Jatayu’s epic flight

Sampati begins the story of how his wings caught fire.

March 07, 2022 11:06 am | Updated 11:06 am IST

Story so far: Nala takes Hanuman to meet Sampati. Hanuman is curious to know the story behind Sampati’s lost wings.

Sampati leads them into a grand hall with a huge sculpture of Sampati’s father, Aruna, driving the Sun God’s chariot. The statue is engraved with the names of each horse - Gayathri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtuba, Anushtubha, Pankti - and each is painted in different colours of VIBGYOR.

Sampati: Let me call my brother Jayatu.

Sampati runs to the terrace and turns the light towards a prism. The light splits into seven colours and forms a huge beautiful rainbow that is visible from several hundred kilometres away. Soon they hear a heavy movement of air...

Sampati: There he comes. Jatayu. 

Hanuman is amazed by Jatayu’s wingspan. 

Hanuman: Wow! Did Sampati also have such huge wings? 

Nala: Yes. They are the world’s strongest and biggest birds. They can fly at heights that other birds can’t.

Hanuman: What height is that?

Nala: Over 37,000 feet.

Hanuman: Woah! Where the temperature is around -30 degrees?! (Ref. Episode 7: Nala explaining the temperature-altitude relation) 

Nala: Yes. On Earth, only the Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture has been spotted flying at that height. 

Jatayu enters the hall majestically. He hugs Sampati.

Sampati: Jatayu, meet the great Hanuman — the one who stunned the solar system.

Jatayu: Welcome, Hanuman. We have heard a lot about your perseverance and bravery from our father. (Ref. Episode 5) 

Hanuman: Thank you. But I am yet to hear the story about the great love and sacrifice that led to your brother losing his wings.

Sampati (to Jatayu): Shall we tell him the story narrated by the people or the actual science? 

Jatayu: Let’s start with people’s version...

Sampati: Okay. When we were young, we used to play near the banks of the Godavari river. We used to race to see who could fly the farthest.

Jatayu: Sampati, being stronger, couldfly much higher than me, while I would I would keep trying and failing. Sometimes, just to make me feel better, he would lose.

Sampati: One day, he started to fly higher and higher; he didn’t give up. I was happy to see his hard work bearing fruit. But he got carried away...

Jatayu: Usually I save some energy to help me fly back down. But that day, I was determined to give everything I had to see how high I could fly.

Sampati: Usually, we fly 6-9 km upwards.

Hanuman: That’s the Troposphere. 

Sampati: Correct. That day, Jatayu reached the edge of Troposphere and almost entered Swargaloka…

Hanuman: That’s the edge of Mount Meru at 12 km!

Jatayu: Looks like Hanuman already knows all the scientific terms, brother. We might as well tell him the science version of the story....  

Sampati: I tried to warn Jatayu but, before my voice could reach him, he was flying past 12 km.

Nala: He must have been flying faster than the speed of sound — more than 330 m/s (Mach 1 or super sonic speed)! 

Jatayu: Yes. Soon I started to feel faint… 

Hanuman: Really? How come I did not faint when I flew past that height?

Nala: That is because you are the son of the Wind God. Your father’s Vayu sena — the air molecules — made sure you had enough oxygen to breathe. That was not the case for Jatayu.

Jatayu: That’s right. Assoon I reached the ozone layer, I started to breathe O3 instead of O2 — the breathable oxygen. 

Sampati: But there was another danger, which we did not anticipate...

Jatayu: Soon I started to fall back down towards Earth at a very high speed. And I began to feel the heat… 

Sampati: Realising that his body was about to burst into flames, I flew up to him and covered him with my wings. And we fell down together. 

Jatayu: That is when my brother’s wings caught fire. People on Earth started saying that I flew close to the Sun and that Sampati’s wings caught fire when he tried to protect me. But we didn’t go near the sun at all!

Sampati: We can only fly till the Stratosphere because of the air density, but we cannot fly past the Ozone layer because it is dangerous for creatures like us.

Hanuman: Why? And how did your wings catch fire?

Sampati: For that we will need to tell you the science part of the story...

Nala: Yes, Hanuman. It involves scientific principles which is important to know for anyone who is interested in flying.

To be continued...

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