Who is Garuda?
In Hinduism, most divinities have their own vehicles or mounts. Shiva has Nandi, Muruga has the peacock, Ganesha has the mouse, Durga has the tiger, and Vishnu has Garuda, the eagle. As they have associations with deities, these animals or birds, too, have the status of divine beings and are worshipped by Hindus.
The Mahabharata epic contains the mythological account of Garuda’s birth. Garuda is the younger brother of Aruna, who is the charioteer of Surya (Sun God). Garuda’s parents were Sage Kashyapa and Vinata. Vinata was tricked into becoming the slave of Kadru, her sister and another wife of Kashyapa. Kadru was the mother of the 1000 Nagas who formed the serpent clan.
The story goes that Vinata and Kadru laid a bet on the color of the horse Uchaishravas’ tail. The horse had 7 heads and emerged during the churning of the Milky Ocean. Whoever lost the bet had to serve the other. Vinata said that the tail was white, which it was. But Kadru told her sons, the Nagas, to hang on to the horse’s tail so that it would turn black. Through this act of deceit, Kadru enslaved Vinata.
The Nagas and their mother treated Vinata and Garuda badly. The plight of his mother led to an enduring enmity between Garuda and the Nagas. The serpents told Garuda that they would release Vinata if Garuda managed to obtain for them Amrita, the elixir of immortality, which was in Indra’s custody. Braving a lot of challenges, he accomplished the task and freed his mother. Supposedly, snakes are able to shed their old skins after growing a new one due to ingesting the elixir.
Impressed by Garuda’s integrity (he did not consume even a drop of Amrit), Vishnu told Garuda to demand a boon from him. When he said that he wanted a position higher than Vishnu, the shrewd Vishnu told him to adorn his flag and sit on top of his flagstaff.
Garuda is famous for his speed. The flutter of his wings is so powerful that it can cause tremors in the mountains, clouds to scatter, and make trees fall.
The wife of Garuda is Unnati meaning ‘the spirit of progress’. Their sons, Sampati and Jatayu, play key roles in the Ramayana epic.
Garuda has the color of an emerald, round eyes, golden wings, and 4 arms. Two of his hands display Anjali mudra, and the other two hands carry an umbrella and a pot containing Amrita. Sometimes Vishnu is depicted as riding on his shoulders. Garuda is believed to live on the planet Salmalidvipa where he worships Vishnu constantly. Garuda is a Dwarapalaka and a subsidiary deity in many Vishnu temples. Garuda has immense devotion and loyalty to Vishnu and is regarded as a symbol of protection and deliverance.
Garuda is depicted as a half-human and half-eagle. He represents power, speed, and intelligence and is believed to have the power to repel evil forces and protect devotees from harm.
The other names of Garuda are Pakshiraja, Vainateya, Suparna, Garuthman, Periya Tiruvadi, Vinatasuta, Vishnuvahana, Nagantaka and Kashyapeya.
What is Garuda Panchami?
Garuda Panchami is a festival that celebrates the birthday of Garuda. It falls on the 5th day of Shukla Paksha (the waxing Moon phase) in Shravan month. Garuda Panchami 2023 is on August 21. Women observe Pooja and vrat on this day for the well-being and good health of their children. Naga Panchami also falls on this day. Garuda Panchami Pooja is mainly observed by Vaishnavites in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.
Significance of Garuda Panchami
Garuda Panchami also serves as a reminder of Garuda’s love and devotion toward his mother, Vinata. Hence, on this day, people also celebrate the mother–son bond. In some places, married women observe it for a happy conjugal life.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, says, “vainateyash ca pakshinam”, meaning “among the birds, I am Garuda.” Vedic texts claim that the two wings of Garuda represent the two divisions of the Sama Veda - brihat and rathantara. When Garuda flaps his wings, we can hear the chanting of the hymns from Sama Veda. Garuda performs eternal service to Vishnu in Vaikuntha. Every Vishnu temple has an image or idol of Garuda seated before Vishnu with folded hands.
By celebrating Garuda Panchami, people can gain the blessings of Garuda for protection, well-being, and spiritual upliftment.
Rituals of Garuda Panchami
On this day, devotees offer prayers and perform rituals in honor of Garuda. They also visit temples dedicated to Vishnu and Garuda, where they offer prayers, light incense sticks, and make offerings, including flowers, fruits, and sweets. Special rituals and Poojas are performed to seek Garuda’s blessings for protection, good health, and prosperity.
How to Perform Garuda Panchami Pooja?
· Clean the Pooja room and draw 5 colorful rangolis.
· Make a Ganesha idol using turmeric. Chant the Stotras of Ganesha and Gauri Devi. Face east or north-east and Chant Garuda Mantra to gain wisdom and health.
· Place the idol or photo of Garuda and Adisesha. Adisesha is worshipped to reduce Naga Dosha.
· Chant Garuda Mantra 108 or 1008 times. This can remove chronic diseases.