The Role Models from Ramayana- 4


Contributed by RP Turaga

Jatayu's Spirit of Service and Sacrifice

Sri Rama requests Sage Agastya to indicate a place in the forest to make a residence during the days of exile. Sage Agastya informs Sri Rama to proceed to Panchavati where Sita will be delighted by its surroundings.

Thus with the blessings of Sage Agastya, Sri Rama, Sita, Lakshmana offered their namaskarams at the feet of the sage and proceeded to their prospective hermitage at Panchavati.

On his way to Panchavati Sri Rama, comes in contact with Jatayu, the mighty eagle.

When Sri Rama questions about its identity, Jatayu narrates the creation of animal species along with humans, and informs Sri Rama that he is a friend of King Dasharatha and would like to help Sri Rama in exile.

Vinata gave birth to two sons namely Garuda and Aruna.

Garuda is the eagle-vehicle of Lord Vishnu, while Aruna, also called Anuuru, for he is a thigh-less being, is the charioteer of Sun's seven-horse chariot.

The seven horses of Sun's chariot are the seven colours (VIBGYOR) as in a rainbow.

Aruna and Garuda are of avian origination and attributed to be the speediest propellers, and Jatayu and Sampati belong to that lineage.

On hearing from Jatayu the great lineage to which he belongs, and his readiness to serve as a guard for Sita in his absence in the wild forest, Sri Rama feels delighted and embraces him.

He bows down before Jatayu, who perhaps reminds him of his Parental Affection, which he is now missing during the exile.

The righteous sermons of Jatayu

 The occasion for the proper utilization of Jatayu's services did arise when Mother Sita was being carried away by Ravana.

In a helpless state, Mother Sita appeals to all the animate and inanimate objects around her to convey the news of her abduction to Sri Rama when he returns.

Jatayu who is slumbering away, rushes to the spot on hearing the voice of Sita and then he saw Ravana and Sita.

Jatayu with a very sharp beak and appearing like a mountain peak, then uttered these words of expediency still perching on a tree:

"Oh, brother, now it is inapt of you to undertake a deplorable deed. I am one of those who abide by perpetual probity and avowed to truthfulness.

Oh, Ten-headed-demon Ravana, I am the mightiest king of eagles known by the name Jatayu.

Rama, the son of Dasharatha, is the master of all the world, one similar to Mahendra and Varuna, the Rain-god, and the one who is connected with the well-being of all the world. Whom you desire to abduct now, that best lady is Sita by her name, and this glorious one is the legitimate wife of that preserver of all the worlds, namely Rama. How a king adhering to probity can lay his hands on the wives of others? If it is a king's wife, oh, great-mighty Ravana, she is to be safeguarded particularly.

Reverse your filthy course, from laying your hands on other's wives. A sagacious person does not undertake that deed by which others deplore him. As with the protection of one's own wife from somebody's laying hands on her, other person's wife is also to be protected in that way."

The combat of Jatayu and Ravana

Thus Jatayu confronts Ravana on hearing the wailing of Sita.

He boldly forestalls Ravana and his air-chariot in the sky itself, and as an elderly being he reviles Ravana from the viewpoint of righteousness befitting to kings, but of no avail.

His dilemma is that he cannot take flight to Sri Rama's place, nor he can forestall Ravana until Sri Rama comes. Yet, he persists to affront Ravana.

In combating with Ravana, Jatayu shatters Ravana's bows, arrows, and chariot and kills the mules of the chariot and plucks off the head of the charioteer with his beak.

Further Jatayu attacks the body of Ravana, injuring it severely.

Enraged at the bird-hits Ravana severs that eagle's wings, feet, and sides.

Then seeing that fallen eagle Sita weeps over, as if Jatayu is her own relative.

Jatayu tried his best to save Mother Sita from the disaster but fails to save her.

But with his strong will-power, JATAYU holds his breath till Sri Rama comes to the spot and enquires about Sita.

Thus proving the appropriateness of his name JATAYU - Strong Ayu (Breath)

Sri Rama thus saw Jatayu the best of birds wounded, drenched with blood fallen on the ground.

On seeing Jatayu, Sri Rama said to Lakshmana:

"Surely Vaidehi is eaten here in this place by him no doubt.

It is evident that this rakshasa in guise of a vulture staying in the forest has eaten away Sita and is happily relaxing in the forest.

With terrific darts of mine which are burning at their tips and can go straight, I will kill him."

Sri Rama saying that, took his bow and fixing the razor sharped arrow to it went taking a step towards the vulture.

The vulture too spitting foamy blood, spoke these words to the son of Dasaratha pathetically:

"Long lived Rama! That queen whom you are searching for, is as though one would search a herbal medicine in the forest. She is my life, both have been taken away by Ravana.

O Rama and Lakshmana, the lady seperated from you is seen by me as she was being taken away by the powerful Ravana. I went to protect Sita at that time while battling with him his chariot was destroyed here and I fell down on the ground. Rama this is his broken bow so also his quiver and this war-chariot has been broken by me. He is the charioteer of Ravana slain by my wings in the battle. When I got exhausted by the war, he cut off my wings and taken away Sita the princess and flew into the sky.

I am already slain by rakshasa earlier, you do not have to kill me again "

Jatayu consoles Sri Rama

On hearing Jatayu, Sri Rama's face was filled with tears and he became pathetic with sorrow doubled, after knowing about Sita who was so dear to him.

Sri Rama immediately dropped the bow on the ground and embraced the king of birds Jatayu.

Sri Rama seeing Jatayu breathing the last moments of his life, cries like a child. He feels miserable recollecting the past events.

Sri Rama feels helpless that he is not able to save the heroic bird.(3.67.24) ।।

The kingdom is lost; I have to stay in the forest. Sita is lost. This Jatayu is killed. This kind of misfortune will burn even fire.

Speaking in that way many times, showing fatherly affection Sri Rama caressed Jatayu along with Lakshmana.

Sri Rama hugged the king of birds, lying aside with broken wings, drenched in blood.

He then asked "where is Mythili who is dear to me as my own life"? Having said so he fell down.

O Jatayu! May you be well. If you still have energy please speak about Sita and tell me how you have been struck down. Why did Ravana abduct Sita? What harm have I done to him to take away my beloved Sita ? O best of birds! How was that Sita's Moon like face at the time of abduction? What did she say at that time?

O dear father! How powerful was that rakshasa? How was he to look at? What work does he do? Where does he dwell? I am asking you.You may please tell me.

There after Jatayu in a desolate state looked up at Rama who was crying inconsolably and said these words in feeble voice:

That lord of rakshasas, Ravana producing violent gust of wind and clouds abundantly by his magic ascended to the sky taking away Sita.

O dear! While I was exhausted, that rakshasa, cutting away my wings took away Sita in southward direction. Raghava my breathing is obstructed. My vision is fading. I see golden usira roots grown on the tree tops like root hairs.

Jatayu consoles Sri Rama thus:

 The time at which Ravana has taken away Sita is the time known as 'Vinda', which brings back the lost property to its rightful owner in the end.

Astronomically by the very effect of that time her husband will regain his lost wealth, O Kakuthsa he (Ravana ) did not know it.

Ravana, the king of rakshasas will perish soon by by carrying away your beloved Janaki, just like fish carrying a fish-hook (which causes its own destruction).

You need not worry about Janaka's daughter. You will soon enjoy the company of beloved Vaidehi, after killing that rakshasa.

 As he was conversing with Rama with alert mind even while dying (not deluded), blood mixed with flesh started flowing from Jatayu's body.

Saying that Ravana was Vysravasa's lawful son and Kubera's brother, Jatayu gave up his dear life which is not easily attainable.

Sri Rama's tributes to Jatayu

Lakshmana see this Jatayu, he has been my benefactor.

This King among birds, has sacrificed his life in my cause.

 Indeed, noble and heroic souls, followers of true Dharma who deserve all respect and devotion are to be found every where and in every form of creation. ( 3.68.24) ।।

O Lakshmana! Many heroes, protectors, righteous people and good people are found all over among animals and birds also 3.68.25


O scorcher of enemies, Lakshmana! The grief experienced by me due to Jatayu's death for my sake is more intense than Sita's abduction.( 3.68.26)


Just as the famous and illustrious king Dasaratha is worthy of reverence and honours so also this lord of birds is to me.

Sri Rama performs the funeral rites for Jatayu with great respect and reverence.

 Sri Rama without the least hesitation, commands Jatayu's soul to go to Heaven as a fitting reward for his services.

 Sri Rama prays for Jatayu's soul to attain the absolute bliss to which great souls are entitled. ( 3.68.29/30)


"O mighty royal bird, with my grace you may attain that state attained by those who perform yagnas, those who kindle and maintain sacrificial fires, those who do not return back from the battle and to that state attained by people who offer land as charity. Purified by my offering fire you may depart to the best of worlds."

Jatayu's Good Fortune

 Jatayu had the good fortune to address Sri Rama as if He were His own child. Jatayu was the one who gave the Lord information about Sita's abduction.

Until then the Lord was in the dark about what happened to Mother Sita, and all His thoughts about what might have happened to Her were only surmises.

None of the surmises were comforting ones, for He was not sure whether She were alive or not, and if She were, where She was, and where He should start looking for Her.

Sri Rama got first clue about Mother Sita's fate only when Jatayu told Him that Ravana had taken Sita away.

A person's biggest wealth are his children, and a man would like to have beside him his children at the time of death.

Dasaratha had four sons, none of whom was beside him when he breathed his last.

But Jatayu had the great good fortune of not only having Rama by his side, as he lay dying, but he also had the fortune to have his last rites performed by the Lord, a blessing Dasaratha did not have.

The Lord cried over Jatayu, and by performing his last rites, became like a son to him.

What Sri Rama could not do for his father, he has done for the sacred soul Jatayu.

In the whole of the Ramayana, there are only two characters who sacrificed their lives for the sake of Lord Rama and Mother Sita. One was King Dasaratha and the other is Jatayu.

The sacrifice of Jatayu is even more touching than the sad demise of Dasaratha.

 Jatayu gave up his life for Mother Sita, while Dasaratha died of Sri Rama's separation.

Rare among devotees

Such a one as Jatayu is rare even among devotees , for he was prepared to give up even his life for the Lord.

Lord Krishna has commented in the Bhagavad Gita on the rarity of those who think of Him as their all.

Jatayu clearly belonged to this rare category .