Scientific Name: Gyps sp.
Common Name: Vulture, Gidh (Hindi), Kazhugu (Tamil), Grudhaha (Sanskrit)
Distribution: Throughout India
In Religion and Mythology
Jatayu, the vulture King fighting Ravana
Another vulture, which finds mention in the epic Ramayana, is Jatayu’s brother, Sampati. Sampati was very fond of Jatayu. Once when the brothers were young, they tried to fly close to the sun. Jatayu almost got his wings burnt. Seeing his brother in distress, Sampati flew higher and shielded his brother from the sun’s ray and in the process burnt his wings. Sampati played his role in the epic by confirming Sita’s abduction to Lanka and her imprisonment in Ashoka – vana .
The vulture is also sometimes depicted as the vahana of Ketu.
Parsis (Zoroastrians) believe that the vultures help release the sprit / soul of the dead. They practice ‘sky burial’ – a funeral customary wherein the corpse is placed atop a tower (called the ‘Towers of Silence’ or Dokhma ) in order to expose them to the sun as well as to vultures and other birds of prey.