The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section XXXIII
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(Astika Parva continued)
"Santi said, 'And that bird, assuming a golden body bright as the rays of the Sun, entered with great force (the region where the Soma was), like a torrent entering the ocean. And he saw, placed near the Soma, a wheel of steel keen-edged, and sharp as the razor, revolving incessantly. And that fierce instrument, of the splendour of the blazing sun and of terrible form, had been devised by the gods for cutting in pieces all robbers
of the Soma. Garuda, seeing a passage through it, stopped there for a moment. Diminishing his body, in an instant he passed through the spokes of that wheel. Within the line of the wheel, he beheld, stationed there for guarding the Soma two great snakes of the effulgence of blazing fire, with tongues bright as the lightning-flash, of great energy, with mouth emitting fire, with blazing eyes, containing poison, very terrible, always in anger, and of great activity. Their eyes were ceaselessly inflamed with rage and were also winkless. He who may be seen by even one of the two would instantly be reduced to ashes. The bird of fair feathers suddenly covered their eyes with dust. And unseen by them he attacked them from all sides. And the son of Vinata, that ranger of the skies, attacking their bodies, mangled them into pieces. He then approached the Soma without loss of time. Then the mighty son of Vinata, taking up the Amrita from the place where it was kept, rose on his wings with great speed, breaking into pieces the machine that had surrounded it. And the bird soon came out, taking the Amrita but without drinking it himself. And he then wended on his way without the least fatigue, darkening the splendour of the Sun.
"And the son of Vinata then met Vishnu on his way along the sky. And Narayana was gratified at that act of self-denial on the part of Garuda. And that deity, knowing no deterioration, said unto the ranger of the skies, 'O, I am inclined to grant thee a boon.' The ranger of the skies thereupon said, 'I shall stay above thee.' And he again spake unto Narayana these words, 'I shall be immortal and free from disease without (drinking) Amrita.' Vishnu said unto the son of Vinata, 'Be it so.' Garuda, receiving those two boons, told Vishnu, 'I also shall grant thee a boon; therefore, let the possessor of the six attributes ask of me.' Vishnu then asked the mighty Garuda to become his carrier. And he made the bird sit on the flagstaff of his car, saying, 'Even thus thou shalt stay above me.' And the ranger of the skies, of great speed, saying unto Narayana, 'Be it so,' swiftly wended on his way, mocking the wind with his fleetness.
"And while that foremost of all rangers of the skies, that first of winged creatures, Garuda, was coursing through the air after wresting the Amrita, Indra hurled at him his thunderbolt. Then Garuda, the lord of birds, struck with thunderbolt, spake laughingly unto Indra engaged in the encounter, in sweet words, saying, 'I shall respect the Rishi (Dadhichi) of whose bone the Vajra hath been made. I shall also respect the Vajra, and thee also of a thousand sacrifices. I cast this feather of mine whose end thou shalt not attain. Struck with thy thunder I have not felt the slightest pain.' And having said this, the king of birds cast a feather of his. And all creatures became exceedingly glad, beholding that excellent feather of Garuda so cast off. And seeing that the feather was very beautiful, they said, 'Let this bird be called Suparna (having fair feathers). And Purandara of a thousand eyes, witnessing this wonderful incident, thought that bird to be some great being and addressed him thus.'
"And Indra said, 'O best of birds, I desire to know the limit of thy great strength. I also desire eternal friendship with thee.'"
So ends the thirty-third section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
Next: Section XXXIV