Garud Ganga : Where pebbles are serpent-repellents
Garud Ganga : Introduction
High in the Himalayas in the Chamoli district of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, there is a small non-descriptive temple dedicated to Garuda, the mythical half man-half bird mount of Lord Vishnu, on the bank of a small mountain river called Garud Ganga where pebbles from the river bed are considered divine which repel not only serpents but any evil spirit as well. Though famous to the local people, general public does not flock there like other famous temples in Utarakhand due to lack of proper information.
Garud Ganga : Location
The temple of Garuda at Garud Ganga is located about 5 km uphill from Pipalkoti on the National Highway (NH) 58, so very easy to approach.
Garud Ganga river
Garud Ganga, a small tributary of the mighty Alaknanda, flows at about 5 km from Pipalkoti at an elevation of 1372 meter in the Garud valley. The river runs through Pakhi village, close to the Garuda temple and then unites with the Alaknanda River. It is believed that pebbles from the bed of this river has divine property of repelling not only serpents, but also evil spirits in general.
The water of this river is also considered holy. It is believed that bathing in this river or consuming water from this river will wipe out Nagdosham.
The Garuda temple
There are two or three small temples on the bank of Garud Ganga, one dedicated to Lord Vishnu & His divine consort Goddess Lakshmi, another one dedicated to Garuda, the half man-half bird mount of Lord Vishnu. Garuda himself is also regarded as a minor god.
The temples are small & non-descriptive. Their importance is not in size or grandeur, but on the spiritual point. It is believed that Garuda did penance here to atone for sins committed by killing snakes.
The pebbles from Garud Ganga
These are just like the ordinary pebbles found everywhere, but they are attributed the divine quality of having power to repel all sorts of serpents & evil spirits in general from the place where they are kept. It is also believed that the ladies of the house where these are kept will have safe child births.
Hence, devotees collect these pebbles for their homes.
An interesting point to note is that the Garuda Purana, the ancient Hindu text which is based on Garuda & his legends, is also an ancient treaty on gems & Indian Gemology. Is it possible that this has some relation with the value attributed to the pebbles found in the Garud Ganga?
The Legend of Garuda
Garuda is described in both Hinduism & Buddhism as a large half man-half bird divine creature who is a great enemy of the snakes.
In Hinduism Garuda is the mount or vehicle of Lord Vishnu, & he is considered as a minor god himself. His father was the great sage Kashyapa. Kashyapa had two wives Kadru & Vinata,& Garuda was the second son of Vinata. Kadru & Vinata had great animosity, & hence Garuda was the sworn enemy of the snakes who were the offspring of Kadru. It is said that Garuda fed exclusively on snakes. According to the great Indian epic Mahabharata Garuda had six sons (Sumukha, Suvarna, Subala, Sunaama, Sunethra and Suvarchas) from whom descended the race of birds.
In Buddhist mythology, the Garuda are enormous predatory birds with intelligence and social organization and may be considered to be among the lowest gods.
The Garuda are enemies to the Naga, a race of intelligent serpent- or dragon-like beings, whom they hunt.
Garuda in other countries
The legend of Garuda is not confined to India only. It has spread to countries in South East Asia Like Myanamar, Philippines ,Thailand & Indonesia through Hindu culture & to countries like China, Japan & Mongolia through Buddhist culture.
Garuda motif is the National emblem of Indonesia & Thailand, the City emblem of Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia.
Garuda in real life
Though the half man-half bird physique is a wild play of imagination, in real life some birds are considered as earthy representative of Garuda.
In India, the Brahminy Kite & in Indonesia the Javan Hawk Eagle is considered as such.
Garud Ganga, with its mythological connection with Garuda, deserves more attention from the tourists flocking to the famous pilgrim sites of Badrinath or Hemkund-Lokpal, or the famous tourist spots of Auli or Valley of Flowers . As it lies on the same way, just a few minutes' stop here will enable the people to see a nice & important temple.
(ALL PHOTOS ARE BY THE AUTHOR & ARE COPYRIGHTED.)