In the Indian epic Ramayana, Jatayu (Sanskrit: जटायुः Jatāyu, Telugu: Jatayuvu, Tamil: Chatayu, Thai: Sadayu, Malay: Jentayu or Chentayu, Indonesian: Burung Jatayu meaning "Jatayu bird") is the son of Aruṇa and nephew of Garuda. A demi-god who has the form of a vulture, he was an old friend of Dasharatha (Rama's father). He tries to rescue Sita from Ravana when Ravana is on his way to Lanka after kidnapping Sita. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana, but as Jatayu was very old Ravana soon got the better of him. As Rama and Lakshmana chanced upon the stricken and dying Jatayu in their search for Sita, he informs them of the fight between him and Ravana and the direction in which Ravana had gone (i.e., south).
Jatayu and his brother Sampati, when young, used to compete as to who could fly higher. On one such instance Jatayu flew so high that he was about to get seared by the sun's flames. Sampati saved his brother by spreading his own wings and thus shielding Jatayu from the hot flames. In the process, Sampati himself got injured and lost his wings. As a result, Sampati lived wingless for the rest of his life.
While Jatayu was wounded and lying on the ground when Lord Rama arrived, Lord Rama sensed the end result and decided that Jatayu get moksha. Lord Rama hit an arrow in the ground so as to call all seven sacred rivers, called teertha. Six rivers' waters arrived, one river water failing to obey Lord Rama's call. Since Lord Rama was himself an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, He forced the Gaya teertha to arrive at the spot.
According to legend, Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh, India is the place where Jatayu fell after being wounded by Ravana, and Ramarkal Mettu is the place where the last rites were performed. Rama is said to have commanded the bird to rise Le Pakshi, and hence the name for that town.
The Teratorn [Teratornithidae] (Argentavis magnificens) was an ancestor of the Giant Condor with a wingspan of 19 to 28 feet. With wings folded, it stood as tall as a man and could weigh over 200 pounds. Found in Argentina, it was the largest flying bird ever known.
- Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dhallapiccola
- Ramayana (ISBN 0-89744-930-4) by C. Rajagopalachari