The grandparent of all creation, Brahmaji heard about the most cruel curse by Kadru on her own children—the snakes that refused to cover the white tail of the horse Uchchaihshravas to make it look black. The deal was with Vinata, the other wife of her husband. The other had to become the slave of the one who won the bet to mention the correct colour of the horse’s tail. Vinata said white, and Kadru ordered her children to cover the tail so that she must not become a slave.
We saw in the last story of the Mahabharata that the curse had some history behind it too and it was not just incidental. Brahmaji was wondering that the population of snakes had greatly multiplied, causing harm for other creatures and hence this curse by the mother fell right in place. They had virulent poison and possessed great strength. The devas commented here that fate always works to take the life of those who desire to take others’ lives.
They called the father—Sage Kashyapa—and said that the snakes which were his children were cursed by his wife,their mother. Since they were poisonous, it was all in place and he must not get angry with Kadru. Lord Brahmaji himself pleased Kashyapa Rishi and gave him the knowledge of removing snake venom after the bite.
Next morning, when the sun rose, Vinata and Kadru wanted to see the horse Uchchaihshravas, wanting to win the bet. They went near the ocean and got to see giant fish and whales, crocodiles and tortoises, they saw precious gems. This abode of Lord Varuna was the home for all rivers. Deep in its belly there were great fires too. The ocean was fearsome in its appearance.
The mighty ocean, though seemed scary, contained auspicious life-giving nectar. The water was unmatched, unthinkable in its quantity, auspicious and amazing. Moved by the winds, the ocean seemed to dance in all directions with waves for its hands. Pulled by the rays of the moon, the waves rose high and fell. The ocean was the birthplace of the Panchajanya, Krishna’s conch, and contained many rare gems deep within.
The Nagas or the snake children of Kadru were afraid that their mother would curse them if they did not listen. So they decided to please her and went to cover the tail of the pure white horse Uchchaihshravas. At that time, the two women landed there and saw the most beautiful horse which was the colour of the moon. Yet the tail was indeed black. Vinata lost and became a slave of Kadru.
However, immediately after this incident, Garuda the divine bird burst out of the shell even when his mother was not around. As he flew about, all corners of the universe became bright. The devas saw him and sought refuge with Agni, the God of fire. He comforted them saying Garuda was the child of Vinata and would destroy the Nagas, Asuras and Rakshasas. “There is no need to fear, come with me, let us all look at the bird,” said Agni.
The author is Sevak,Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi;