu religion

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