Garuda is the great eagle mount of Vishnu. His name means one he is capable of lifting great weights and moving very fast. He is named thus by hermits who are hanging upside down on a tree branch. When the great winged deity sat on the branch to eat a elephant and tortoise, the branch broke, but Garuda quickly snatched the branch from the air despite already carrying a heavy load.
After defeating the devas and taking their divine nectar, the mighty bird Garuda doesn't taste even a drop of it, because he's trying to use it to buy his mother's freedom from the nagas. An amazed Indra (King of the Devas) goes to Garuda, asks to be his friend and enquires about the extent of his strength.
To this, Garuda narrates his story. The sage Kashyapa had two wives, Vinata and Kadru, daughters of Daksha Prajapati, who was the son of Brahma. Through divine boons, Kadru asked for a thousand snakes for children and Vinata asked for just two, who would surpass all others in their glory. Kadru's snakes were born quickly. In her impatience, Vinata broke open one of her eggs to reveal a half-formed child who later became Aruna, the charioteer of Surya. Vinata then lost a foolish bet with Kadru and thus became her slave. It was then that Garuda burst forth from his egg with divine splendor. Learning of his mother's fate, he made a deal with the nagas to bring back the nectar of immortality from the heavens where the Devas guarded it fiercely. He defeated their entire army, quenched a wall of raging flames, surpassed an ever-spinning bladed discus, fought off poisonous serpents and retrieved the nectar.
He then explains that on each of his feathers he could carry the entire Earth with all of its contents and Indra himself on top of it.
The part of the story where Garuda explains his strength to Indra always fascinated me in an Atlas sort of fashion (except that Atlas carries the heavens and not the Earth). This inspired me to show Garuda in the place of Atlas, shouldering a globe which contained in it his entire life story.
Hope you like it!
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