I have started reading “Ka“. :), my namesake, it means “who” in sanskrit.
The first chapter begins the story of Garuda. He hatched out of its egg after 500 years. His mother Vinata looked over and protected the egg all these 500 years. When he hatched, his mother told him her story, and gave him his first mission. The mission which would end Vinata’s slavery to her sister. Garuda listened and absorbed everything.
Garuda was all set for the mission, only for the fact, that he was hungry. Hungry for 500 years. His mother told him to go to a nearby island, and that he could eat all the nishadas he could. But only thing he had to keep in mind that he should never eat a Brahman. Now Garuda has no clue what a brahman is or what a nishada is. He has just seen his mother, his aunt and his cousins which are snakes. Anyway he hopes when the time comes he will know and flies away.
He comes to the island and picks of hundreds of nishadas with his beak. The nishadas fell down into the endless well that is his empty stomach. Suddenly he feels something stuck in his throat, and an immense pain. He realized that he must have accidently swallowed a brahmin. He tells the brahmin to please come out of his throat, and that he is really sorry. The brahmin is holding onto a nishada woman and says that he won’t come out without her. Garuda says whatever, just please come out. When he sees the woman, he thinks she looks just like his mother. And realizes that the thousands he had swallowed must be similar to her. He is overcome with guilt and flies away hungry.
He does get to eat later, an elephant and a turtle. But the main thing which comes out of this episode are these:
1. Brahmins where obviously considered top and even devas could’nt harm them.(pain in his throat)
2. Nishadas were considered lowly so that they could be eaten. (Vinata tells garuda that he can eat all the nishadas he wants)
3. When Garuda sees the similarity between the nishada woman and his mother, he feels guilty. (why does he? what is the point of this in the story? )
4. A brahmin has a nishada woman as his mate and is ready to die with her (how come this cross caste bond)
The only plausible reason is, even in that age some people obviously had egalitarianism on their minds.