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(Astika Parva continued)
'Sauti continued, 'Garuda then said, 'O Purandara, let there be friendship between thee and me as thou desirest. My strength, know thou, is hard to bear. O thou of a thousand sacrifices, the good never approve of speaking highly of their own strength, nor do they speak of their own merits. But being made a friend, and asked by thee, O friend, I will answer thee, although self-praise without reason is ever improper. I can bear, on a single feather of mine, O Sakra, this Earth, with her mountains and forests and with the waters of the ocean, and with thee also stationed thereon. Know thou, my strength is such that I can bear without fatigue even all the worlds put together, with their mobile and immobile objects.'
"Sauti continued, 'O Saunaka, after Garuda of great courage had thus spoken, Indra the chief of the gods, the wearer of the (celestial) crown, ever bent upon the good of the worlds, replied, saying, 'It is as thou sayest. Everything is possible in thee. Accept now my sincere and hearty friendship. And if thou hast no concern with the Soma, return it to me. Those to whom thou wouldst give it would always oppose us.' Garuda answered, 'There is a certain reason for which the Soma is being carried by me. I shall not give the Soma to any one for drink. But, O thou of a thousand eyes, after I have placed it down, thou, O lord of the heavens, canst then, taking it up, instantly bring it away.' Indra then said, 'O oviparous one, I am highly gratified with these words now spoken by thee. O best of all rangers of the skies; accept from me any boon that thou desirest.'
"Sauti continued, 'Then Garuda, recollecting the sons of Kadru and remembering also the bondage of his mother caused by an act of deception owing to the well-known reason (viz., the curse of Aruna), said, 'Although I have power over all creatures, yet I shall do your bidding. Let, O Sakra, the mighty snakes become my food.' The slayer of the Danavas having said unto him, 'Be it so,' then went to Hari, the god of gods, of great soul, and the lord of Yogins. And the latter sanctioned everything that had been said by Garuda. And the illustrious lord of heaven again said unto Garuda, 'I shall bring away the Soma when thou placest it down.' And having said so, he bade farewell to Garuda. And the bird of fair feathers then went to the presence of his mother with great speed.
"And Garuda in joy then spake unto all the snakes, 'Here have I brought the Amrita. Let me place it on some Kusa grass. O ye snakes, sitting here, drink of it after ye have performed your ablutions and religious rites. As
said by you, let my mother become, from this day, free, for I have accomplished your bidding.' The snakes having said unto Garuda, 'Be it so,' then went to perform their ablutions. Meanwhile, Sakra taking up the Amrita, wended back to heaven. The snakes after performing their ablutions, their daily devotions, and other sacred rites, returned in joy, desirous of drinking the Amrita. They saw that the bed of kusa grass whereon the Amrita had been placed was empty, the Amrita itself having been taken away by a counter-act of deception. And they began to lick with their tongues the kusa grass, as the Amrita had been placed thereon. And the tongues of the snakes by that act became divided in twain. And the kusa grass, too, from the contact with Amrita, became sacred thenceforth. Thus did the illustrious Garuda bring Amrita (from the heavens) for the snakes, and thus were the tongues of snakes divided by what Garuda did.
"Then the bird of fair feathers, very much delighted, enjoyed himself in those woods accompanied by his mother. Of grand achievements, and deeply reverenced by all rangers of the skies, he gratified his mother by devouring the snakes.
"That man who would listen to this story, or read it out to an assembly of good Brahmanas, must surely go to heaven, acquiring great merit from the recitation of (the feats of) Garuda.'"
And so ends the thirty-fourth section in the Astika Parva of the Adi Parva.
Next: Section XXXV