The recent bird hit on flight 1549 of US Airways and its subsequent ditching or expert crash into the Hudson river caught the world’s attention. From the time planes have been invented we have had many such bird strikes and not all have had a happy ending as the one above. But what we are going to see today is possibly the earliest account of a bird strike.

Jataayu - the son of Garuda’s elder brother Aruna ( the charioteer to the Sun god), his valiant battle with Ravana as he is abducting Sita on his Pushpaka Vimana ( aerial chariot aka plane) is stuff of legends.

There are not many sculptural depictions of this battle, the most famous and often shown depiction is the painting by Raja Ravi Varma.


However, there are two sculptural depictions of this battle - one in Ellora Kailasantha ( thanks to flickr friend Mr Murali) and the other in Parambanan, Indonesia. We will visit the Indonesian one a bit later. But of most interest to us is the Ellora panel.

ravana jatayu

The mighty King Ravana is shown just as he is about to strike at the vulture Jatayu with a sword. Its no ordinary sword as we will see shortly. To the upper right we are just shown a piece of the flying machine.

Who is this Jatayu. We had read when we saw the Garuda story that his elder brother Aruna, who due to his mother’s hastiness is born premature - leaves to serve the Sun God as his charioteer. Well Jatayu and his brother Sampathi are the sons of Aruna.

Once while both the brothers were playing, they tried to fly higher and higher - when Jatayu trying to outsmart his brother flew too high, he went dangerously close to the hot sun ( sounds vaguely familiar - Greek - Icarus ) Well the plot changes a bit here. Sampathi protectively covered his brother with his extended wingspan - while the sun burnt off his wings he fell to the ground while Jatayu was saved. ( Sampathi does get healed but at a much later stage - just by chanting the name of Rama!!)

Ok, back to the bird strike. So great is the resistance shown by Jatayu and his valor in battling Ravana, that the Thevaram verse actually credits him with victory over Ravana. Why so ?

The place where the Lord, Who elucidated the shivadharma
with virtue as the basis freeing the capable devotees from

the disease of bad karma, sits is thiruppuLLirukkuvELUr
of jaTAyu who defeated the rAvaNa who came aggressive
counting his power!

It all comes down to the sword. Chandrahas, Shiva’s invincible sword - Moonblade, a divine gift. How did Ravana come in possession of such a weapon. Again an interesting story.

We have seen Ravana being humbled once before - by Vaali

There is another one by the 20 armed kaarthveeryarjunan ( not found a sculpture for this yet) - but there is another instance - by Siva when Ravana attempted to lift Kailash - we have seen it at many places.


Well after he went through the Ordeal and pleased Shiva by playing his ” hand” crafted veena - Shiva cured his wounds and along with his blessings, gave him his special sword. Chandrahas ( moon blade)

So by saying that Jatayu defeated Ravana - but for the divine weapon, Jatayu had valiantly fought and defeated Ravana. His powerful wings, claws and beak had wrecked havoc, while at the very edge of losing, Ravana not being a match for Jatayu with his powers, had used the divine weapon to clinch victory and slay Jatayu.

That my friends, that is the earliest recorded bird strike.
(Thanks to Murali again for the rare snap of Ellora. On content indebted to Sri Subramaniam, Mrs. Geetha Sambasivam and Dhivakar sir ofcourse)

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 at 19:49 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 Comments so far



Hi! Nice one. Enjoyed reading this.

Will also read up the rest of what you have written during the course of the day/week..

Look forward to more ….


March 11th, 2009 at 10:02

ம்ஹும்! ஒப்புக்கொள்ள மாட்டேன்! அது கவி நயமாக இருக்கலாம். உண்மையாகாது! போரில் ஒருவருக்கு ஏற்றமும் தாழ்வும் மாறீ மாறீ வரும்.கடைசியில் யார் வெல்கிறார்கள் என்பதே முக்கியம்.

March 11th, 2009 at 17:31

அட, நீங்களும் ரவிவர்மா படம் போட்டிருக்கீங்க போலிருக்கே, அப்புறம் திவாகர் பார்க்கலையா?? நல்லா வந்திருக்கு சிற்பத்திலும்.

March 11th, 2009 at 17:52

It was nice to go through the Jatayu story. Thank you.

March 12th, 2009 at 10:39

liked the way you connect the two

March 13th, 2009 at 18:26
Kathie B.

vj, that’s great I didn’t know the whole story.
Do you have the excellent panel showing this from Pattadakkal? I could send it to you if you’d like.

March 15th, 2009 at 4:48

hi kathie

thanks for the lovely addition. will feature it shortly


March 15th, 2009 at 20:54

Fascinating stuff, sir. Look forward to more.

March 16th, 2009 at 19:49

Me too..I liked the way u connected the two…its like coming back….full circle…

March 18th, 2009 at 18:07

Very intresting one viju. Sure you are making lots of efforts. KEEP IT UP AND SEND MORE.

March 19th, 2009 at 19:34

What is the date of Ellora panel? I am wondering the inspiration of the flying machine.

January 13th, 2011 at 9:01


Its Rastrakutha work - dates range from 6th to 10th C CE - but guess the above is more towards 8th ,9th C CE


January 13th, 2011 at 9:10
koushik rahul

jadau’s story was good,iam very much intrested toread these kind of aarticals .thankyou for giving this information……

June 11th, 2013 at 20:14

thanks Koushik - many more such in the sites - keep visiting. vj

June 12th, 2013 at 8:55

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