Unveiling the Majesty of Garuda: The Legendary Protector in Buddhism

Garuḍa is a legendary bird creature from Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain mythology. In Hinduism, Garuḍa is depicted as a divine bird and the vehicle (vahana) of Lord Vishnu, one of the principal deities in the Hindu pantheon. He is often portrayed as a half-man, half-bird figure with a human body and eagle-like wings, beak, and talons.

According to Hindu mythology, Garuḍa is the sworn enemy of snakes (especially serpents like Nagas and Vasuki) and is considered the king of birds. He is revered for his great strength, speed, and loyalty to Lord Vishnu. Garuḍa is believed to have the power to fly at incredible speeds and carry Lord Vishnu across the heavens.

The origin of Garuḍa is narrated in the Hindu epic “Mahabharata” and the Puranas. He was born as the son of sage Kashyapa and Vinata, the mother of birds. Garuḍa’s siblings include Aruna, the charioteer of the Sun god Surya, and the serpents Nagas.

In Buddhism, Garuḍa is also known as “Suparṇa” and is depicted as a divine bird-like creature similar to the Hindu depiction. In Buddhist art, Garuḍa is often seen as a guardian figure and is associated with protection and the power to ward off evil.

Buddhism believes that Garuḍa is one of the Eight Great Nagas that protect the Buddha. It has various majestic features, a golden body, and a head adorned with a wish-fulfilling jewel. Its cry sounds sorrowful, and every day, it devours one Naga king and five hundred poisonous snakes. As toxic gases accumulate within its body, Garuḍa eventually becomes unable to eat. After flying up and down seven times, it flies to Mount Vajra, where the poisonous gases ignite, and its entire body self-immolates, leaving behind only a pure blue crystal heart.

There are countless Garuḍa beings in the world, and they are governed by four great Garuḍa kings known as Veṇateya, Mahākāya, Mahāmāna, and Cintāmaṇi.

Additionally, Garuḍa is one of the protective deities of Avalokiteśvara (Guan Yin). The manifestation of Avalokiteśvara is manifold, and it can also appear in the form of Garuḍa. In the system of Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism), Garuḍa (Tibetan: khyung) serves as the mount of the Buddha Akshobhya in the northern direction. Garuḍa has a human face and a bird’s body, symbolizing the king of Dharma who attracts all beings, leading them to ultimate realization.

In Jainism, Garuḍa is known as “Garuda Yaksha” and is considered one of the powerful yaksha deities. He is also depicted as a bird-like creature with human characteristics.

Garuḍa’s symbolism extends beyond mythology, and he holds significant cultural and religious importance in various Southeast Asian countries, where he is regarded as a symbol of strength, protection, and victory. In Thailand and Indonesia, for example, Garuḍa is a prominent figure in their art, architecture, and religious ceremonies.

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