Garuda kept the nectar on a grass turf and told the snakes to do their morning ablutions, say their prayers and come for the nectar. He asked them to set his mother, who was held a captive of Kadru, free. When the snakes did so and left for their bath, Indra snatched the nectar and flew to heaven. The grass on which the nectar was kept became the divine grass. The snakes relentlessly licked the grass, hence developing a forked tongue. Garuda lived with his mother happily and owing to a boon he received earlier from Indra, he feasted on snakes and satiated his enormous hunger.
The development of this story has a symbolic meaning too. Vinata and Kadru are our sense organs of perception and how they can deceive us. Garuda was instructed by his mother Vinata not to eat the knowers of truth. It means the mind—represented by Garuda—should not surpass and kill the intellect which is closer to the truth.
Lord Mahavishnu blesses Garuda to be on his flagmast. When we do great work, we can fly high on the divine flagmast of the universe. Garuda asked for a boon to eat up snakes. These creatures represent the flow of energy. When it is directed wrongly as Kadru did, it will be detrimental to our own survival. The snakes finally became food for Garuda.
When the mind is not powerful, as was the case of Vinata before Garuda’s birth, the vital air or prana will control our personality just as Vinata was controlled by Kadru. This bondage leads to untold hardships. Kashyapa reminds us of the meditative flow of energy in us—Sushumna. While Vinata is the solar channel which is very dynamic and active, Kadru is our lunar channel which is inert yet scheming and cunning aspect of the personality.
Shaunaka asked Suta to narrate the names of snakes and Suta first said it was impossible as the list was long. He mentioned the chief snakes. That list itself was quite long. The first was Vasuki. Shaunaka asked Suta what the snakes did when they were cursed by their own mother. Suta said that her popular son Sheshanaga left his mother Kadru. He remained an air-eater and practised severe penances and austerities. He meditated in the Gandhamadhana and Badari mountains at Gokarna and Pushkara, and at the foothills of the Himalayas.
He focused on conquest of his senses and remained there being in yoga. Brahma asked him why he took such rigid austerity as all were pained by the intense heat generated by Ananta’s vows. He said, “My brothers are very dull and jealous of each other. I don’t wish to see them. They are not kind to Vinata and her son Garuda.” Owing to Garuda’s father’s blessings, he obtained great power. Brahma noted happily that Sheshanaga’s heart was in righteous action. He blessed him, “May your intellect be set in Dharma.” Brahma gave him the responsibility of bearing the whole earth on his shoulders. The author is Sevak, Chinmaya Mission, Coimbatore; email@example.com; www.chinmayamission.com