Garuda - the mythical bird

ABS 234

 Code: ABS 234

  Country: Tibet

  Style: Nepalese School

  Date: 1300 - 1400

  Dimensions in cm WxHxD: 42.5 x 35

  Materials: Gilt copper

Hammered and gilt sheet of copper with painted decoration.
 
Garuda (Skt.) - known in Tibetan as Khyung - is a mythical bird. Is's name is interpreted as "devourer". Garuda is the vehicle (vahana) of Tathagata Amoghasiddhi, Vajrapani, and the Brahmanical god Vishnu. Garuda was originally regarded as a kind of bird; later half bird, half man; chief enemy of the snakes (naga). The meaning of Khyung in the Tibetan context and of Garuda in the Indian mythology is very similar, but in Tibetan art the Khyung is often represented horned.
 
(Formerly von Schroeder Coll.)
Garuda
The Garuda (Sanskrit: Garuda, Pali Garula) is a large mythical bird or bird-like creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology.
Garuda is the Hindu name for the constellation Aquila.
 
Garuda in Hinduism
In Hindu mythology, a Garuda is a lesser Hindu divinity, usually the mount (vahanam) of Vishnu. Garuda is depicted as having a golden body, white face, red wings, and an eagle's beak, but with a man's body. He wears a crown on his head. He is ancient and has size enough to block out the sun.
 
His stature in Hindu religion can be gauged by the fact that an independent Upanishad, the Garudopanidad, and a Purana, the Garuda Purana, is devoted to him. Various names have been attributed to Garuda - Chirada, Gaganeshvara, Kamayusha, Kashyapi, Khageshvara, Nagantaka, Sitanana, Sudhahara, Suparna, Tarkshya, Vainateya, Vishnuratha and others. The Vedas provide the earliest reference of Garuda, though by the name of Syena, where this mighty bird is said to have brought nectar to earth from heaven. The Puranas, which came into existence much later, mention Garuda as doing the same thing, which indicates that Syena (Sanskrit for Eagle) and Garuda are the same. One of the faces of Sri Pancamukha Hanuman is Mahavira Garuda. This face points towards the west. Worship of Garuda is believed to remove the effects of poisons from one's body. In Tamil Vaishnavism Garuda and Hanuman are known as "Periya Thiruvadi" and "Siriya Thiruvadi" respectively.
In the Bhagavad-Gita (Ch.10, Verse 30), in the middle of the battlefield "Kurukshetra", Krishna explaining his omnipresence, says - "Of birds, I am the son of Vineeta (Garuda)" indicating the importance of Garuda.
Garuda plays an important role in Krishna Avatar in which Krishna and Satyabhama ride on Garuda to kill Narakasura. On another occasion, Lord Hari rides on Garuda to save the devotee Elephant Gajendra. It is also said that Garuda's wings when flying will chant the Vedas.
 
Garuda in the Mahabharata
The story of Garuda's birth and deeds is told in the first book of the great epic Mahabharata. According to the epic, when Garuda first burst forth from his egg, he appeared as a raging inferno equal to the cosmic conflagration that consumes the world at the end of every age. Frightened, the gods begged him for mercy. Garuda, hearing their plea, reduced himself in size and energy.
 
Garuda's father was the creator-rishi Kasyapa. His mother was Vinata, whose sister was Kadru, the mother of serpents. One day, Vinata entered into and lost a foolish bet, as a result of which she became enslaved to her sister. Resolving to release his mother from this state of bondage, Garuda approached the serpents and asked them what it would take to purchase her freedom. Their reply was that Garuda would have to bring them the elixir of immortality, also called amrita. It was a tall order. The amrita at that time found itself in the possession of the gods, who guarded it jealously, since it was the source of their immortality. They had ringed the elixir with a massive fire that covered the sky. They had blocked the way to the elixir with a fierce mechanical contraption of sharp rotating blades. And finally, they had stationed two gigantic poisonous snakes next to the elixir as deadly guardians.
The wall surrounding the Cambodian temple city of Preah Khan is decorated with massive stone images of Garuda standing on one serpent and holding another overhead.
The wall surrounding the Cambodian temple city of Preah Khan is decorated with massive stone images of Garuda standing on one serpent and holding another overhead.
 
Undaunted, Garuda hastened toward the abode of the gods intent on robbing them of their treasure. Knowing of his design, the gods met him in full battle-array. Garuda, however, defeated the entire host and scattered them in all directions. Taking the water of many rivers into his mouth, he extinguished the protective fire the gods had thrown up. Reducing his size, he crept past the rotating blades of their murderous machine. And finally, he mangled the two gigantic serpents they had posted as guards. Taking the elixir into his mouth without swallowing it, he launched again into the air and headed toward the eagerly waiting serpents. En route, he encountered Vishnu. Rather than fight, the two exchanged promises. Vishnu promised Garuda the gift of immortality even without drinking from the elixir, and Garuda promised to become Vishnu's mount. Flying onward, he met Indra the god of the sky. Another exchange of promises occurred. Garuda promised that once he had delivered the elixir, thus fulfilling the request of the serpents, he would make it possible for Indra to regain possession of the elixir and to take it back to the gods. Indra in turn promised Garuda the serpents as food.
 
At long last, Garuda alighted in front of the waiting serpents. Placing the elixir on the grass, and thereby liberating his mother Vinata from her servitude, he urged the serpents to perform their religious ablutions before consuming it. As they hurried off to do so, Indra swooped in to make off with the elixir. From that day onward, Garuda was the ally of the gods and the trusty mount of Vishnu, as well as the implacable enemy of snakes, upon whom he prayed at every opportunity.
 
Garuda's descendants
Also according to the Mahabharata, Garuda had six sons from whom were descended the race of birds. The members of this race were of great might and without compassion, subsisting as they did on their relatives the snakes. Vishnu was their protector.
 
Garuda as a symbol in the Mahabharata
Throughout the Mahabharata, Garuda is invoked as a symbol of impetuous violent force, of speed, and of martial prowess. Powerful warriors advancing rapidly on doomed foes are likened to Garuda swooping down on a serpent. Defeated warriors are like snakes beaten down by Garuda. The field marshal Drona uses a military formation named after Garuda. Krishna even carries the image of Garuda on his banner.
 
Garudas in Buddhism
In Buddhist mythology, the garudas (Pali: garula) are enormous predatory birds with intelligence and social organization. Another name for the garuda is suparna (Pali: supanna), meaning "well-winged, having good wings". Like the Nagas, they combine the characteristics of animals and divine beings, and may be considered to be among the lowest devas.
 
The exact size of the garusa is uncertain, but its wings are said to have a span of many miles. This may be a poetic exaggeration, but it is also said that when a garuda's wings flap, they create hurricane-like winds that darken the sky and blow down houses. A human being is so small compared to a garuda that a man can hide in the plumage of one without being noticed (Kakati Jataka, J.327). They are also capable of tearing up entire banyan trees from their roots and carrying them off.
The garudas have kings and cities, and at least some of them have the magical power of changing into human form when they wish to have dealings with people. On some occasions Garuda kings have had romances with human women in this form. Their dwellings are in groves of the simbali, or silk-cotton tree.
 
The garudas are enemies to the Nagas, a race of intelligent serpent- or dragon-like beings, whom they hunt. The garudas at one time caught the nagas by seizing them by their heads; but the nagas learned that by swallowing large stones, they could make themselves too heavy to be carried by the garudas, wearing them out and killing them from exhaustion. This secret was divulged to one of the garudas by the ascetic Karambiya, who taught him how to seize a naga by the tail and force him to vomit up his stone (Pandara Jataka, J.518).
The garudas were among the beings appointed by Sakra to guard Mount Sumeru and the Trayastrimsa heaven from the attacks of the asuras.
 
In the Mahasamyatta Sutta, the Buddha is shown making temporary peace between the Nagas and the garudas.
The Sanskrit word garuḍa has been borrowed and modified in the languages of several Buddhist countries. In Thai the word for a garuda is Krut . In Burmese, garudas are called ga-lon. In Japanese a garuda is called Karura.
 
For the Mongols, the garuda is called Khan Garuda or Khangar'd. Before and after each round of Mongolian wrestling, groups perform the Garuda Dance, a stylised imitation of the Khangar'd and a hawk.
 
In the Qing Dynasty fiction The Story of Yue Fei, Garuda sits at the head of the Buddha. But when a celestial bat (an embodiment of the Aquarius constellation) farts during the Buddha’s expounding of the Lotus Sutra, Garuda kills her and is exiled from paradise. He is later reborn as Song Dynasty General Yue Fei. The bat is reborn as Lady Wang, wife of the traitor Prime Minister Qin Hui, and is instrumental in formulating the "Eastern Window" plot that leads to Yue's political execution

Beer, Robert , 2003. Les symboles du bouddhisme Tibétain. Albin Michel. Pp. 125-129

Nagar, Shanti Lal, 1992. Garuda the celestial Bird in Indian Art and Literature. Delhi: Book India Publ.