Garuda – The Brahmini Kite – is one of the most revered birds in India. It is the mount/vechicle of Lord Vishnu. It is also called the Krishnar Parundu/Kazhugu meaning the Kite/Eagle of Lord Krishna. The Garuda is so sacred that is worshipped as a deity named Garudaazhwar in many Vishnu temples. It is even a strange phenomenon that it circles the temple in which auspicious events like the Kumbabishekam and other yearly festivals are being conducted. Garuda is believed to have strange powers that even its shadow would act as an antidote to the poison of a snake and alleviate the effects of the venom. I am not sure about the truth of the statement, but the belief exists. There is even a sacred text, in Sanskrit, called The Garuda Puranam in its name. Tamil to has its part about Garuda. And seeing a Garudan is a good Sagunam (omen), a Tamil song goes like this

Senthalai Garudan
Vandhidam Paainthaal

Gangayin Porulum
Thann Kayil Kidaikkum
– Anonymous

Let me do the interlingual rendition in a bit, first the meaning. It means that if the vivid headed garudan crosses to your left when you start any important event. It indicates a good sagunam that you will get the rare and sacred items of the river Ganga in your hands. The river Ganges is said to be originating from the head of Lord Shiva and so it is so sacred that it cleanses all the sins of the humans. So things got from the Ganga is considered rare and sacred. And obtaining things from the Ganges is not so easy in those days. So if a Garudan flies past to your left, then it indicates a good sagunam. Now the rendition

Senthalai – Red headed, vivid headed (in this context)
Vandhidam = Vandhu (Come) + Idam (Left) – Comes to your left
Paainthal – dive, pounce
Gangayin – Of Ganga (River Ganges)
Porul – Items, Substances
Thann – One’s Own
Kayil – In hand(Kai)
Kidaikkum – Will be gotten

Aadi Garudanai Thedi Kaan Anandham Pongum
Kaalai Garudanai Paarthu Kaan Kaaval Kaakkum
Odum Garudanai Naadi Kaan Theevinai Pokkum
Maalai Garudanai Kootil Kaan Marupirappillaiyae
– Anonymous

meaning, search and find the Garudan in the month of Aadi and you will find joy filling your life. Wait in expectation of the arrival of the Garuda in the morning and see it, it will be a sentinel in your life. Seek the elusive Garudan and envision it, it will destroy all your sins. See the Garudan accompanied by Lord Vishnu in the evening, you will cross the ocean of birth, attain salvation and will never be reborn to meet with all the suffering of birth.

Aadi – Dance; Tamil Month of Aadi (Falls between July and August), auspicious month for the Gods.
(Temples would be crowed during this month and it is not easy to worship the deities in the temple. So you would have to search amongst the crowd to find the deities. Garuda being one of the deities, should be searched and worshipped)

Thedi – Search
Kaan – See
Anandham – Joy, Merry
Pongum – Overflow
Kaalai – Morning
Paarthu – verb. See; adjective. carefully; In this context Edhirpaarthu meaning in expectation
Kaaval – Watch, Sentinel
Kaakum – Protect
Odum – Running
Naadi – Seek
Theevinai – Sins, actions causing sins
Pokkum – Remove, eliminate
Maalai – Evening
Kootil – In the nest (Koodu); accompanied by someone or something
Marupirappillayae = Maru (Again) + Pirappu (Birth) + Illaiyae (No, Negation) – No rebirth

Not only the Garudan, but other birds and animals are venerated and associated with the gods in India. For example, the Snake (Lord Shiva), the mouse and the elephant (Lord Ganesha), the rooster (Lord Muruga), Lord Hanuman (the monkey God), the cow (The Kamadhenu), the bull (Rishaba Devar – mount of Lord Shiva), the buffalo (mount of Yama), the tiger and the lion and so on and so forth. Even the dog is worshipped as the mount of Lord Bairava and even a scorpion has its place. The list goes on. The idea of venerating animals is not to start off any superstition among the people, but it has spiritual, biological and jurisprudential reasons. The spiritual being to the envision the Supreme being as the manifestation of all life forms, the biological being to conserve the ecology and those beings should be in existence, the jurisprudential being, that every animal has its right to existence. I am not starting off any potential argument, but just elucidating the essence of such beliefs.

Apart from the Garuda, one more bird is known to indicate sagunam. It is the Sembothu or the Senbaga, I don’t know the exact English name for the bird. But it would be in the size of a cuckoo and has a vibrant orangish brown colour in it body. The song that indicates is

Bothidam Paainthal Maelthadam Vaiyaadhae
– Anonymous

meaning, if the Sembothu flies past to your left, don’t dare to step one more foot. Rather it indicates a bad or an unsuccessful sagunam. To be more precise of the meaning, the belief is that if the Sembothu passes to your left while you are about to venture out something, it will not materialise whatever the effort you put.

Bothidam – Bothu (Sembothu) + Idam (Left) – Sembothu going to your left
Paainthaal – dive, pounce
Maelthadam – Mael (Top, Above, More) + Thadam (Path, Tread, footprint) – Treading foot on the path
Vaiyaadhae – Vai means Keep, Vaiyaadhae – negation of Vai

People associate birds and animals to predict the happenings, these beliefs can neither totally be believed nor can be disregarded as superstition. But we have to accept that every life has to be respected and they all have the right to coexist and we cannot hunt them or their habitat leading to their extinction. Maybe, our forefathers thought that at least these spiritual association with the birds and animals could bring about some ecological balance.

Some fascinating pictures of the Garuda…

The majestic Garuda – Brahmini Kite

Sculpture of Garuda on a temple’s gopuram

Front view of Garuda

Garuda in flight

Side view of the Garuda

More interesting things to come, until then…