By Swami Harshananda
Jaṭāyu, the bird-hero, is a glorious and inspiring example of handful of persons in the history of the world who were prepared to fight and lay their lives for dharma and he is part of the immortal epic of the Rāmāyana written by Vālmīki.
According to the Mahābhārata, he and Sampāti were the sons of Aruṇa and Śyeni. Once Sampāti and Jaṭāyu flew to great heights towards the sun to test their flying powers. Since Jaṭāyu was getting exhausted by the hot rays of the sun, Sampāti spread his wings over him to protect him. Wings of Sampāti got burnt as a result of heat of Sun and he fell down in the Daṇḍaka forest. Jaṭāyu started living there, but did not know the whereabouts of his brother.
When Rāma came to the Pañcavatī area of the forest, to live there, Jaṭāyu introduced himself as the friend of his father Daśaratha. At Rāma’s request, Jaṭāyu started living in the nearby area. When Rāvaṇa was abducting Sītā, Jaṭāyu ambushed him and fought fiercely with him to rescue Sītā but died in the effort.
Rāma, while searching for Sītā, came across the dying Jaṭāyu and got the information about Sītā and her abductor. Rāma even performed his last rites after his death.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore