I am seeking any information about Garuda and his forms as a Dharmapala.

He is depicted as the ‘mount’ of deities in Buddhism as well, such as Amoghasiddhi, but there are mentions of Garuda as a Dharmapala in his own right which I’m trying to recall! 😉

So far, I am familair mainly with his power used in combination as the Threefold Wrathful One of Vajrapani, Hayagriva and Garuda.  He is also sometimes considered as a form of Vajrapani, as stated here:


”Vajrapani is the second Dhyani-Bodhisattva corresponding to the five Celestial Jinas. He is also one of the group of eight Dhyani-Bodhisattva found in the Northern Buddhist temples, in which case he is represented standing, with the vajra and ghanta supported by lotus-flowers, the stems of which he holds in his hands in ‘charity’ and ‘argument’ mudra.

He has several ferocious (Dharmapala) forms, assumed to combat the various demons.

The most important of these forms are:

Vajrapani-Acdrya (Dharmapala).

He is represented in human form, with his dishevelled hair standing on end and wearing a skull crown. His expression is angry, and he has the third eye. Around his neck is a serpent necklace, and at his waist a belt of heads, underneath which is a tiger skin. He steps to the right, and in his uplifted hand is a vajra. If painted, he is dark blue, and is generally surrounded by flames in which are small Garudas.

Nilambara-Vajrapani (Yi-dam).

He has one head, a third eye, a skull crown, with sometimes a vajra, and snake in his dishevelled hair, and has four or six arms. Two hands are held at his breast in a mystic mudra, and the second right arm is uplifted holding the vajra. He steps to the right on a crowned personage 13 lying on a bed of serpents.

Acala-Vajrapani (Dharmapala).

He has four heads, four arms as well as four legs, and his symbols are vajra, sword, lasso, and skull-cup (kapala). He treads on demons.

Mahacakra-Vajrapani (Yi-dam).

He has three heads with the third eye, six arms, and two legs. He is painted blue — the head at the right is white, at the left red. His symbols are the vajra and a long serpent, and he holds his yum with the two original arms. The sakti holds a kapala (skull-cup) and grigug (chopper). He steps to the right on Brahma and his left foot treads on Siva.

Garuda form.

He is usually standing and has the wings and claws of a Garuda (PI. lix, fig. c). He may have a human head with a beak, or a head like a Garuda. He sometimes carries a sword and a gourd-shaped bottle, or his two hands may be in ‘ prayer mudra.

This form is complicated in that in some legends Vajrapani protects the rain-giving Nagas from the Garudas by assuming the form of a Garuda and leading them away from harming the Nagas.

In all of the forms the Garuda represents a powerful force of Wisdom protecting against inner, outer and secret obstacles.

If anyone has a source describing Garuda as a Dharmapala I would welcome the information. 🙂