22 May 2012

Legendary Birds in Hinduism

Today I made a posting on Arunachala Birds, on the locally found Pied Crested Cuckoo. A bird which in Hindu mythology is reputed to be also the Chataka bird – a bird unwilling to drink water found on earth and instead choosing to drink only fresh rain water as it falls from the sky. There are many animals and legendary creatures in Hindu Mythology, and below is information on certain birds that hold a prominent position in such mythology, namely: Chataka, Hamsa, Chakor and Garuda. 

Chataka (Pied Crested Cuckoo) 
The Pied Crested Cuckoo is also known as the Chataka. In Hindu mythology this bird is unable or unwilling to drink water found on earth and instead chooses to drink only fresh rain water as it falls from the sky. Legend has it that this bird never drinks water off the ground. And that however thirsty it may be, it supposedly drinks only rain water as it falls from the heavens. For this reason it has come to symbolise a true spiritual aspirant. 

Sri Sathya Sai Baba refers to the Chataka bird in a discourse during Shivarathri 1991: 

“The Chataka bird endures many ordeals to secure unsullied raindrops from the clouds. The moment it espies a dark cloud in the sky, it embarks on its adventure. There is water aplenty on the earth in lakes, ponds and rivers, but the Chataka bird has no use for these polluted waters. It waits for the pure raindrops in the month of Karthika and does not seek any other water. It is undaunted by thunder and lightning. It seeks only the pure raindrops falling from the clouds, without fear or concern. It sings in joy as it drinks the raindrops. 

The Chataka bird is an example of pure love. The true devotee should perform a similar penance (to realise God). He must have the same determination. He must go through similar ordeals to experience the ultimate ecstasy. He must not succumb to the wiles and attractions of the world. The golden life of man should be tested on the touchstone of the Lord's name.” 

Hamsa (the Swan) 
Hamsa, or White Swan, is the vehicle of Lord Brahma and Goddess Saraswathi. 

In Hinduism, Lord Brahma performs the act of creation and Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of art and learning. Hamsa (i.e. the Swan) is reputed to eat pearls and be able to separate milk from water and drink only the pure milk. This particular capacity of making fine distinctions is an essential requisite of creation. Therefore Lord Brahma is shown as riding on a Swan. 

The Goddess Saraswati also has the Swan as her vahana (vehicle). Here again the Swan’s capacity to make fine distinctions is symbolically used – creative power, knowledge, inner realization and outer glorification of the Lord are all products of the discriminative power. 

The Hamsa is seen as a symbol of purity, detachment, divine knowledge, cosmic breath (prana) and the highest spiritual accomplishment. It is supposed to transcend the limitations of creation for it can walk on the earth, fly in the sky and swim in the water 

The Chakor is described in Hindu mythology as a bird that thrives only on moon-light for its food.

Deep into the full moon night, the Chakor sheds its tears in longing, releasing the song of unrequited passion, for its alluring beloved (i.e. the moon) is unattainable high in the skies. The bittersweet pain of the fullness of its love makes life worth living, for on this occasion of the full moon night, it can see the beloved from afar, undisturbed, in her full glory. 

The great ascetic guru and philosopher of Advaita, Adi Shankaracharya, describes the divine glory of the Goddess Tripurasundari as Amba, revealed in the face of the Full Moon. The Goddess rises from the ocean, clad in the luminescent jewels of the spray of the surging tide. High above in the sky, the luminous sweep of her full light releases waves of chaitanya – cosmic consciousness – dripping with the nectar of immortality. And the Chakor, thirsting for the charm of her enchanting smile, drinks in this nectar, which brings the fulfillment of his life’s purpose!

Adi Sankaracharya refers to the Chakor as a bird that is supposed to have drunk to the brim the moonlight of Goddess Amba’s smile, which is so sweet that it benumbs the bird’s beak. To counteract this numbness, the bird drinks moonlight, which in comparison to the smile of the Goddess, is termed  ‘sour gruel’.

“The Garuda is regarded as the King of Birds. Its name derives from the root Gri, to swallow as the Garuda devours snakes.

The snake represents the subconscious or hidden aspects of the mind; the feelings and thoughts which crawl underneath the surface. The Garuda can perceive these tiny snake like aspects and fall upon them. Similarly, by practising awareness we can develop wisdom which can perceive the workings of our mind in the most beneficial way.

The Garuda is represented with a human upper body, big eyes, beak, short blue horns, yellow hair standing on end, bird's claws and wings. However, sometimes, he is represented in human form with wings.

The Garuda which comes out of its egg fully grown symbolises the space element and the power of the sun, which dries up water. He represents spiritual energy which devours the delusions of jealousy and hatred. Because of his large wings, he represents openness and freedom of mind unaffected by emotional conflicts. Garuda symbolises the wise mind which reaches everywhere and brings about growth and wisdom.”

To read more go to this link here.

The Brahminy Kite  (Tamil: Krishna Parunthu) is found at Tiruvannamalai, and there are several Brahminy Kite nests by Samudram Lake. 

Where the nests are known, the birds are worshipped as representative of Garuda (the sacred Eagle), but this bird is actually a Kite. To find out more about the Brahminy Kite go to this link here.


Reena said...

Lovely information. Thank you.

UrbanIndiaThoughts said...

Wonderfully described.. i read the portion on Chakors

Unknown said...

Very nice information about chakor bird

Anonymous said...

Good info

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for the information