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.
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)