In the great extended family that is India, everybody is a relative of everybody else. So much so that eagles and serpents are said to be cousins! In fact I even drew a little family tree of our first three characters: Garuda, Vasuki and Jatayu:
Historians speculate that these exotic, half human- half animal tribes mentioned in the Mahabharata were probably tribes that worshipped the animals they are described as. But you know what? I’m going to stick with all the fascinating stories that I’ve been reading up over the last couple of days about these tribes and the characters we’ve chosen.
First Up: Vasuki
Vasuki is a half-snake leader of the snake people (called “Nagas”) who has between 5-7 heads. He churned an ocean of milk to produce the nectar of immortality and 14 other treasures in order to save the world from being destroyed.
Garuda is the half-eagle king of the tribe of all eagles (called “Suparnas”), and a half-brother to Vasuki (different mothers). In a mass of events, the nectar of immortality Vasuki produced is taken by the gods and the Nagas’ mother enslaves the Suparnas’ mother (wacky sibling rivalry). The Nagas, in exchange for freeing his mom, task Garuda with getting the nectar back. He does this, freeing his mother, then tricks them, getting the nectar back, then gives it back to the gods. As thanks, the gods decree that all serpents will become food for eagles (wacky sibling rivalry).
Jatayu is a demigod who takes the form of a vulture when he becomes the king of all vultures. He lives a long life as a generous and chivalrous king, and is well known for his good deeds. One day he hears the cries of Sita (his friend Rama’s wife) from the forest and rushes to her aid to find her kidnapped by Ravana, the king of all demons. Despite his old age and the incredible power of Ravana, he fights for Sita valiantly, getting his wing cut off in the hopeless battle. Before he dies, he tells Rama where to find his wife, and is still revered as a symbol of courage.
Such fascinating and involved stories, and they all intertwine with each other.