The bird and the ocean – part 3

Read the previous part here...

“And that is why I say that if you really want to fight the ocean, then call the other birds and your close friends as well – let them join you in battle, like the sparrow joined the woodpecker; the bee joined the frog; and they all got together and killed the elephant”, said the female Tittibha.

Her husband agreed. “My dear, you are right. I will go meet my friends, and together, we will dry up the ocean.”


Having made up his mind to take on the ocean, the male Tittibha called all his friends, relatives and other birds for a meeting. And they came in droves, thousands of birds congregated to hear what he had to say.

Standing atop a hill, the male Tittibha addressed the gathering. “My friends! The ocean has made me and my wife suffer immensely, by stealing our eggs. Let us all think of a plan to dry up this wicked ocean.”

The birds were surprised on hearing this. They discussed among themselves and then replied in unison “My dear Tittibha….we are incapable of drying up this vast ocean. Why even try something that is not possible? It is said that if a much weaker foe tries to take on a strong adversary in battle, the outcome is inevitable – he will have to return defeated.”

A crane stood up and said “I have a plan. Let us go to King Garuda, son of Vinataa, and the ruler of all the birds in the world. Let us tell him what has happened. I am sure that he will help us and guide us. After all, it is said…”

सुहृदि निरन्तर-रचिते गुणवति भृत्येऽनुवर्तिनि कलत्रे ।
स्वामिनि शक्ति-समेते निवेद्य दुःखं सुखी भवति ॥ ३७२ ॥

suhṛdi nirantara-racite guṇavati bhṛtye’nuvartini kalatre |
svāmini śakti-samete nivedya duḥkhaṃ sukhī bhavati || 372 ||

One’s grief becomes much lighter if we confide in a stable-minded friend, a servant of good character, a devoted spouse or a powerful master.

“And so, let us all approach King Garuda.”

The birds agreed, and set out to Garuda’s abode.


They reached in a few hours, and were granted audience with Garuda. Standing in front of him. their eyes wet, they greeted King Garuda and lamented “Oh mighty king of birds! The humble Tittibha is under your protection. He has harmed no one, yet the wicked ocean stole his eggs. And so, the ocean has insulted you, and all of us as well. If this goes unchecked, the day is not far away when the ocean will destroy all of us too! After all, it is said…”

क्व कस्य कर्म संवीक्ष्य करोत्य् अन्यो ऽपि गर्हितम् ।
गतानुगतिको लोको न लोकः पारमार्थिकः ॥ ३७३ ॥

kva kasya karma saṃvīkṣya karoty anyo ‘pi garhitam |
gatānugatiko loko na lokaḥ pāramārthikaḥ || 373 ||

Imitation is the way of the world – seeing one perform a bad deed, the others follow as well. There are very few people in this world, who think of all the consequences, before acting.

“And therefore, it is your duty to protect us, oh king! We depend on you to save us from harm, and in return, we respect and worship you and accept you as your master. Please help us, protect us, and save us from this wicked ocean.”

Garuda heard them speak and felt distressed at this turn of events. He stood up angrily and said “You are right! The wicked ocean needs to be punished. I will go right away and dry it up.”

As he spoke, a messenger of Lord Vishnu arrived at the palace, and said “Oh mighty Garuda! I have been sent by Lord Narayana. He has sent for you; he needs to go to Amravati, the capital of Lord Indra, where he has some urgent tasks to take care of. Please come quickly.”

Garuda, who was in a bad mood, shot back “But what does the great Lord Vishnu have to do with this worthless servant of his? Go to him, convey my salutations and tell him that he can use any other bird as his vehicle instead of me. Because, it is said…”

यो न वेत्ति गुणान् यस्य न तं सेवेत पण्डितः ।
न हि तस्मात् फलं किञ्चित् सुकृष्टाद् ऊषराद् इव ॥ ३८१ ॥

yo na vetti guṇān yasya na taṃ seveta paṇḍitaḥ |
na hi tasmāt phalaṃ kiñcit sukṛṣṭād ūṣarād iva || 381 ||

A wise man should not serve a person who does not value his talents and capabilities. There is no gain in such service, service,much like ploughing a barren land will not yield in any crop, however hard you work at it.

The messenger was taken aback, hearing Garuda speak this way. He said “Oh Garuda! I have never heard you speak like this about our Lord Narayana. What has he done to deserve this?” Garuda replied “The ocean, which is under the protection of Narayana. has stolen the eggs of an innocent Tittibha couple. Tell him that if he does not punish the ocean, I will no longer serve him. This is my final decision. “

The messenger quickly rushed back to Lord Narayana and told him what had transpired. Narayana heard him, smiled and thought to himself “Garuda’s anger is justified. I will visit him and invite him with due respect. It is said…

भक्तं शक्तं कुलीनं च न भृत्यम् अवमानयेत् ।
पुत्रवल् लालयेन् नित्यं य इच्छेच् छ्रियम् आत्मनः ॥ ३८२ ॥

bhaktaṃ śaktaṃ kulīnaṃ ca na bhṛtyam avamānayet |
putraval lālayen nityaṃ ya icchec chriyam ātmanaḥ || 382 ||

One should never insult a person who serves him, if that person is loyal and efficient. Instead, he should take care of him like his own family.

राजा तुष्टो ऽपि भृत्यानाम् अर्थ-मात्रं प्रयच्छति ।
ते तु सम्मानितास् तस्य प्राणैर् अप्य् उपकुर्वते ॥ ३८३ ॥

rājā tuṣṭo ‘pi bhṛtyānām artha-mātraṃ prayacchati |
te tu sammānitās tasya prāṇair apy upakurvate || 383 ||

A king, if pleased, rewards his servants with only money. But servants who are treated with respect, are willing to even risk their lives for the king.

Having thought this way, Vishnu set out for Rukmapura, where Garuda lived. When Garuda saw the Lord in person, he felt very embarrassed at his behaviour, and hung his head in shame. He fell at the Lord’s feet and said “Oh Lord! I have been insulted by the ocean, which is under your protection. It stole the eggs of the innocent Tittibha couple who serve me. I cannot offend you, by punishing the ocean myself. And that is why I did not act immediately. Else, the ocean would have been dry by now. It is said that a servant who has served a family for long, should not act in any way that will offend the Master or make him feel hurt, even if his own life is at stake.”

The Lord replied ” Garuda, you have spoken the truth. It is said that if a servant commits a mistake, the master alone suffers the consequences; it is the master who is embarrassed, not the servant. And so come with me, we will get those eggs from the ocean, return it to the Tittibha couple, and continue to Amravati.”


They reached the ocean, and the Lord took out his Agni (fire) weapon and thundered “You wicked ocean! Return the eggs of the Tittibha couple immediately, else I will dry you up and you will never have any water again. “

The ocean got frightened – he immediately returned the eggs to the male Tittibha, who gave them to his wife, And they spent their days happily, awaiting the birth of their babies.


“And that is why”, concluded Damanaka, “If one starts a fight, without knowing the strength of his enemy, he will surely be defeated. like the mighty ocean was insulted by a small Tittibha bird. 

to be continued

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