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Raghuveera Gadhyam – 26

GS 56: Gagana chara Kanaka giri garima dhara nigamamaya nija Garuda garudhanila lava gaLitha visha vadhana sara kadhana! Jaya! Jaya!

(Meaning): Hail to thee! O Raghuveera, whose sufferings from the tips of the poisonous NagAsthrams were chased away by the slight breeze associated with the wings of your friend Garudan, who has the reputation both as the embodiment of the Vedas as well as the mighty Meru mountain flying in the skies! Hail to Thee!

(Background) ; The last salutation (55th) was associated with the twenty second canto of Srimadh RaamayaNam, where the reference was to the building of the Sethu and travelling across it by Rama and his retinue to arrive inLankhA. Swami Desikan jumped now over twenty second Cantos and focussed on an incident described by Sage Valmiki in the 45th canto of his epic work.

Rama and Lakshmana relieved of nagastram by Garuda

The battle at the four gates of the city of LankhA had begun. Night set in. Monkeys had a disadvantage in fighting the ogres at night since the ogres doubled their strength at night. Rama came to their rescuea nd used six flaming arrows to kill six of the chieftains of the army of RavaNA: Yajnasathru, MahaaparsvA, Mahodhara, the gigantic VajradamshtrA, and the two spies, Suka and SaaraNA. Their death is described by Valmiki as that of the moths coming in contact with a flame (PrathangA: iva Paavakam). Rama’s golden-feathered arrows raining on all sides of the battlefield made the autumnal night look as though it was illumined with resplendent fire flies (Bhabhuva rajanee chitrA gadhyOtairiva saaradhee).

Elsewhere in the battle field, the mighty Angadha, the son of Vaali wounded Indrajith, the powerful warrior and the son of RaavaNA. The valor of Indrajith was legendary. He had defeated Indra in a previous battle and derived his name from that exploit. Now, AngadhA overpowered the powerful Indrajith. Rama, LakshmaNa, VibhishaNA and SugreevA applauded the bravery and heroism of young AngadhA.

The humilated and enraged Indrajith used his magical powers and became invisible. He used a boon conferred by Brahma and hit Rama and LakshmaNa with powerful arrows, whose shafts consisted of formidably poisonous snakes (naagAsthram). The scion of Raghu could not locate the cowardly Indrajith, who was fighting in an unethical and treacherous manner defying the accepted practises of face to face combat. Protected by his supernatural power, Indrajith remained invisible, while showering NagAsthrams on the princes of AyodhyA. Rama and LakshmaNA were bound tightly by the darts in the form of venemous snakes through an act of conjury by Indrajith. Rama and LakshmaNA were immobilized by the network of poisonous snakes biting into them. Indrajith continued to torment the heroic bothers, even when they were unable to fight him. With all of their limbs pierced by the son of RavaNA practicing witchcraft, the two princes of AyodhyA swooned. Indrajith concluded that the brothers were dead and returned to his father’s side in a triumphant mood.

RavaNa congratulated his valiant son and then commanded his servants to transport Sita in the Pushpaka Vimanam and to show her the sad and helpless plight of her husband and her brother-in-law. Sita burst into a wail on seeing her husband lying helpless tied by the net of hissing serpents. Trijata, one of the prison guards of Sita consoled her and assured her that no evil would befall the scions of Raghu and took Sita back to asokhA grove.

Rama regained consciousness and wailed over the lot of LakshmaNA. Hearing Rama’s wail, the monkeys got despondent. Rama thanked Sugriva for his display of extraordinary friendship and support and all around there was a thick curtain of melancholy. The father-in-law of SugreevA, SuseshaNaa, suggested that HanumAn should rush over to the milky Ocean and bring back the medicinal herbs of SanjivakaraNi (Life restorer) and Visalyaa (healer of wounds inflicted by the NagAsthram invoked by Indrajith). As these discussions were taking place, something totally unexpected happened.

There arose a mighty wind and the sky was filled with lightning. Waters of the ocean rose whipped up by the furious winds. The son of VinathA, Garuda became visible in the sky flying at a terrifying speed. The serpents covering the bodies of the brothers ran for their life at the sight of their feared enemy. Garuda descended and lifted the brothers and then wiped their faces with his hand. The touch of Garuda cicatrized the wounds on the limbs of the brothers inflicted by Indrajith and their skins turned bright and smooth. The strength, majesty, splendour, perspicacity and the intelligence of the brothers redoubled as a result of the touch of Garuda, the embodiment of Vedas. Garuda joyfully embraced both the brothers. Rama asked the life-saver Garuda as to who he was and what he can do for his extraordinary service. Garuda replied: “aham sakhA tE kaakuthstha priya: prANO bahiscchara {I am GarudA, your dear friend (nay) your (very) breath moving outside, arrived here for your help}. Hearing that you have been fettered by the sankes, I rushed at once to your side out of my affection and friendship for you. I shall now depart. You should not be curious about our friendship any more. At the conclusion of your battle with RavaNA and your victory over him, you will come to recognize the mystery behind our friendship. You will destroy all the demons of LankhA including the evil RavaNA and rejoin with Sita.”

After the above response to the queries of Rama, GarudA walked clockwise around Rama to show his respect, embraced Rama, spread his golden wings and soared into the sky with the speed of the winds of deluge. The simian army was thrilled to see Rama and LakshmaNA restored to their original selves and raised a tumultous noise in happiness.

Garuda BhagavAn is the Lord of Pakshiraja Manthram, which was recited by Swami Desikan on OushadhAdhri at Thiruvahindrapuram. Garuda was pleased and appeared before Swami and initiated him into Sri Hayagreeva Manthram and Lord Hayagreeva sat on the tip of Swami’s tongue and rest of what happened led to us being blessed with the Sri Sookthis of Sri Nigamaantha MahA Desikan. Thus, Swami Desikan was indebted to Garuda Bhagavaan immensely. His tribute to Garudha BhagavAn took the form of Garuda PanchAsath and Garuda daNdakam. He describes the embrace of Garudaa on the battle field in LankhA in the 48th slokam of Garudha PanchAsath. He calls that kaimkaryam as “Labdha SevA visesha:” (one who obtained that bhagyam of distinguished service to Rama). Swami goes on to describe that GarudA was fortunate to receive the embrace of the shoulders of Rama, which were renowned for their fragrance arising from the association with the flowers decorating the ears of SitA dEvi (VaidEhi karNapoora surabhiNA ya: samAsleshi DhOshNA Sa Garuda:).

On that fragrant note, I will conclude this posting.

Sri VaishNava Daasan,

Oppiliappan Koil VarasAchaari Sadagopan

To be continued…

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