Jatayu was bird and a demi god belonging to the vulture clan. When Shri Ram along with Mata Sita and Lakshman came to reside at Panchavati, he meets the great bird. Jatayu introduces himself as the son of Arun and Sheyeni, the younger brother of Sampati and the nephew of Garud, the mount of Bhagwan Vishnu. When Jatayu meets Shri Ram, he fondly remembers his friendship with Maharaj Dasarath. He offers his services and protection to Shri Ram at Panchavati which delights Shri Ram.
On Jatayu’s advice, Lakshman builds a hermitage at Panchavati and the three reside and rejoice in the beauties of Panchavati, waiting for their final days of exile to be over and they return back to Ayodhya.
However, things turn up into a different way. With Shurpanakha encouraging Ravan to abduct Mata Sita, Ravan kidnaps her with deceit. He forcibly puts Mata Sita into his Pushpak Viman and starts for Lanka. Mata Sita shouts out to Shri Ram and Lakshman, but in vain. However, Jatayu listens to her call, and immediately rushes to her aid.
Jatayu was very old by the time he met Shri Ram and was not as strong as his youthful days. Yet without any other thought, he gets ready to fight a mighty warrior like Ravan. He warns Ravan to leave Mata Sita alone and not invite his death. He advised Ravan that it is not good to abduct another’s wife. But, Ravan does not listen. Jatayu then starts fighting with him. He hurts Ravan with his claws and beak and with great force breaks Ravan’s aerial chariot. Ravan unable to take the attack of Jatayu falls unconscious.
Jatayu had all the opportunity to kill Ravan in that time, but as a true warrior does not break the rules of war. He sticks to the rule that a warrior never hurts the enemy when he is unconscious. He waits till Ravan regains conscious. Ravan gains back conscious and realises that it is very difficult to win over Jatayu. He then takes out his sword and cuts the wing of Jatayu, breaking the rules of war. Jatayu falls down in pain, and Ravan goes away with Mata Sita.
On the ground in pain, Jatayu waits with his final breath for the arrival of Shri Ram. Searching for Mata Sita, Shri Ram and Lakshman come to the place where Jatayu is lying. Shri Ram sees him wounded and rushes to him. He is unable to see his dear friend in such state and asks who wounded him. Jatayu, waiting for Shri Ram tells him about what has happened and lets him know that Ravan had abducted Mata Sita and went south. He mentions his helplessness in not able to rescue her, but asks Shri Ram to go in search of her and punish Ravan for his evil deed.
Thus looking at Shri Ram, Jatayu breathes his last. Shri Ram is stuck with grief and sorrow. Lakshman consoles him. Shri Ram as a son, does the supreme duty of performing the final rites to the noble bird. Jatayu attains salvation and reaches Vaikunth Dham for his eternal devotion and sacrifice.
Jatayu was a flesh eating bird, belonging to the vulture clan. Yet, Shri Ram proves that all are equal in devotion to him, and gives the noble bird the highest respect and merges the mighty bird into himself. Blessed is Jatayu who has gained the highest honour not only among the birds, but also among the devotees of Shri Ram.