Let’s read the story of Jatayu and his brother Sampati.

Jatayu plays a very small part in Ramayana, considering how long Ramayana is. Small yet highly significant. If not for Jatayu, Ramayana would have taken a different course.

Jatayu was the son of Garuda, God Vishnu’s mount. He had a brother named Sampati. They were demi-gods with a body of a vulture. They had a boon to expand their wings as per their needs. 

After Garuda left his place as the king of birds to be with Vishnu, both brothers became contenders for the title.

They decided to have a little competition to decide who was better. The first one to reach the sun would win. They expanded their wings and lunged into the air. They were both going at very high speed. Soon they began to feel the heat from the sun. Sampati sensing the danger stopped but Jatayu kept going. Sampati tried to warn his brother. When Jatayu got a little too close to the sun, his feather started burning. At the same time, Sampati flew over him and expanded his wings like a shield.

Jatayu was safe now but Sampati was taking the heat of the sun. His feathers burned and he lost his ability to fly. He fell from that height and landed in the ocean. Jatayu searched for him over and over but couldn’t find him. Sampati, who had lost his ability to fly and had no clue where he was, found a cave to live in.

Jatayu blamed himself for this happening. He cursed himself to lose his wings in an attempt to save someone, just like Sampati did.

Many years later an elderly Jatayu was flying idly when he heard the cries of a woman. She was calling for someone named Ram. Jatayu, who had once fought alongside Dasrath knew who bore this name. He had the eyes of an eagle and could see far distances easily. Soon he identified a flying chariot (Pushpak Vimana). On the chariot was an enormous man carrying the crying woman. Jatayu knew the man, he knew Ravana. In his battle alongside Dasrath, they had fought a horde of demons attacking Indralok. This horde was led by the son of Ravana, Meghnath.

Jatayu has seen Ravana’s power. He has seen him defeating even Gods.

He had realized that at this age he was no match for someone like Ravana. He also knew what the right thing to do was. The king and warrior that he was, meant he would not go down without a fight. 

He flew into the air and reached the flying chariot. Flying over the chariot with his wings extended he announced his intentions. He warned Ravana to hand over Sita to him and he would be allowed to go without any harm. The arrogant Ravana was not going to surrender. He brought out his bow and arrows and started firing them toward Jatayu. Jatayu kept changing the size of its wings and Ravana missed all of his shots. Jatayu was old but also vastly experienced.

Defending against Ravana’s arrows was easy but how was he going to attack. He zoomed past Ravana and clawed his biceps. Frustrated Ravana now brought out his sword, Chandrahasa, a gift from the God Shiva himself. Chandrahasa means half moon and the sword shone like one.

Blinded by the shines of Chandrahasa, Jatayu could not see the moves of Ravana. In the excellent hands of Ravana, Chandrahasa did not take much time in destroying Jatayu. Finally, from the pain of bruises, he fell to earth. Ravana’s cruelty was not over yet. He came down from his chariot and cut off Jatayu’s right-wing.

Jatayu lay there helplessly. He was breathing his last moments but something was keeping him from dying. He was determined to tell Rama the whereabouts of Sita. With all his strength left, he kept yelling Rama’s name. When Rama and Laxman arrived, he addressed them as his children. He shared all that had happened. Then he passed away.

Rama, who was moved by his act, completed his last rituals. This selfless act of Jatayu had brought Rama out of darkness, only now he knew that Sita was alive and taken away by a demon named Ravana.

Months later Hanuman and other scouts met Sampati in the southernmost part of India. They told him about the brave and selfless act of Jatayu. Sampati was bittersweet. After so many years later he had heard of Jatayu and that too of his death. But he was also satisfied by the fact that his sacrifice did not go in vain. Jatayu made the most out of the second chance he got because of him.

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