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The mount of Lord Vishnu
Garuda by Hyougushi in Delhi.jpg
Garuda at the National Museum in New Delhi, India.
Personal information
ParentsKashyapa and Vinata

The Garuda (Sanskrit: गरुड Garuḍa; Pāli: गरुळ Garuḷa) is a legendary bird or bird-like creature in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythology.[1][2][3] He is variously the vehicle mount (vahana) of the Hindu god Vishnu, a dharma-protector and Astasena in Buddhism, and the Yaksha of the Jain Tirthankara Shantinatha.[2][3][4]

Garuda is described as the king of birds and a kite-like figure.[5][6] He is shown either in zoomorphic form (giant bird with partially open wings) or an anthropomorphic form (man with wings and some bird features). Garuda is generally a protector with power to swiftly go anywhere, ever watchful and an enemy of the serpent.[1][6][7] He is also known as Tarkshya and Vynateya.[8]

Garuda is a part of state insignia in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. The Indonesian official coat of arms is centered on the Garuda. The national emblem of Indonesia is called Garuda Pancasila. The Indian Air Force also uses the Garuda in their coat of arms and even named their special operations unit after it as Garud Commando Force.[9]


Brahminy kite
Garuda may be shown as a kite (left) alone or carrying Vishnu.[6][7] A painting by Raja Ravi Varma (right) showing Garuda and Vishnu.

In Hinduism, Garuda is a divine eagle-like sun bird and the king of birds.[5] A Garutman is mentioned in the Rigveda who is described as celestial deva with wings.[10][11] The Shatapatha Brahmana embedded inside the Yajurveda text mentions Garuda as the personification of courage. In the Mahabharata, Garutman is stated to be same as Garuda, then described as the one who is fast, who can shapeshift into any form and enter anywhere.[10] He is a powerful creature in the epics, whose wing flapping can stop the spinning of heaven, earth and hell. He is described to be the vehicle mount of the Hindu god Vishnu, and typically they are shown together.[10]

According to George Williams, Garuda has roots in the verb gri, or speak.[11] He is a metaphor in the Vedic literature for Rik (rhythms), Saman (sounds), Yajna (sacrifices), and the atman (Self, deepest level of consciousness). In the Puranas, states Williams, Garuda becomes a literal embodiment of the idea, and the Self who attached to and inseparable from the Supreme Self (Vishnu).[11][12] Though Garuda is an essential part of the Vaishnavism mythology, he also features prominently in Shaivism mythology, Shaiva texts such as the Garuda Tantra and Kirana Tantra, and Shiva temples as a bird and as a metaphor of atman.[12][13][14]


Relief depicting a portable Garuda pillar, one of the oldest images of Garuda, Bharhut, 100 BCE.[15]

The Hindu texts on Garuda iconography vary in their details. If in the bird form, he is eagle-like, typically with the wings slightly open as if ready and willing to fly wherever he needs to.[6] In part human-form, he may have an eagle-like nose, beak or legs, his eyes are open and big, his body is the color of emerald, his wings are golden-yellow. He may be shown with either two or four hands.[6] If he is not carrying Vishnu, he holds a jar of amrita (immortality nectar) in one hand in the rear and an umbrella in the other, while the front pair of hands are in anjali (namaste) posture. If he is carrying Vishnu, the rear hands provide the support for Vishnu's feet.[6][7]

According to the text Silparatna, states Rao, Garuda is best depicted with only two hands and with four bands of colors: "golden yellow color from feet to knees, white from knees to the navel, scarlet from navel to neck, and black above the neck". His hands, recommends the text, should be in abhaya (nothing to fear) posture.[6] In Sritatvanidhi text, the recommended iconography for Garuda is a kneeling figure, who wears one or more serpents, pointed bird-beak like nose, his two hands in namaste posture. This style is commonly found in Hindu temples dedicated to Vishnu.[6]

In some iconography, Garuda carries Lord Vishnu and his two consorts by his side: Lakshmi(Thirumagal) and Bhūmi (Bhuma-Devi).[8][16][circular reference]

Garuda iconography is found in early temples of India, such as on the underside of the eave at Cave 3 entrance of the Badami cave temples (6th-century).[6][17]


Garuda is found in Vishnu temples; Above: in Belur, India.

Garuda mythology is linked to that of Aruna – the charioteer of Surya (The Hindu Sun god). However, these Indian mythologies are different, inconsistent across the texts. Both, Aruna and Garuda, developed from the egg. According to one version, states George Williams, Kashyapa Prajapati's two wives Vinata and Kadru wanted to have children. Kashyapa granted them a boon.[18] Kadru asked for one thousand Nāga sons, while Vinata wanted two, each equal to Kadru's thousand naga sons. Kashyapa blessed them, and then went away to a forest to meditate. Later, Kadru gave birth to one thousand eggs, while Vinata gave birth to two eggs. These incubated for five hundred years, upon which Kadru's eggs broke open and out came her 1,000 sons. Vinata eager for her sons, impatiently broke one of the eggs from which emerged the partially formed Aruna, who looked radiant and reddish as the morning sun but not as bright as the midday sun.[18][19] Aruna chided his mother, Vinata for her impatience since he was born without legs, warned her to not break open the second egg and cursed her to be a slave until his brother rescues her. Aruna then left to become the charioteer of Surya, the sun god.

Balinese wooden statue of Vishnu riding Garuda, Purna Bhakti Pertiwi Museum, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Vinata waited, and after many years the second egg hatched, and Garuda was born. Her mother loses bet via cheat, to co-wife of her husband and becomes her slave. Garuda later on put request to his brothers, to free her mother from slavery at which they demanded Amrita from heaven. Garuda wages a war against gods and with his extraordinary might and abilities beyond thinking, defeats all of them along with Indra as their head. Bypassing Indra's security he took Nectar vessel and took flight for earth. In the meanwhile Vishnu comes there and asks for a boon to be his ride, which he granted. Indra request him to not give the Amrita to those Nagas as they will trouble them later, at which they forged a plan. Garuda reaching at his brothers placed the vessel before them, and asked them to first purify themselves before drinking. Meanwhile Jayanta (Son of Indra) comes there and take the vessel with him. On returning, they were all fed to Gadura.[18][20]

Some myths present Garuda as so massive that he can block out the sun.[21] The text Garuda Purana is named after him.[22]

Garuda is presented in the Mahabharata mythology as one who eats snake meat, such as the story about him planning to kill and eat Sumukha snake, where Indra intervenes. Garuda in anger, vaunt about his feats and compares himself to Indra's equal. Vishnu teaches lesson to Garuda and cured his pride on might.[23] Garudas are also a race of birds who devour snakes in the epic.[23]

The Suparṇākhyāna, a late Vedic period poem considered to be among the "earliest traces of epic poetry in India," relates the legend of Garuda, and provides the basis for a later, expanded version which appears within the Mahābhārata.[24][25]


Garuda's links to Vishnu – the Hindu god who fights injustice and destroys evil in his various avatars to preserve dharma, has made him an iconic symbol of king's duty and power, an insignia of royalty or dharma. His eagle-like form is shown either alone or with Vishnu, signifying divine approval of the power of the state.[11] He is found on the faces of many early Hindu kingdom coins with this symbolism, either as a single-headed bird or a three-headed bird that watches all sides.[26]

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 Mahabharata character Drona uses a military formation named after Garuda. Krishna even carries the image of Garuda on his banner.[citation needed]


Garuda vanquishing the Naga clan, a Gandhara artwork, 2nd century CE.

Garuda, also referred to as Garula, are golden-winged birds in Buddhist texts. Under the Buddhist concept of saṃsāra, they are one of the Aṣṭagatyaḥ, the eight classes of inhuman beings. In Buddhist art, they are shown as sitting and listening to the sermons of the Buddha.[1] They are enemies of the Nāgas(snakes) and are sometimes depicted with a serpent held between their claws. Like the Hindu art, both zoomorphic (giant eagle-like bird) and partially anthropomorphic (part bird, part human) iconography is common across Buddhist traditions.[1]

Garuda in Koh Ker style. Made of sandstone, this statue is from the first half of 10th century, (Angkor period). On display at the National Museum of Cambodia.

In Buddhism, the Garuda (Sanskrit; Pāli: garuḷā) are enormous predatory birds with a wingspan of 330 yojanas.[1] They are described as beings with intelligence and social organization. They are also sometimes known as suparṇa (Sanskrit; Pāli: supaṇṇa), meaning "well-winged, having good wings". Like the Nāgas, they combine the characteristics of animals and divine beings, and may be considered to be among the lowest of the devas.[1] 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 simbalī, or silk-cotton tree.

Jataka stories describe them to be residents of Nagadipa or Seruma.[1]

The Garuda are enemies to the nāga, a race of intelligent serpent- or dragon-like beings, whom they hunt. The Garudas at one time caught the nāgas by seizing them by their heads; but the nāgas 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 nāga by the tail and force him to vomit up his stone (Pandara Jātaka, J.518).

The Garudas were among the beings appointed by Śakra to guard Mount Sumeru and the Trāyastriṃśa heaven from the attacks of the asuras.

13th century Cham sculpture depicts Garuda devouring a nāga serpent.

In the Maha-samaya Sutta (Digha Nikaya 20), the Buddha is shown making temporary peace between the Nagas and the Garudas.

In the Qing Dynasty fiction The Story of Yue Fei (1684), Garuda sits at the head of the Buddha's throne. But when a celestial bat (an embodiment of the Aquarius constellation) flatulates 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 eventual political execution.[27] The Story of Yue Fei plays on the legendary animosity between Garuda and the Nagas when the celestial bird-born Yue Fei defeats a magic serpent who transforms into the unearthly spear he uses throughout his military career.[28] Literary critic C. T. Hsia explains the reason why Qian Cai, the book's author, linked Yue with Garuda is because of the homology in their Chinese names. Yue Fei's courtesy name is Pengju (鵬舉).[29] A Peng () is a giant mythological bird likened to the Middle Eastern Roc.[30] Garuda's Chinese name is Great Peng, the Golden-Winged Illumination King (大鵬金翅明王).[29]


The Garuda is a yaksha or guardian for Shantinatha in Jain iconography and mythology.[2][3] Jain iconography shows Garuda as a human figure with wings and a strand-circle.[31]

As a cultural and national symbol

Garuda according to Ida Made Tlaga, a 19th-century Balinese artist.

In India, Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia the eagle symbolism is represented by Garuda, a large bird with eagle-like features that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist epic as the vahana (vehicle) of the god Vishnu. Garuda became the national emblem of Thailand and Indonesia; Thailand's Garuda is rendered in a more traditional anthropomorphic style, while that of Indonesia is rendered in heraldic style with traits similar to the real Javan hawk-eagle.


India primarily uses Garuda as a martial motif:


Garuda guardian sculptures (two on right side), Banteay Srei temple, Cambodia.

The word Garuda (Khmer: គ្រុឌ – " Krud ") is literally derived from Sanskrit.[33]

  • In Cambodia, Khmer architects have used the Garuda sculptures as the exquisite ornate to equip on temples, Viharas of wat and many elite houses since ancient time, especially from Khmer empire era until nowadays.
  • Garuda is also mentioned in many legendary tales as the vehicle of Vishnu and its main rival is Naga.


Balinese dancers including a man dressed as Garuda (1935).

Indonesia uses the Garuda in a form called the Garuda Pancasila as its national symbol. It is somewhat intertwined with the concept of the Phoenix. The Garuda Pancasila is coloured black or gilded, symbolizing both the greatness of the nation and the elang Jawa (Javan hawk-eagle Nisaetus bartelsi). The black color represents nature. There are 17 feathers on each wing, 8 on the lower tail, 19 on the upper tail and 45 on the neck, which together make up the date 17 August 1945, when Indonesia proclaimed its independence. The shield it carries bears the motto Panca Sila, which symbolizes self-defense and protection in struggle.[9]

A part of planned 120-metre tall Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue in Bali, currently under construction.


Wingless statue of Garuda or Karura in Kofukuji Temple, Nara, Japan, 8th century.
  • The Karura (迦楼羅) is a divine creature with human torso and birdlike head in Japanese Hindu-Buddhist epics.[35]
  • The name is a transliteration of Garuda (Sanskrit: Garuḍa गरुड; Pāli: Garuḷa) a race of enormously gigantic birds in Hinduism, upon which the Japanese Buddhist version is based. The same creature may go by the name of konjichō (金翅鳥, lit. "gold-winged bird", Skr. suparṇa).


  • The Garuda, known as Khangarid, is the symbol of the capital city of Mongolia, Ulan Bator.[36] According to popular Mongolian belief, Khangarid is the mountain spirit of the Bogd Khan Uul range who became a follower of Buddhist faith. Today he is considered the guardian of that mountain range and a symbol of courage and honesty.
  • Khangarid (Хангарьд), a football (soccer) team in the Mongolia Premier League also named after Garuda.
  • Garuda Ord (Гаруда Орд), a private construction and trading company based in Ulaanbaatar, also named after Garuda.
  • State Garuda (Улсын Гарьд) is a title given to the debut runner up in wrestling tournament during Mongolian National Festival Naadam.


  • In Burmese epics, which was influenced by Hindu-Buddhist beliefs, Garuda is known as Galone, the nemesis of the Nāgas.[37]


Garuda is found in Nepalese traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Sun Dhoka Golden Gate with the Goddess Taleju Bhawani[38] and Garuda, leading to the Royal Palace, Durbar Square, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bhaktapur, Nepal.



  • Galura surname in Kapampangan language originally comes from the Sanskrit Garuda.
  • The Maranao people of southern Philippines believe in a race of creatures called garuda who dwell beneath the sea. These beings are winged, have big teeth, and huge talons that can carry six men. They look like eagles when flying in the sky but transform into humans when in their lairs.[39]



Garuda as the masthead of Thai royal barge.

Thailand uses the Garuda (Thai: ครุฑ, khrut) as its national symbol, known as the Phra Khrut Pha, meaning "Garuda, the vehicle (of Vishnu)," also used as the symbol of royalty.[40] It adorns the banknote of their currency - the Baht - as well.[41]

  • The Kingdom of Siam has had an image of Garuda in its coins at least since the Ayutthaya era.[41]
  • Statues and images of Garuda adorn many Buddhist temples in Thailand. It also has become a cultural symbol of Thailand.
  • The figure of Garuda is also installed as the figurehead or masthead of Thai royal barges.



In other media

  • A Garuda voiced by Robin Williams appears in the film Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.[42]
  • The Garuda appears as a species of beings in the television show Lost Girl portrayed by Raoul Trujillo.
  • Garuda is the name of a Warframe in the video game Warframe.
  • One of the largest known species of wasp takes its name from Garuda, Megalara garuda.
  • In the manga and anime Saint Seiya, one of the Three Judges of the Underworld is Garuda Aiacos, wearing an armor known as a Surplice with a design inspired by the Garuda.
  • Garuda is the name of the secondary mech used in Choujin Sentai Jetman, Bird Garuda/Jet Garuda.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Game exists a card called "Garuda the wind spirit" depicted as a kite, resembling Garuda
  • Garuda is the squadron call sign for the player in Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation.
  • In Shadowverse Card Game Garuda appeared as Garuda, Ruler of Storms, a legendary Havencraft-class card come from Brigade of the Sky Expansion, Garuda also appeared as a custom leader for Havencraft-class.
  • Emperor Garuda is the final boss of the NES video-game Shadow of the Ninja.
  • Garuda is a monster found throughout the video game franchise Final Fantasy
  • Garuda is the sworn younger brother of Jaecheondaeseong and the Ox King in the webtoon God of highschool.
  • Garuda makes an appearance in S4-EP3 of Joey Graceffa's YouTube original, Escape the Night.
  • The Garuda bird appears in Harry Turtledove's book The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, as the subject of a joint Indian-American space program.
  • The Garuda are a race of nomadic humanoid birds of prey in China Miéville's Bas-Lag-trilogy. Its first installment, the novel Perdido Street Station, is partly told from the perspective of a Garuda whose wings have been cut off as a punishment.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Robert E. Buswell Jr.; Donald S. Lopez Jr. (2013). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press. pp. 314–315. ISBN 978-1-4008-4805-8.
  2. ^ a b c Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  3. ^ a b c Helmuth von Glasenapp (1999). Jainism: An Indian Religion of Salvation. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 532. ISBN 978-81-208-1376-2.
  4. ^ Robert E. Buswell Jr.; Donald S. Lopez Jr. (2013). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press. pp. 249–250. ISBN 978-1-4008-4805-8.
  5. ^ a b George M. Williams (2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 21, 24, 63, 138. ISBN 978-0-19-533261-2., Quote: "His vehicle was Garuda, the sun bird" (p. 21); "(...) Garuda, the great sun eagle, (...)" (p. 74)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i T. A. Gopinatha Rao (1993). Elements of Hindu iconography. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 285–287. ISBN 978-81-208-0878-2.
  7. ^ a b c Thomas E. Donaldson (2001). The iconography of Vaiṣṇava images in Orissa. DK Printworld. pp. 253–259.
  8. ^ a b Roshen Dalal (2010). The Religions of India: A Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths. Penguin Books. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-14-341517-6.
  9. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 August 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  10. ^ a b c Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. pp. 144–145. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  11. ^ a b c d George M. Williams (2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 138–139. ISBN 978-0-19-533261-2.
  12. ^ a b Mark S. G. Dyczkowski (1988). The Canon of the Saivagama and the Kubjika: Tantras of the Western Kaula Tradition. State University of New York Press. pp. 40–41. ISBN 978-0-88706-494-4.
  13. ^ Peter Heehs (2002). Indian Religions: A Historical Reader of Spiritual Expression and Experience. New York University Press. pp. 195–196. ISBN 978-0-8147-3650-0.
  14. ^ Dominic Goodall (2001). Hindu Scriptures. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 341–358. ISBN 978-81-208-1770-8.
  15. ^ Gupta, The Roots of Indian Art, 1980, p.29
  16. ^ Bhūmi
  17. ^ George Michell (2015). Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal. Jaico Publishing. pp. 49–52. ISBN 978-81-8495-600-9.
  18. ^ a b c George M. Williams (2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-0-19-533261-2.
  19. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 70.
  20. ^ Ashok, Banker K (2012). Forest of Stories. Westland. pp. 173–175. ISBN 978-93-81626-37-5. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  21. ^ Brenda Rosen (2010). Mythical Creatures Bible. Godsfield Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-1402765360.
  22. ^ Ludo Rocher (1986). The Purāṇas. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 175–177. ISBN 978-3-447-02522-5.
  23. ^ a b Johannes Adrianus Bernardus Buitenen (1973). The Mahabharata, Volume 3 (Book 4: The Book of the Virata; Book 5: The Book of the Effort). University of Chicago Press. pp. 167–168, 389–393. ISBN 978-0-226-84665-1.
  24. ^ Moriz Winternitz (1996). A History of Indian Literature, Volume 1. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 291–292. ISBN 978-81-208-0264-3.
  25. ^ Jean Philippe Vogel (1995). Indian Serpent-lore: Or, The Nāgas in Hindu Legend and Art. Asian Educational Services. pp. 53–54. ISBN 978-81-206-1071-2.
  26. ^ K. D. Bajpai (October 2004). Indian Numismatic Studies. Abhinav Publications. pp. 19–24, 84–85, 120–124. ISBN 978-81-7017-035-8.
  27. ^ Hsia, C.T. C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature. Columbia University Press, 2004 (ISBN 0231129904), 154
  28. ^ Hsia, C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature, pp. 149
  29. ^ a b Hsia, C.T. C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature, pp. 149 and 488, n. 30
  30. ^ Chau, Ju-Kua, Friedrich Hirth, and W.W. Rockhill. Chau Ju-Kua: His Work on the Chinese and Arab Trade in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, entitled Chu-Fan-Chi. St. Petersburg: Printing Office of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1911, p. 149, n. 1
  31. ^ Studies in South Asian Culture. Universiteit van Amsterdam. Institute of South Asian Archaeology. p. 24.
  32. ^ Abhishek Saksena (4 January 2016). "Here's everything you need to know about Indian Air Force's elite Garud Commandos #Pathankotattacks". India Times.
  33. ^ Khmer dictionary of Buddhist institute of Cambodia, published in 1967.
  34. ^ Garuda Team
  35. ^ "Karura 迦楼羅, Karura-Ō 迦楼羅王 (Skt. = Garuda) Bird of Life, Celestial Eagle, Half Bird Half Man". Japanese Buddhist Statuary.
  36. ^ Michael Kohn. Mongolia. Lonely Planet, 2005. p. 52.
  37. ^ Maitrii Aung-Thwin (2011). The Return of the Galon King: History, Law, and Rebellion in Colonial Burma. NUS Press. p. 122. ISBN 9789971695095.
  38. ^ Taleju Bhawani and Kumari (goddess) worship
  39. ^ []
  40. ^ "Thailand Information". Royal Embassy of Thailand in Doha, Qatar.
  41. ^ a b "Garuda: a symbol on Thai currency".
  42. ^ curl=[]

External links