Valakhilyas (Samskrit : वालखिल्याः) were a group of sixty thousand rshis born to Kratu, one of the Saptarsis (seven hermits), by his wife, Santati. Everyone of them was only the size of a thumb, but they were as bright as the blazing sun and had attained control over their senses. (Visnu Purana, Amsa 1, Chapter 10).
The Balakhilyas, also known as Valakhilyas live in the mandala of Surya (solar region). They travel in front of the sun in the shape of birds. They wear hides of animals. They are righteous and are only as big as a thumb. They are very ardent in doing the works of devas (Gods) . They are sinless. There are Valakhilyas living in the lunar region also. They worship the Sun daily. All the world stand firm in truth because of the penance of the Valakhilyas. (M.B., Anusasana Parva, Chapter 141.).
Garuda's birth and the Valakhilyas
A story connecting the birth of Garuda with Valakhilyas occurs in the Puranas.
Once Kasyapa Prajapati performed a sacrifice to obtain children. The work of bringing firewood for the sacrifice was entrusted to Indra and the other devas (Gods) and the Valakhilyas. When Indra was heaping up on heaps pieces of big logs the Valakhilyas who were very small were bringing in chips of wood. Seeing this Indra laughed. The Valakhilyas got angry and stopping the work entrusted to them began to do penance with a view to create another Indra. Knowing this Indra was much flurried. He went to Kasyapa and told him everything. Kasyapa went to the Valakhilyas and pacified them. At this time Vinata, a wife of Kasyapa, was doing penance to obtain a son. Kasyapa said that the penance of the Valakhilyas would not be fruitless and that as a result of their penance a son who would overpower Indra would be born to Vinata. Accordingly a son was born to her. Garuda was that son. The fact that Garuda overthrew Indra when he went to heaven for ambrosia, is well known. (M.B., Adi Parva, Chapter 31).
Garuda (Eagle) who went to the realm of devas (gods) for Amrta (ambrosia) took rest on the branch of a banyan tree, and that branch was broken from the tree. Sixty thousand Valakhilyas were doing penance hanging head downwards on that branch. Garuda knew this only after the branch was broken. Fearing the curse form them he took the branch in his beak and flew about here and there. At last, according to the advice of Kasyapa, he took the branch to the mount Gandhamadana and without causing any harm to the small hermits placed it there (M.B., Adi Parva, Chapter 30). When Dusyanta entered the hermitage of Kanva he saw the Valakhilyas doing penance, hanging down on the trees in the vicinity. (M.B., Adi Parva, Chapter 7). In Valmiki Ramayana, Balakanda, Sarga 51, it is mentioned that the Valakhilyas were engaged in prayer and meditations and offering oblations to fire in the hermitage of Vasistha. It is mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana, Balakanda, Sarga 51, that in the period of the Ramayana, in South India, when Ravana was going to the house of Marica, he saw the Valakhilyas doing penance. The Valakhilyas learned the Vedas and Sastras (scriptures) sitting in the chariot of the sun. (Kampa Ramayana, Parvakanda). (Page 101-102, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)
Garuda's quest for Amrta
After saluting his mother Garuda set out on his quest for Amrta. All the fourteen worlds shook at the lashing of his wings. He reached Nisadalaya, where while consuming whole lots of Nisadas a brahmin and his wife also happened to get into his throat. Garuda felt their presence immediately in his throat and requested them to get out of his mouth. Accordingly they got out and also blessed Garuda, who continued on his journey. Next Garuda reached the forest where his father Kasyapa was engaged in tapas. He told him about his mission and requested him for something to eat. Kasyapa replied thus: "You see a pool wherein an elephant and a tortoise are living for long as enemies. Long ago two brothers Vibhavasu and Supratika quarrelled over their paternal wealth and at the height of it Vibhavasu cursed Supratika to become an elephant when Supratika pronounced the counter curse that Vibhavasu should turn out to be a tortoise; You, my son Garuda may eat that elephant and tortoise. 'May your journey for Amrta be crowned with success. Now, Garuda after saluting his father, flew up in the sky carrying in his beak the elephant and the tortoise from the pool. As trees were falling uprooted due to the terrific vibrations caused by the lashing of his wings Garuda did not find a convenient place to sit down to eat his food. While continuing the journey Garuda saw a big tree, its branches spread out in a circumference of a hundred yojanas. But, as soon as Garuda set foot on a branch of the tree it (branch) crumbled down. On that broken branch were the sages called Valakhilyas doing tapas hanging their heads down. Fearing that the sages might fall down Garuda continued his flight holding in his beak the torn branch of the tree. But he could not find a safe place to deposit the branch with the sages. So he came again to Mount Gandhamadana and saw Kasyapa, who apologised to the Valakhilyas on behalf of his son and also explained to them about his mission. The Valakhilyas were pleased and they left the place for the Himalayas. As advised by Kasyapa Garuda deposited the branch of the tree on an uninhabited mountain peak. Garuda ate the elephant and the tortoise there, and therefrom flew to Devaloka (Adi Parva, Chapter 29, 30).
Even before the arrival of Garuda ill omens began appearing in Devaloka. Indra asked Brhaspati for explanation about the ill omens. Brhaspati with his divine eyes saw Garuda approaching Devaloka for Amrta, and he told Indra about Garuda born out of the powers of the tapas of Kasyapa arid the Valakhilyas. He also told that such a fate as the present one befell Indra due to a curse of the Valakhilyas. Indra and the other Devas stood guard over the pot of Amrta ready to repel all possible attacks.
There was a reason for Canada's birth from the powers of the tapas of the Valakhilyas, and also for Indra to be put into the present predicament due to the curse of the Valakhilyas. Kasyapaprajapati, a long time ago, began a terrific yajna for a son, and Indra and the Valakhilyas who numbered more than 60,000 were deputed by Kasyapa to collect firewood for the yajna. The Valakhilyas were only of the size of a thumb, and Indra who very easily collected all the firewood needed for the yajna laughed at the tiny Valakhilyas who were carrying small twigs etc. for firewood. Angered at the insult the Valakhilyas removed themselves to another place nearby and began a yajna directed against Indra who alarmed at it sought the help of Kasyapa who then held peace talks with the Valakhilyas. They transferred their yagasakti (yajnic powers) also to Kasyapa and agreed to be satisfied with the condition that as the result of Kasyapa's yajna a son should be born to him, who (the son) would defeat Indra. Thus, for the time being Indra escaped from the wrath of the Valakhilyas. After the yajna was over Vinata came to Kasyapa and he blessed her with a son wishing that he should become exceptionally strong and powerful, and that was Garuda. (Adi Parva, Chapter 30).
Lanka island manifests
It has been noted above that Garuda on his way to Devaloka rested on a fig tree. That fig is called Subhadra in Valmiki Ramayana. Ravana saw the fig tree around which sages were sitting and which bore marks made by Garuda sitting thereon. (Valmiki Ramayana, Aranyakanda, Canto 35, Verse 26). There is some connection between this tree and Lanka. Garuda had, as directed by Kasyapa, deposited in the sea the branch of the tree on which the Valakhilyas hung in tapas and with which Garuda flew hither and thither fearing about the safety of the Valakhilyas. At the spot in the sea where the branch was deposited sprang up an island like the peak of a mountain. It was this island which in after years became reputed as Lanka. (Kathasaritsagara, Kathamukhalariibaka, Tarariga 4). (Page 281-282, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)
Hanuman learns Vedas from Surya
Being born of Siva and on account of the Sivasakti in him, Hanuman reached boyhood immediately. To learn the four Vedas and the six sastras he chose Surya mentally as his preceptor, and approached him with the request to be taught the Vedas etc. Surya agreed to have Hanuman as his disciple subject to the condition that the latter would not be permitted to sit with the Valakhilyas in his (Surya's) chariot and study. Hanuman agreed to the condition to learn from Surya walking in front of him. With book opened in his hand and concentrating all his attention on the face of Surya Hanuman traversed the sky and within a short period of sixty hours he mastered all the Vedas and the sastras thoroughly well. (Page 308, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)
Parasurama makes Sri Rama angry
When the fame that Sri Rama was the best of Kings spread far and wide Parasurama once went to see Sri Rama. Giving him the bow and arrow with which he had done the mass massacre of the Ksatriyas he challenged him to string it and take aim. With a smile Sri Rama did so and then Parasurama said Rama should draw the string up to his ears. Sri Rama got angry and then on the face, which became fierce, by his anger, Parasurama saw besides himself, Aditya-Vasu-Rudras, Sadhyas, Valakhilyas, Devarsis, oceans, mountains, the Vedas and all such things of this universe. Sri Rama sent out his missile from the bow. The whole universe was thrown into chaos. Thunder and lightning rocked the world. Heavy rains flooded the whole land space. Burning stars and meteors fell to the ground. Parasurama then knew that Sri Rama was the incarnation of Mahavisnu and he stood bowing before him. Ashamed of his defeat he took leave of Sri Rama and went to Mahendragiri. When he reached there he found he had lost all his brilliance. Then the manes appeared and advised him to go and bathe in the river Vadhusara. Accordingly Parasurama went and bathed in the river and regained his lost brilliance. (Chapter 99, Vana Parva). (Page 571, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)
Lord Siva's views on Valakhilyas
Eighty-eight thousand Valakhilyas were born from the mind of Brahma. They emaciated their bodies by constant baths, fasting and worship of Siva. Though they worshipped Siva thus for one thousand divya years, he did not appear in front of them. Afterwards, when Parvati was travelling by sky one day, the latter saw and took pity on the Valakhilyas and told Siva thus: "These maharsis are suffering like anything. For my sake, you should put an end to their sufferings. Has their evil fate no end? They are reduced to mere skin and bones, and yet they are denied realization." Smilingly Siva told Parvati as follows "You do not know the real course of righteousness. These people do not understand righteousness; they are not free from lust and anger. They are mere fools." At these words of Siva, Parvati told him thus: If things be as you have said please show me their nature, I feel interested. Then Siva asked Parvati to remain where she was, telling her that he would go to the Valakhilyas and show her how they behaved. Accordingly Siva went to them. Siva approached the Valakhilyas in the guise of a handsome youth, wearing the Vanamala garland on his head, holding the alms bowl in his hands and completely in the nude and requested for alms. The Womenfolk of the Advaitins were much attracted by the handsome youth and came to him with a lot of fruits, roots etc. by way of alms. (Page 729, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)
Siva incarnated in the hermitage of the Valakhilyas in the mount of Gandhamadana during the period of Varaha Kalpa (Kalpa one day of Brahma or the period of 14 manus) . It is seen in Siva Purana, Satapatha Brahmana that Bali had four sons, called Sudhama, Kasyapa, Vasistha and Virajas. (Page 104, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)
60,000 Valakhilyas were born to Kratu as per (Visnu Purana, Amsa 1, Chapter 10).
It is stated in Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 65, Stanza 9, that the hermits called Valakhilyas were the sons of Kratu. (Page 417, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)
The extremely bright Valakhilyas were born to Kratu by his wife Sannati. (Agni Purana, Chapter 20).
88,000 Valakhilyas were born from the mind of Brahma. (Page 729, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)
Duties in the month of Phalguna
In the month of Phalguna the Aditya Visnu, the serpent Asvatara, the celestial maid Rambha, the Gandharva Suvarcas, the Yaksa Satyajit, the hermit Visvamitra, and the giant Yajnopeta travel in the chariot. These seven persons live in the region of the Sun in their time. The hermits praise the Sun; the gandharvas sing; the celestial maids dance; the giants walk behind as guards. The serpents prepare the horses to be yoked; the Yaksas hold the bridle and the Valakhilyas stand round the Sun. These groups of seven in each month are responsible for heat, coldness, rain etc. (Visnu Purana, Amsa 2, Chapter 8). (Page 770, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)