Jatayu (जटायू), in Hindu mythology, is the son of Aruna and nephew of Garuda. A demi-god who has the form of a vulture, he tries to rescue Sita from Ravana when Ravana is on his way to Lanka after kidnapping Sita. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana, but as Jatayu was very old Ravana soon got the better of him. As Rama and Lakshmana chanced upon the stricken and dying Jatayu in their search for Sita, he informs them of the fight between him and Ravana and the direction in which Ravana had gone (i.e., south).
Variants of name
Ancestry of Jatayu
The Ramayana - Aranya Kanda Sarga 14 discusses the ancestry of Jatayu. Rama and Laxmana on their way to Panchavati come into contact with Jatayu. When Rama questions about its identity, Jatayu narrates the creation of animal species along with humans, and informs Rama that he is a friend of King Dasharatha and would like to help Rama in exile.
1. Then while proceeding to Panchavati that Rahu's descendent came across a mammoth eagle with marvellous might in midway. [3-14-1]
3. But that eagle with sweet ad soft words spoke to them as though to please them, "oh boy Rama know me as your father's friend." [3-14-3]
4. Accepting that bird as his father's friend Raghava revered it, and he that Rama then asked for that eagle's name and lineage. [3-14-4]
5. On hearing Rama's words that bird said about his ancestry and himself, and in doing so, that eagle also narrated the overall genesis of all beings. [3-14-5]
6. Once upon a time there were lords of people, oh dextrous Raghava, and you may listen all about them from the beginning, while I narrate [3-14-6]
7. Of them Kardama was there at first, and afterwards Sesha, and later Samshraya was there with many children and a vigorous one he was. Then Sthaanu, Mariichi, Atri, the great mighty one Kratu, Pulastya, Angira, Pracheta and Pulah were there. And oh, Raghava, Daksha, Vivaswan were while the other name of Vivasvan is Arishtanemi, and lastly the great resplendent Kashyapa, was there as Prajapati. [3-14-9] [3-14-7]
10. Oh glorious Rama, there were sixty highly renowned daughters to Daksha, thus we hear. [3-14-10]
11, 12a. Of them Kashyapa accepted eight slender-waisted daughters of Daksha Prajapati, namely Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kaalakaa and Taamra, Krodhavasha, also thus Manu and even Anala also as wives. [3-14-11, 12a]
12b, 13a. Then Kashyapa is gladdened and said to those young wives, "You all shall deliver sons similar to me and who can sustain the three worlds." [3-14-12b, 13a]
13b, 14a. Oh, dextrous Rama, Aditi, Diti, Kaalakaa and Danu have agreed for that, but others became unheedful of Kashyapa's words. [3-14-13b, 14a]
14b, 15a. Aditi gave birth to twelve Aditya-s, the Sun-gods, eight Vasu-s, the Terrestrials-gods, eleven Rudraa-s, the Fury-gods, and two Ashvinis, the medicine-gods, total thirty-three of them. [3-14-14b, 15a]
15b, 16a. Oh, boy Rama, Diti gave birth to well-known Daitya-s, the so-called demons, and earlier this earth with forests and oceans belonged to them. [3-14-15b, 16a]
17b, 18a. But Taamraa gave birth to five world renowned girls namely, Krounchi, Bhaasii, Shyenii, Dhritaraashtrii, and Shukii. [3-14-17b, 18a]
18b, 19. And from each of the five daughters of Taamraa in turn emanated are the other avian species, where Kraunchii gave birth to Uluka-s, the owls, Bhasii-s gave birth to Bhaasaa-s, the vultures, and Shyenii gave birth to very sharp eagles and falcons, and then Dhritaraashtrii gave birth to swans and all other kinds of graceful water-birds. [3-14-18b, 19]
20. Dhritaraashtrii gave birth even to Chakravaaka water-birds, and Shukii gave birth to a daughter Nata, and Nata's daughter is Vinata. [3-14-20]
21, 22. Oh, Rama, Krodhavasha gave birth to ten of her self-same daughters namely Mrigi, Mrigamanda, Hari, Bhadramanda, Maatangii, Sharduulii, Shweta, Surabhii, and like that to Surasa, who is embodied with all giftedness, and even to Kadruva. [3-14-21, 22]
23. Children Mrigi are all of the the deer, oh best of the best-men, Rama, and Mrigamnda's progeny is Riksha-s, Bears, a kind of antelope, and like that the Himalayan yak like species.[3-14-23]
25. And Hari's offspring are lions and sagely/mighty monkeys, while Sharduulii gave birth to baboons and tigers. [3-14-25]
26. Then Maatangi's childrenm are elephants, oh, best one among men, Rama, and Shweta gave birth to eight elephants that are at eight quarters of world, sustaining the world on their head. [3-14-26]
29. Oh, the best among men Rama, the wife of great-soul Kashyapa, lady Manu procreated humans, Brahman--s, Kshatriya-s, Vyasya-s, and Shudra-s. [3-14-29]
30. The Brahman-s emerged from face, the Kshatriya-s from chest, the Vyasya-s from two thighs, and the Shudra-s from two feet, thus we hear from the scriptures viz., Veda, i.e., Rig Veda Purusha Shuukta. [3-14-30]
31. All the merited fruit-bearing trees are given birth by [[Anala], and now I will narrate about Vinata, the daughter's daughter of Shukii, and about Kadru, the sister of Surasa. [3-14-31]
Garuda is the eagle-vehicle of Lord Vishnu, while Aruna, also called Anuuru, for he is a thigh-less being, is the charioteer of Sun's seven-horse chariot. The seven horses of Sun's chariot are the seven colours in vibgyor as in a rainbow. Aruna and Garuda are of avian origination and attributed to be the speediest propellers, and Jatayu and Sampati belong to that lineage.
34. Such as I am, I can be your helpmate at your residence if only you wish me to... oh, boy, this impassable forest is a beloved one to predators and demons, isn't it... as such I can take care of Seetha if you and Lakshmana go out..." Thus Jatayu said to Rama. [3-14-34]
35. Raghava revered Jatayu in his turn by gladly hugging and stood by him with his head bent, and that kind-natured Rama is indeed regardful of the friendship of his father with Jatayu that is repeatedly said by Jatayu. [3-14-35]
36. He that Rama took the princess from Mithila Seetha, and proceeded to Panchavati along with that very mighty bird and Lakshmana, as though to incinerate enemies, like fire that burns down grasshoppers. [3-14-36]
Lineage - Kashyapa+Taamraa<Shukii<Nata<Vinata<Aruna<Jatayu
Jatayu and Sampati
In this context, the contribution of Jatayu's brother, Sampaati, is worth mentioning. Jatayu and Sampaati, when young, used to compete as to who could fly higher. On one such instance Jatayu flew so high that he was about to get seared by sun's flames. Sampaati saved his brother by spreading his own wings and thus shielding Jatayu from the hot flames. In the process, Sampaati himself got injured and lost his wings. As a result Sampaati lived wingless for the rest of his life. Another version of this story reverses their roles, saying that it was Jatayu who saved Sampaati from the flames of the sun.
The place where Lord Rama found the dying Jatayu was named JatayuMangalam (now known as ChadayaMangalam) and is in the Kollam district of Kerala. A huge rock in this place is named after Jatayu as JatayuPara and is a place of attraction for tourists.
Animal depiction of warriors
When Rama besieged Lanka, all his supporters like Kishkindha king Sugriva and his commander Hanuman, Jatayu, Jamvanta etc were Jat warriors. Bhaleram Beniwal has pointed out that these characters have been depicted as monkeys, birds or animals is out of jealousy of the manuvadis and agents of dharma who never wanted to bring the true history of Jats. 
The Jat hostorian Thakur Deshraj has explained about the reasons of animal depiction of people prevalent in India during Ramayana period. During this period all four varnas had come into existence in Aryans. The duties of each varna were defined but they could change varna. Brahmans had come into a dominant position and had full control over kings and the society. Some kshatriyas like Kartaviryarjuna had become rebellions against the increased influence of Brahmans. In Sarswati ashrama a big organization under the leadership of Parsurama was constituted by Brahmans to penalize such kshatriyas. Brahmans suppressed kshatriyas like Kartaviryarjuna and deprived these kshatriyas from their status. The Aryans by this time had crossed Vindhyas and moving towards south. Vanars were inhabitants in southwest Vindhyas. Pampa sarovar was their main center. Vanars were not monkeys but either aboriginal inhabitants of that area or people of Aryan groups who had come from Iran via Bombay and reached south of Vindhyas. 
- Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dhallapiccola
- Ramayana (ISBN 0-89744-930-4) by C. Rajagopalachari
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