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Mahabharata narrates the story of the snake and the eagle, Naga and Garuda, who were cousins born to Kadru and Vinata, two of the thirteen wives of Rishi Kashyap. A bet between the two wives sowed seeds of enmity between the cousins, both extremely powerful and having an important role in creation. Garuda became the vehicle of Indra and king of birds, having dawn, the charioteer of sun as his brother. Of the Nagas, Shesha carries the burden of earth and is the bed of Vishnu and Vasuki plays a pivotal role in churning of the celestial ocean. Often India is called as the land of snake-charmers, you will be surprised to know that snakes have been revered across cultures being symbols of fertility and regeneration, and very often their mention is accompanied with a reference to a hawk or eagle…

Iceland: According to Prose Edda, a 13th century compilation of Norse culture, the serpent Níðhöggr (Nidhogg Nagar) gnaws the roots of the world tree Yggdrasil, while an unnamed eagle sits atop it. The eagle has the knowledge which is passed on to the serpent by a squirrel.

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Mesopotamia: The Akkadian text, The Creation Epic, narrates the story of Sumerian King Etana who is directed by the god of sun to an eagle who will take him to the plant of life, in order to procure a son. The eagle had been trapped in the pit after it breached the compact with the snake and ate its young. The agreement was that the eagle would live atop a particular tree while the snake would live at its bottom and neither would harm the others young.

Sumeria: Gilgamesh’s Epic talks of the tree planted by Innana, top of which is inhabited by Imdugud bird, with an eagle body and the bottom by a snake.

Albania: The tale of the Eagle is an Albanian folk tale that explains how Albania and Albanians received their indigenous name. A youth saved the eaglet from the snake which was dropped in the nest by the eagle thinking that it is dead.  The youth then claimed the eaglet whom he had protected. Eagle asked him to return the child and in return granted him power and vision of an eagle. Amazed by the valiant hunter’s deeds, the people of the land elected him king and called him Shqipëtar, which is to say Son of the Eagle (shqipe or shqiponjë is Albanian for eagle) and his kingdom became known as “Shqipëria” or Land of the Eagles.

Mexico: An eagle appears in a legend of the Mexican people, who gave rise to the Aztec empire, and it is represented in the Mexican flag along with a snake. The Mexicans, guided by their god Huitzilopochtli, sought a place where the bird landed on a prickly pear cactus, devouring a snake. They found the sign on an island in Lake Texcoco, where they erected the city of Tenochtitlan in 1325.

Greece: In the Iliad, an eagle carrying a wounded snake in its claws appears to the Greeks.

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