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Jatayu - the king of vultures slain by Ravana
Mahabharata by Kisari Mohan Ganguli SECTION CCLXXVII

"Markandeya said, 'That heroic king of the vultures, Jatayu, having Sampati for his uterine brother and Aruna himself for his father, was a friend of Dasaratha. And beholding his daughter-in-law Sita on the lap of Ravana, that ranger of the skies rushed in wrath against the king of the Rakshasas.

Jatayu - the king of vultures slain by Ravana
Jatayu - the king of vultures slain by Ravana

And the vulture addressed Ravana, saying, 'Leave the princess of Mithila, leave her I say! How canst thou, O Rakshasa, ravish her when I am alive? If thou dost not release my daughter-in-law, thou shalt not escape from me with life!' And having said these words Jatayu began to tear the king of the Rakshasas with his talons.

And he mangled him in a hundred different parts of his body by striking him with his wings and beaks. And blood began to flow as copiously from Ravana's body as water from a mountain spring. And attacked thus by that vulture desirous of Rama's good, Ravana, taking up a sword, cut off the two wings of that bird. And having slain that king of the vultures, huge as a mountain-peak shooting forth above the clouds, the Rakshasa rose high in the air with Sita on his lap.

ten headed Ravana abducting SitaAnd the princess of Videha, wherever she saw an asylum of ascetics, a lake, a river, or a tank, threw down an ornament of hers. And beholding on the top of a mountain five foremost of monkeys, that intelligent lady threw down amongst them a broad piece of her costly attire. And that beautiful and yellow piece of cloth fell, fluttering through the air, amongst those five foremost of monkeys like lightning from the clouds.

And that Rakshasa soon passed a great way through the firmament like a bird through the air. And soon the Rakshasa beheld his delightful and charming city of many gates, surrounded on all sides by high walls and built by Viswakrit himself. And the king of the Rakshasa then entered his own city known by the name of Lanka, accompanied by Sita.' "And while Sita was being carried away, the intelligent Rama, having slain the great deer, retraced his steps and saw his brother Lakshmana (on the way).

And beholding his brother, Rama reproved him, saying, 'How couldst thou come hither, leaving the princess of Videha in a forest that is haunted by the Rakshasa?' And reflecting on his own enticement to a great distance by that Rakshasa in the guise of a deer and on the arrival of his brother (leaving Sita alone in the asylum), Rama was filled with agony. And quickly advancing towards Lakshmana while reproving him still, Rama asked him, 'O Lakshmana, is the princess of Videha still alive? I fear she is no more!' Then Lakshmana told him everything about what Sita had said, especially that unbecoming language of hers subsequently.

With a burning heart Rama then ran towards the asylum. And on the way he beheld a vulture huge as a mountain, lying in agonies of death. And suspecting him to be a Rakshasa, the descendant of the Kakutstha race, along with Lakshmana rushed towards him, drawing with great force his bow to a circle. The mighty vulture, however, addressing them both, said, 'Blessed be ye, I am the king of the vultures, and friend of Dasaratha!' Hearing these words of his, both Rama and his brother put aside their excellent bow and said, 'Who is this one that speaketh the name of our father in these woods?' And then they saw that creature to be a bird destitute of two wings, and that bird then told them of his own overthrow at the hands of Ravana for the sake of Sita. Then Rama enquired of the vulture as to the way Ravana had taken. The vulture answered him by a nod of his head and then breathed his last. And having understood from the sign the vulture had made that Ravana had gone towards the south, Rama reverencing his father's friend, caused his funeral obsequies to be duly performed.

The Story of Sitas abduction by the demon Ravana
and the killing of Jatayu bird
Mahabharatha CHAPTER XXV

Before Ravana kidnapped Sita, he send his demoniac brother Marichi to the hermitage of Sita-Rama, who lured away Rama and Laksmana in the form of a golden dear deep into the forest.

Maricha assumed the shape of a golden deer with silvern spots; its horns were tipped with sapphire and its eyes were like to blue lotus blooms. This beautiful animal of gentle seeming grazed below the trees until Sita beheld it with wondering eyes as she came forth to pluck wild flowers. She called to Rama, saying: "A deer of wondrous beauty is wandering through the grove. I long to rest at ease on its golden skin."

Sita longing for the dear

Said Rama: "O Lakshmana, I must fulfil the desire of Sita. Tarry with her until I obtain this animal for her."

So speaking, he lifted his bow and hastened away through the trees.

Lakshmana spoke to Sita and said: "My heart is full of misgiving. Sages have told that Rakshasas are wont to assume the forms of deer. Ofttimes have monarchs been waylaid in the forest by artful demons who came to lure them away."

Rama chased the deer a long time hither and thither through the forest, and at length he shot an arrow which pierced its heart. In his agony Maricha sprang out of the deer's body, and cried out in imitation of Rama's voice: "Sita, Sita, save me! O save me, Lakshmana!" Then he died, and Rama perceived that he had slain the Rakshasa Maricha, brother of Ravana.

Sita's heart was filled with alarm when she heard the voice of the Rakshasa calling in imitation of her husband. She spake to Lakshmana, saying: "Hasten and help my Rama; he calls for help."

Said Lakshmana: "Do not fear for Rama, O fair one. No Rakshasa can injure him. I must obey his command and remain beside thee. The cry thou hast heard is an illusion wrought by demons."

Sita was wroth; her eyes sparkled and her voice shook as she spake, saying: "Hath thine heart grown callous? Art thou thy brother's enemy? Rama is in peril, and yet thou dost not hasten to succour him. Hast thou followed him to the forest desiring that he should die, so as to obtain his widow by force? If so, thy hope is a delusion, because I will not live one moment after he dies. It is useless, therefore, for thee to tarry here."

Said Lakshmana, whose eyes were filled with tears: "I do not fear for Rama. . . . O Sita! thy words scald me, for thou art as a mother unto me. I cannot answer thee. My heart is free from sin. . . . Alas! that fickle women with poisonous tongues should endeavour to set brother against brother."

Sita wept, and Lakshmana, repenting that he had spoken harshly, said: "I will obey thee and hasten unto Rama. May the spirits of the forest protect thee against hidden enemies. I am troubled because I behold evil omens. When I return, may I behold Rama by thy side."

Said Sita: "If Rama is slain I will die by drowning, or by poison, or else by the noose. I cannot live without Rama."

Ravana kept watch the while, and when he saw Lakshmana leaving the hermitage, he assumed the guise of a forest sage and went towards the lonely and sad-hearted Sita. The jungle had grown silent. Ravana saw that Sita was beautiful as the solitary moon at midnight when it illumines the gloomy forest. He spake, saying: "O woman of golden beauty, O shy one in full bloom, robed in silk and adorned with flowers, art thou Sri, or Gauri, 1 or the goddess of love, or a nymph of the forest? Red as coral are thy lips; thy teeth shine like to jasmine; love dwelleth in thine eyes so soft and lustrous. Slender art thou and tall, with shapely limbs, and a bosom like to ripe fruit. . . . Wherefore, O fair one, with long shining tresses, dost thou linger here in the lonesome jungle? More seemly it were if thou didst adorn a stately palace. Choose thee a royal suitor; be the bride of a king. What god is thy sire, O beautiful one?"

Sita honoured Ravana, believing that he was a Brahman. She told him the story of Rama's exile, and said: "Rest thyself here until the jungle-ranging brethren return to greet thee."

Then Ravana said: "No Brahman am I, but the ruler of the vengeful Rakshasas. I am Ravana, King of Lanka, dreaded by even the gods. Thy beauty, O fair one, clad in yellow silk, has taken captive my heart. Be my chief queen, O Sita, and five thousand handmaidens will wait upon thee. Share mine empire and my fame."

ten headed RavanaSaid Sita, whose eyes flashed fiery anger: Knowest thou Rama, the god-like hero who is ever victorious in strife? I am his wedded wife. Knowest thou Rama, the sinless and saintly one, who is strongly armed and full of valour and virtue? I am his wedded wife. What madness hath prompted thee to woo the wife of so mighty a warrior? I follow Rama as a lioness follows a lion. Canst thou, a prowling jackal, hope to obtain a lioness? Snatch from the jaws of a lion the calf which it is devouring, touch the fang of a cobra when it seizeth a fallen victim, or tear up a mountain by the roots, or seize the sun in heaven before thou dost seek to win or capture the wife of Rama, the avenger."

Ravana boasted his prowess, saying: "I have power to slay even Yama. I can torture the sun and shoot arrows through the earth. Little dost thou know of my glory and my heroism."

Then he changed his shape and stood up in gigantic demon form with vast body and ten heads and twenty arms. . . . Seizing Sita, he soared through the air with her as Garuda carries off the queen of serpents; he placed her in his chariot and went away swifter than the wind.

The unseen spirits of the jungle looked on, and they heard the cries of Sita as she called in vain for Rama and Lakshmana. Jatayu, the Monarch of Vultures, who lay asleep on a mountain top, heard her and awoke; he darted upon Ravana like to the thunderbolt of Indra. A fierce battle was fought in mid air. Jatayu destroyed the chariot and killed the Rakshasa asses, but Ravana took Sita in his arms, and, soaring higher than the Vulture king, disabled him with his sword.

Then Ravana continued his journey towards Lanka, floating in the air. As he passed over the Mountain of Apes, Sita contrived to cast off her ornaments, and they dropped through the air like falling stars. . . . The five apes found them and said: "Ravana is carrying away some beautiful woman who calls upon Rama and Lakshmana."

When Ravana reached his palace he delivered Sita to a band of Rakshasa women, commanding them to guard her by day and by night.

Now, when Sita was dwelling in the palace of the demon king, guarded by Rakshasa women, Ravana approached her again and again, and addressed to her sweet speeches, praising her beauty and endeavouring to win her love. But Sita rejected him with scorn. Although she was his prisoner, he could not win her by force. She was strengthened by her own virtue; she was protected by Brahma's dread decree.

Be it known that once upon a time the lustful Ravana had seized by force a nymph of Indra's heaven, whose name was Punjikashthala. When he committed that evil offence, Brahma spake angrily and said that Ravana's head would be rent asunder (split in thousands of peaces) if ever again he attempted to act in like manner towards another female in heaven or upon earth.

Sita said unto the demon king: "Thou shalt never have me for wife either in this world or in the next. Rather would I die than gratify thy desire."

Angry was Ravana, and he commanded the female Rakshasas to convey Sita to the Asoka grove, believing that her heart would be melted by the beauties of that fair retreat. "Thou wilt provide her with fine raiment," he said, "and with rich ornaments and delicious food, thou wilt praise me before her, and anon threaten her with dire calamity if she refuseth to become my bride."

Sita remembered Rama in her heart by day and by night, and wept and moaned for him, refusing to be comforted.

Meanwhile, when Rama and Laksmana returned to their hermitage and found it bereft of Sita, Rama started to weep for Sita. He searched hither and thither through the forest, and called on every mountain and tree and on every bird and every beast, asking whither she had gone.

On the morrow the brethren went forth again in quest of the lost one. They came to the place where Jatayus lay dying, and that lordly bird spake to Rama and related all that had befallen Sita and himself.

Rama sat on the ground: he embraced the dying Vulture King, and said unto Lakshmana: "Alas! my brother, the noble Jatayus hath given up his life to serve me. I have lost my kingdom and my-sire; I have lost Sita, and now our ally, the Rajah-Jatayu, the king of Vultures, is dying. . . . All my friends are passing away. If I were to sit in the shade of a tree, the tree would fall; if I stooped to drink water from a river, verily the river would dry up." . . .

Then he spake to Jatayu, saying: "Whither hath Ravana gone with my well-beloved?"

Said the Vulture: "He went southward towards an unknown forest fastness. . . . Alas! my strength fails, mine eyes grow blind, my life is ebbing from my body."

When he had spoken thus, Jatayus died in Rama's arms, and his soul ascended to the heaven of Vishnu in a chariot of fire.

Mystical Bird Jatayu

Jatayu - mystical bird, king of vultures

Jatayu, the king of vultures, was not a ordinary bird, but a religious mystical bird, like a sage, fully acquainted with the rules of dharma.

Vinita, the wife of the sage Kashyap had 2 sons, Garuda and Arun. Garuda became the vehicle of Lord Vishnu, while Arun became the charioteer of Surya (the sun God). Arun had 2 sons- Sampati and Jatayu.

Once in their childhood, Sampati and Jatayu decided to reach to the sun. So they began to fly higher and higher. But very soon, Jatayu seemed to have lost his tolerance to the heat of the sun. Hence to save him, his elder brother Sampati spread his wings over the younger Jatayu. He did save his younger brother but got his own wings burnt by the heat and he fell at the seashore. Later Jatayu came to stay in Panchavati. Later on king Dasharatha came to the forests for hunting, where he met and made friends with Jatayu.

Dying Jatayu with Rama and LakshmanWhen Ravana, after abducting Sita, was on his way to Lanka on his Pushpak vimana, he encountered Jatayu. Jatayu fought a fierce battle with Ravana and smashed his aerial cart. But Ravana cut his wings and he fell on the ground.

On their way to find Sita, Rama meets Jatayu for the first time though Jatayu had known Rama from earlier times. Jatayu was then breathing his last. He said : "O Lord, the demon king Ravana has forcibly taken Sita towards the south. I have been holding my breath to have a sight of you. Now, I desire to breath my last, so kindly allow me to leave now". Shri Rama performed Jatayu's last rites and respectfully cremated his body and then offered libations for him. It was indeed a high fortune for Jatayu, that Lord Rama who could not perform his father's last rites came to perform the last rites of Jatayu.