Most of us are aware of Jatayu and his role in Ramayana. This post is about his lesser known brother Sampati. Sampati turned out to be crucial in Sita’s search in Valmiki’s Ramayana.
The great king Daksha Prajapati (father of Sati, Shiva’s consort) was one of the Manasa Putras of Lord Brahma, born from his right thumb. Daksha had two wives; Prasuti and Panchajani. Vinata was one of the daughters of Daksha and Panchajani. She, along with twelve other sisters, was married to sage Kashyapa.
Vinata had two sons with Kashyapa, Aruṇa and Garuda. She brought them out as eggs. She was promised that she will have two powerful sons when the eggs hatch. However, out of impatience and curiosity she broke one of them. Aruna, radiant and reddish as the morning sun, was born from the broken egg. Due to premature breaking of the egg, Aruṇa was not as bright as the noon sun as he was promised to be. Aruṇa’s brother, Garuda, was born at full term, and eventually became the main vehicle of Lord Vishnu. Aruṇa supposedly was the charioteer of Surya, the Sun God.
Sampati and Jatayu were the sons of Aruna. Sampati and Jatayu were giddha (vultures) of the Deva (demi-gods) dynasty. Sampati was the King of Vultures and he was an old friend of Dasharatha (Ram’s father). He was the elder brother of Jatayu.
As young children they used to compete with each other as to who could fly higher. They could fly higher and higher than any other bird in the sky. On one such occasion, Jatayu flew so high that he was about to get charred by the scorching sun rays. Sampati saved his younger brother by spreading his own wings over him, protecting him from the hot flames of sun. But in this attempt Sampati got injured and lost his wings forever. Wingless, he fell down on to the earth near the Vindhya Mountains by the Southern Sea. Jatayu also was no longer able to fly and fell near the banks of Godavari River. This way, the two brothers got separated from each other.
Sage Chandrama informed Sampati that he will have to wait there till Lord Vishnu’s incarnation reached the place and restored his wings.
Later on in Ramayana, when Sita was abducted by Ravana, Jambuvant and Hanuman led Sugriva’s army of monkeys and reached the seashore in search of Sita. Tired and exhausted, they had collapsed on the sand when an old and hungry Sampati came out of the cave and thanked the Lords for bringing him food.
Jambuvant told Angad how ironical life was. He said how this vulture was waiting to feast on them while another blessed vulture named Jatayu tried to rescue Sita from Ravana when he was on his way to Lanka after kidnapping Sita. They also informed him that Jatayu had fought a fierce battle with Ravana before he was defeated and his wings were cut. When Rama and Lakshmana reached there searching for Sita, they found an injured Jatayu. A dying Jatayu informed Rama about his fight with Ravana and also informed them the direction in which Ravana had taken Sita.
The moment he heard of Jatayu’s death, Sampati wanted to perform his last rites. The monkey army helped him in this. Afterwards Sampati, who could see beyond what others could see, informed them of how Ravana had taken Sita across the sea to Lanka in his Pushpaka Vimana. He also told them that Sita was waiting for Rama in the Ashok Vatika underneath a tree. At this time Sampati’s wings were healed. After thanking Jambuvant, Hanuman and the monkey army, Sampati flew away.