Suparṇākhyāna

The Suparṇākhyāna, also known as the Suparṇādhyāya (meaning "Chapter of the Bird"), is a short epic poem or cycle of ballads in Sanskrit about the divine bird Garuda, believed to date from the late Vedic period.[5][6] Considered to be among the "earliest traces of epic poetry in India," the text only survives "in very bad condition," and remains "little studied."[7]

The subject of the poem is "the legend of Kadrū, the snake-mother, and Vinatā, the bird-mother, and enmity between Garuda and the snakes." It relates the birth of Garuda and his elder brother Aruṇa; Kadru and Vinata's wager about the color of the tail of the divine white horse Uchchaihshravas; Garuda's efforts to obtain freedom for himself and his mother; and his theft of the divine soma from Indra, whose thunderbolt is unable to stop Garuda, but merely causes him to drop a feather.[5] It was the basis for the later, expanded version of the story, which appears in the Āstīka Parva, within the Ādi Parva of the Mahābhārata.[5]

The Suparṇākhyāna's date of composition is uncertain; its unnamed author attempted to imitate the style of the Rigveda, but scholars agree that it is a significantly later composition, possibly from the time of the early Upanishads.[5] On metrical grounds, it has been placed closest to the Katha Upanishad. A date of c. 500 BCE has been proposed, but is unproven, and is not agreed upon by all scholars.