The Birds Try to Beat Down the Ocean
Page from a dispersed series of the Panchatantra (Book I: The Estrangement of Friends)
Artist/maker unknown, Indian
Lapwings are ground-nesting shorebirds and both parents care for the young. In this story, a lapwing couple laid their eggs too close to the ocean. Furious with the ocean, the male lapwing recruits all the birds to help him destroy it. First they fly out over the ocean, trying to beat it down with their wings. After various other attempts, all futile, they turn to Garuda, king of the birds and vahana (vehicle) of the great god Vishnu. Garuda intercedes and the mighty ocean returns the lapwing's eggs. The great ocean thought itself unassailable by the tiny lapwing but:
Whoever adopts an adversarial stance
before ascertaining the enemy's strength
runs the risk of defeat, like the Ocean
who pitted himself against the lapwing.