Garuda is the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. Garuda is extremely powerful and strong. However all this got into his head and he became very haughty and arrogant. Do you know how Lord Vishnu cured Garuda of his pride? It starts with Matali, the charioteer of Lord Indra, the king of the Devas...
Matali was in a fix. His daughter Guna Kesi had reached a marriageable age and he could not find a good match for her. Matali rejected all the men he had seen till now... They just did not seem worthy of his daughter.
Matali was wondering what to do, when he heard a mischievous voice behind him, "Narayana! Narayana!". Matali turned and saw Sage Narada standing behind him. Matali smiled genially at Sage Narada and bowed to him. Sage Narada has roamed all over the three worlds...he would definitely be of great help to him..."Sage Narada! I need your help..." He said after Sage Narada blessed him.
Sage Narada laughed, "Well, that is what I do all the time...I help people. But I don"t understand, what the greatest charioteer in the world could want," Matali looked modest as Sage Narada continued, "You are Indra"s personal charioteer. I have heard that the way you deal with the horses is so magnificent that when you ride the chariot, it looks like as if the horses responds to your thought. Indra keeps talking on and on about how well you deal with the horses and how well you advised him during the times of war."
Matali shook his head very pleased with himself and trying his best not to show it. "But sage Narada, that is not what I want help from you. It is a problem in my home."
Sage Narada looked amused, "That is impossible! You have the most talented and skillful Guna Kesi as your daughter. She takes care of your home very well, what problems could you have?"
Matali smiled, "My daughter is of marriageable age now. She has asked me to choose a suitable man for her." Matali shook his head. "And I cannot find anyone who is good enough for her. I just don’t think I will ever find anyone who will love my daughter enough and keep her happy for the rest of her life."
Sage Narada laughed, "Spoken like a father!" Sage Narada waved his hands around, "You were not able to find anyone in the heavens worthy for your daughter."
Matali gave a slight shake as he spoke, "I want to search all the fourteen worlds before I select someone good for my daughter.I was just wondering whether you could...."
Sage Narada prodded Matali as he stopped, "Go ahead...tell me what is in your mind..." Matali took a deep breath, "you have seen the patala and all the other underground worlds too. I just want to know whether you have seen anybody there who is..." Matali trailed away not saying anything.
Sage Narada looked at Matali with mischievous eyes. "Now that you have asked me, I can think of someone who would be a good match for your daughter."
Matali’s eyes lit up with excitement. "Who is it? Please tell me, who it is." He begged Sage Narada.
Sage Narada said, "I won’t tell you!"
Matali looked surprised as Sage Narada continued, "I will show you."
Saying both Matali and Narada left for the underground world.
In the underground Matali and Narada went to the paatala – the lowest level of the underground world. There Matali saw many wondrous things and sights and was thrilled by them.
There in a beautiful garden, he saw a noble looking Naga. As Narada came forward, the man bowed to sage Narada. He welcomed the two of them heartily. But somehow Matali could not help noticing the dark circle under the man"s eyes. He also looked very sad. Matali wondered why.
Sage Narada was speaking, "Aaryaka! Meet my friend – Matali."
The Naga"s eyes grew round with astonishment, "Matali? The Matali?The charioteer of Lord Indra?" He asked studying Matali again. Sage Narada happily nodded his head as Matali looked modest.
Aaryaka welcomed the two of them very happily and gave them a very good lunch. After they finished eating, Aaryaka called his grandson. "Sumukha! Sumukha!"
A good looking, noble young man walked into the room. As Matali saw the man, he felt that this was the answer to all his prayers. Just looking at Sumukha – the way he carried himself, the respect with which he treated his grandfather, the love and patience in his eyes...
Matali knew that that he had found the perfect match for his daughter. With great joy he spoke for the first time to Aaryaka and Sumukha, "I have come here to ask something to the two of you!" Sage Narada remained silent allowing Matali and Aaryaka to speak. Sumukha stood back watching the two of them."I have a daughter – Guna Kesi! She is beautiful...and extremely talented." Matali said hesitatingly.
Sage Narada spoke up, "Oh there is no doubt about it! You will not find a more talented girl – both in heavens and the earth or anywhere underground. And," Sage Narada said looking at Sumukha, "She is extremely beautiful." Sumukha blushed but did not say anything.
Matali continued, "I was wondering whether you would be interested in getting your grandson – Sumukha married to my daughter?" He asked looking at the two of them.
Sumukha and Aaryaka looked at each other.
Matali saw an expression which he had never expected to see – despair. Matali was stumped. Why would the two of them look so unhappily at each other? He looked blankly at Sage Narada who was also looking at him as if he did not understand what was going on. He then turned to Aaryaka, "Why? Is there a problem?"
Aaryaka gave a dry laugh, "Problem? You have just offered the most perfect woman to be the wife of my grandson. And I am not in a position to accept it. Yes, you could say I have a problem."
Matali looked uncomprehendingly as Aaryaka continued, "Have you wondered why I am introducing my grandson to you? Logically you should be talking all this with my son – Sumukha"s father and not me in this place."
Matali nodded his head but did not say anything.
Aaryaka continued, "The reason Sumukha’s father Chirakha is not here and the reason why Sumukha cannot marry you is Garuda."
Matali was flabbergasted, "Garuda? You mean the vehicle of Lord Vishnu? That Garuda?" He asked Aaryaka incredulously
Aaryaka shuddered as Matali said the name of Garuda.
He glanced around furtively almost as if expecting Garuda to suddenly appear from somewhere. Sumukha also looked a little lost as he heard his grandfather, "Please, we do not speak his name here." Aaryaka breathed out slowly.
Matali sat back and listened as Aaryaka continued, "Garuda stole the pot of amrita from the Devas to give it to the Nagas - us" Aaryaka said pointing at himself, "... in return for freedom for himself and his mother Vinata.."
Matali nodded. He knew that story well. Garuda singlehandedly thrashed the Devas when he had come looking for the amrita pot. Indra had guarded the pot with all the defences at his disposal.
Indra could have left it just like that for all the effect it had. Garuda came like a storm and blew away all the Devas with his onslaught. Not even a single Deva could stand up against Garuda. Even Indra"s Vajra was useless before Garuda.
Matali remembered wryly. The only way Indra could make sure the Nagas could not get the Amrita was to make a deal with Garuda. After handing over the amrita to the Nagas, both Garuda and Vinata had become free. Then the nagas had gone to take a bath before taking the amrita. Indra had stolen the amrita at that time.
Aaryaka was saying something. Matali shook his head trying to pay attention to what Aaryaka was saying, "After that incident, Garuda became a sworn enemies of all the Snakes…Even Indra had promised all the Nagas as a natural food for Garuda…" Aaryaka winced as he thought back. "Garuda came here and wreaked havoc on all of us. We could not stop him at all. Nothing we did seemed to work against him. We did the only thing we could do." Aaryaka said feeling a little dejected, "We promised to send him a Naga a month and in return, Garuda was not to attack us indiscriminately."
Aaryaka pursed his lips looking angry and unhappy with himself. But Matali understood. As the king, Aaryaka felt like he had failed his people. But Matali also knew what happened when Garuda attacked. There was precious little that could be done when that happened.
Aaryaka looked unhappily at Sumukha, "Last month, my son Chirakha, Sumukha’s father was sent to Garuda. This month, Sumukha has to be sent." Aaryaka trembled as he looked at his grandson, who was trying his best to look brave.
Sumukha placed a hand on his grandfather’s shoulder to control Aaryaka’s trembling. Aryaka pulled himself together and looked helplessly at Matali, "There is nothing I can do," Aryaka said shrugging.
Matali looked at the two of them. Now more than ever, he was confident that Sumukha was the right choice for his daughter. He smiled as he saw Aaryaka and Sumukha, "There is nothing you can do. But there is something I can."
When Matali entered Indra’s court at Amravathi, he knew it was a good omen. He felt that it was destined that the marriage between Sumukha and Guna Kesi was to take place. Sitting in Indra"s court was the beautiful Dark Lord – Lord Vishnu.
Bowing first to Lord Vishnu, who smiled at him enigmatically, Matali bowed to Lord Indra with Sumukha trailing behind him.
"Lord Indra," He said as he looked at Indra. Indra nodded to him. Indra studied Sumukha and then back at Matali with a puzzled look.
"Matali! Why have you brought Sumukha here?" Sumukha looked a little fidgety and uncomfortable. Matali then looked at Indra, "My Lord! I have a favour to ask from you."
Indra was feeling very happy. For years Matali had been his charioteer and he had been the best. There was no one who could come close to him. Indra had won so many wars and he could safely say that Matali was one of the important reasons he had won his wars. Now Indra felt happy that he could repay Matali’s service to him. Indra said, "Anything for you, my friend!"
Matali smiled and continued, "Sir! As you know I was searching a good match for my daughter Guna Kesi."
Indra nodded. Matali had been searching a groom for his daughter for a very long time. "I have finally found the perfect match for her. I think Sumukha here is the most perfect man for her. I am sure he will keep her happy." Indra vigorously nodded his head. He was feeling very happy for his friend. But before he could talk Matali interrupted him, "Your Majesty! However I have a problem – Garuda."
Indra blinked. Garuda? What was Garuda....Indra was suddenly feeling nervous. He had a faint suspicion of why Matali had brought Sumukha here. Indra suddenly felt very nervous. He cleared his throat and looked at the Dark Lord for support. He then spoke, "Go ahead Matali!" Indra felt his voice going hoarse.
Matali said, "Sir! The Nagas have been offering one Naga a month to Garuda to buy peace from him. Last month it was Chiraka – Sumukha"s father’s turn. Next month it is Sumukha’s turn." Matali said flatly.
Indra found his suspicions coming out right and felt that he was having difficulty talking.
He said, "So what do you want?"
Matali was aware that his king was distinctly uneasy. But he was determined. He continued, "I was wondering whether you would offer amrita to Sumukha. So that that he would become immortal."
Indra looked at Matali deflated. He knew that this was what Matali was going to ask. But how could he? Indra had no objections to handing over the amrita to Sumukha. Sumukha looked like a fine young man and giving him amrita was not wrong. It was the repercussions which bothered Indra. If he handed over the amrita to Sumukha, Garuda could take offence to it. He may think that Indra was purposely giving amrita to someone whom Garuda had marked, to humiliate him.
Indra realized that once offended Garuda was not someone he would fight with. Ever.
Indra shuddered as he remembered the last time Garuda had attacked the Devas. There was nothing left from the attack. Garuda had just blown off everything off. He turned desperately to Lord Vishnu, "Narayana! Please tell me what to do."
Lord Vishnu smiled, "You are the king of the Devas, Indra - Not me. I cannot make your choices for you. You will have to decide whether or not to give amrita to Sumukha." Indra knew that he could not escape this by asking Lord Vishnu to choose for him. Indra pursed his lips as Lord Vishnu continued, "I personally think that Sumukha is a good man and he would be a good person to marry Guna Kesi."
Indra nodded to himself and thought for some time. He finally looked at Sumukha, "I will give you the amrita, Sumukha." And I will face the consequences which follow. He thought to himself but he did not say anything. Lord Vishnu smiled at him but did not say anything. Sumukha and Matali looked visibly relieved.
Indra came forward and was about to hand over the amrita to Sumukha, when suddenly the court door flew open. Indra had the fright of his life when he saw a ferocious looking Garuda staring angrily at him. Indra opened his mouth to talk, when Garuda started yelling, "Indra! What are you doing?" Garuda shouted and Indra almost felt that the whole of the heavens was vibrating.
Indra shook himself up. He could not look weak before Garuda. He was after all the king of the Devas. He looked at Garuda and said haughtily, "I am giving Sumukha some amrita."
Garuda looked dangerously at Indra, "You are what?!"
Indra was about to say something when Garuda started talking arrogantly, "You are giving Sumukha amrita? You know that I am going to kill him in a month and yet to insult me you are giving him amrita?"
Indra shook his head. "I am giving him amrita because..."
Garuda shouted again, "Have you forgotten the last time we met in battle Indra? Do you want a repeat of that? Do you know that I am much better now than I was last time? I carry the Vishnu himself! Do you know how powerful I am?" Garuda ranted on and on.
Indra took a deep breath and said calmly, "Garuda, you can eat all the other Nagas. He is the only one I have stopped you from eating."
But Garuda was past hearing all that, "Indra! Do you know how strong I am? My feather can carry the weight of the whole world and I carry Vishnu on my back....."
"Garuda!" Came a soft voice. Though the voice was soft, Garuda stopped talking immediately. The power of the voice was like that. Lord Vishnu spoke again after Garuda stopped talking. Garuda was too angry to notice that Lord Vishnu was not smiling.
"Garuda!" Lord Vishnu said again, "I think you need to demonstrate to Indra, exactly how strong you are. Probably that way, Indra would be convinced of your strength and decide not to give amrita to Sumukha."
Indra was puzzled. What was the Dark Lord saying?
Garuda foolishly however went forward towards Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu held out his hands. "I think you should carry me and show them."
Lord Vishnu placed his hands on Garuda’s shoulder. Garuda blinked. He suddenly felt like the weight of the world…no…the weight of the universe was on his shoulders…Garuda broke out in sweat.
Lord Vishnu’s hand was on his shoulder and it suddenly felt that he was being pushed down. The weight was becoming unbearable. Garuda grunted and tried lifting Lord Vishnu’s hand. And Garuda just felt like his back was burning with pain.
Lord Vishnu looked at Garuda, "Garuda! You are proud and arrogant!You are strong and powerful! No doubt about that. But please let that not get into your head. You carry my weight because I let you carry my weight. It is me who carries all of you," Garuda fell to his knees his eyes streaming from tears as the weight on his shoulder increased.
Lord Vishnu said, "Indra was being reasonable. He has the right to choose whom to give amrita and whom not to. He is not depriving you of your natural food. Nor is he insulting you. He is just fulfilling the wish of his friend."
Garuda falling down suddenly realized the truth in Lord Vishnu"s words. He was behaving arrogantly. Indra was not insulting him. Garuda crumbled and fell as Lord Vishnu removed his hands.
Garuda lay there as slowly his breath came back to normal. He blinked as he slowly rose. He first bowed to Lord Vishnu, "My lord! I behaved arrogantly. Please forgive me."
Lord Vishnu smiled and shook his head.
Garuda then turned to Indra, "Indra, I am sorry! I was behaving foolishly. I had not seen the full truth. My power blinded me. Please forgive me."
Indra had watched the entire spectacle with awe. He looked at the Dark Lord and then at Garuda. He nodded his head and smiled at Garuda. Garuda then apologized to Sumukha and walked away from the court.
Needless to say Sumukha got his amrita and he and Guna Kesi lived happily ever after.
-From the Mahabharatha