“I see that Hari is now back to normal. Well done!”
Hari did a celebratory dance. Maya laughed out loud.
“We did it! We escaped and we still have the apples with us.”
As Hari did the dance once again, Maya pulled him down on the sofa.
“Ok, Ma’am. We have done as you asked. How do I give these apples to Thor to get his hammer?”
“It’s not that simple.”
“I need a payment for my services. Once you pay me, I will invoke Thor for the trade-off.”
Maya and Hari cast a wary look at each other before Hari ventured to ask – “What sort of payment….. er… Ma’am?”
“Nothing very difficult. I am a myth-collector. Tell me a myth I don’t know and I will consider that as a payment.”
This time, it was Hari who nodded at Maya before narrating the story of Jatayu.
“Sage Kashyapa had two wives, Kadru and Vinita. Kadru was a mother of thousand snakes, the ancestors of the all the snakes on earth. Vinita gave birth to the mighty Garuda. Once, Kadru and Vinita had a petty argument over the colour of the tail of the Uchaishravas – a seven-headed flying horse. Kadru claimed the colour was black and Vinita was adamant that it was white. In the heat of the argument, they wagered that whoever was wrong would serve the other along with her son/sons. Kadru cheated by asking her sons, the snakes, to hang on to the tail of the horse to make it appear as though it was black. Fooled by this, Vinita and Garuda started to serve Kadru but were ill treated. In exchange for their freedom, Kadru and her sons asked Garuda to get Amrit, the divine nectar for them. Garuda eventually obtained his freedom by stealing the nectar for Kadru. He also became the mount of God Vishnu, as Vishnu was impressed by his integrity.
In the Indian epic Ramayana, Jatayu is the youngest son of Garuda. His brother, Sampati, had the form of a vulture. When they were young, Jatayu and his brother Sampati competed as to who could fly the highest. Jatayu flew so high that he was about to get seared by the sun’s flames. Sampati saved his brother by spreading his wings and shielded Jatayu from the hot flames. In the process, Sampati lost his wings.
Later, when Jatayu had grown old, Lord Rama arrives at Panchavati where Jatayu was residing, along with his wife, Sita and brother Lakshmana and befriends him.
When Jatayu sees Ravana ( a rakshas/demon) abducting Sita, he tries to rescue Sita. However, Ravana bests him and cuts off his wings and talons. He informs Rama and Lakshmana of Ravana’s heinous deed with his dying breath. Rama moved by Jatayu’s heroism performs the final rites for Jatayu. Jatayu’s immortal soul attains redemption (moksha) as he was blessed by an avatar of the great god Vishnu.
Sampati also acquires his wings back after a very long time, when he helps Lord Rama’s army to locate the abducted Sita.”
The old lady smiled her thanks….. and was suddenly transformed into the mighty Thor!
(1) Ramayana is the most ancient Indian epic to survive across many centuries. The story of Jatayu represents some of the best ideals the epic had to offer – bravery against insurmountable odds, compassion towards the sufferings of the oppressed/weak and self-sacrifice in a fight for standing up for what’s right. So why did Thor want to listen to this story? Wait for the next installment 🙂 .
(2) Last but not the least, you can read more of Maya and Hari’s original background here in the sample chapters for my earlier publication, Maya & the Mind Mystics.