Recently my son presented a small paper on Garuda. Following is a copy of it. Needless to say we learned a lot.
Garuda ia Vishnu’s divine vehicle. Garuda is a giant eagle, having a human body and senses and bird-like forehead, wings, beak and nails. He wears a crown on his head like his master, Vishnu.
Garuda’s father is the sage Kashyapa and his mother is Vinatha. Once his mother and his step mother had an argument in which his mother lost. As a punishment his step mother Kadru made his mother Vinatha her servant. This made Garuda very angry. But he very humbly asked his step mother how he could he get his mother back.
Kadru replied that he could have his mother back if he brought nectar from the heavens. Hearing this Garuda immediately left for Amravathi, the place where Indra lives. Indra’s armies of Gods tried to stop Garuda but he defeated them. There were other divine forces also which tried to stop him from reaching the divine well holding the nectar or amrita. But he defeated them all. He brought the nectar with him to his step-mother, Kadru but without handing over the nectar, got his mother, Vinata, released. Vishnu had noticed whatever that happened and was impressed by Garuda’s honesty. Garuda had not once touched the nectar that he was carrying for so long. Vishnu requested Garuda to become his vahana or vehicle, to which Garuda agreed but put two conditions. One that he be held higher to Vishnu and second that he will never die.
Vishnu granted his two wishes. Vishnu placed Garuda atop his flagstaff to fulfill his wish of being placed higher than Vishnu. Thus every Vishnu temple has such a Garudadhvaja in front. Garuda works as the carrier of the Lord; therefore he is considered the transcendental prince of all carriers.
After this in many of the Lord’s pastimes, Garuda has been his companion
He flew with the Lord where Gajendra was offering his prayers.
He was with him when the Lord along with Satyabhama fought Narkasura
It is said that the two wings of Garuda, who carry the Lord everywhere, are two divisions of the Sama Veda known as brhat and rathantara.
In one of his pastimes, the Lord very easily lifted Mandara Mountain with one hand and placed it on the back of Garuda. The Lord sat on the mountain and was carried to the by Garuda, who placed the mountain in the middle of the sea.
There is a small story about a sparrow and Garuda. A sparrow laid her eggs on the shore of the ocean, but the big ocean carried away the eggs on its waves. The sparrow became very upset and asked the ocean to return her eggs. The ocean did not even consider her appeal. So the sparrow decided to dry up the ocean. She began to pick out the water in her small beak, and everyone laughed at her. The news of her activity spread, and at last Garuda heard it. He became compassionate toward his small sister bird, and so he came to see the sparrow. Garuda was very pleased by the determination of the small sparrow, and he promised to help. Thus Garuda at once asked the ocean to return her eggs or else he would himself take up the work of the sparrow. The ocean was frightened at this, and returned the eggs. Thus the sparrow became happy by the grace of Garuda.
Thus as we can see Garuda was very mighty but he was equally a humble and a kind devotee who was always eager to serve the Lord