Garuda Resources

Karura - Japanese spelling
Karura 迦楼羅, Karura-Ō 迦楼羅王 (Skt. = Garuda)
Bird of Life, Celestial Eagle, Half Bird Half ManORIGIN = HINDU MYTHOLOGY
Member of the TENBU. One of EIGHT LEGIONS Guarding Buddhism.
One of KANNON’S 33 BASIC MANIFESTATIONS.Karura - at Sanjusangendo in Kyoto, Kamakura Period Karura - NOH Mask -- courtesty Karura - NOH Mask -- courtesty
(L) Karura at Sanjūsangendō 三十三間堂 in Kyoto (see full image below)
(M) Modern NOH Mask. Found on J-web. (R) Modern NOH Mask. Found on J-web.
See Learn More section below for links to these J-web estores.

Karura 迦楼羅

Karura - at Sanjusangendo in Kyoto, Kamakura Period, Wood; photo courtesy of Handbook by Ishii Ayako
Karura, Sanjūsangendō 三十三間堂 (Kyoto)
Kamakura Era, Wood, Photo this J-book

spacerSanskrit = Garuḍa (the Devourer), Chinese = Jiālóuluó
Japanese = Karura, Korean = 가루라, Tibet = Khyung
A mythical bird-man creature of Hindu lore who was later adopted into the Buddhist pantheon as a protector deity. The gold-colored Garuda (Skt.) has a human body but the wings, face, and beak of an eagle-like bird. In early Hindu literature, Garuda is granted immortality by Lord Vishnu and serves as Vishnu’s mount (avatar). In Tibetan tradition, Garuda is a mythical bird, similar to an eagle, but of gigantic proportions, able to block the sunlight with its size. In Japan, Garuda is an enormous fire-breathing eagle-man with golden feathers and magic gems crowning its head. Garuda’s various attributes are:

  • Personifies the blazing rays of sun, the wind, and the esoteric teachings of the Vedas (Indian texts of sacred knowledge).
  • Fierce bird of prey, variously described as an eagle, hawk, or kite. Can spew fire from mouth; flapping of wings sounds like clap of thunder.
  • Mortal Enemy of the naga, a Hindu group including serpents & dragons. Karura feeds on the naga.
  • Only naga who possess a Buddhist talisman, or naga who have converted to Buddhism, can escape from the naga-eating Karura. <Source: Flammarion>
  • Karura’s hatred of the naga stems from an ancient feud between Karura’s mother (Skt. Vinata) and her sister (the mother of the naga).
  • First to teach mankind how to cure snake poison.
  • In Vedic and Hindu mythology, Karura steals the nectar of immortality from Indra in order to gain the release of his enslaved mother. The pot of nectar is eventually returned to Indra, on condition that Indra grant Karura permission to feed on naga.
  • In the Purana (religious texts of ancient Hindu myths), Karura accidentally drops the bile of a slain Ashura; the bile falls to earth where it solidifies into veins of emerald. This story sparked the belief that touching emeralds neutralizes any poison.
  • In Southeast Asia the walls of temples are often decorated with Karura, as at Angkor and Java
  • Carries the sacred Nyoi Hōju 如意宝珠 (Chn. = Rúyì 如意) jewel on its neck. This pearl is said to grant every wish and remove every suffering. According to legend, this jewel emerged from the head of the dragon king 竜王. <Sources: JAANUS and Digital Dictionary of Chinese Buddhism>
  • Garuda is sometimes translated into English as griffin. <Source: Digital Dictionary of Chinese Buddhism; sign in with user name “guest”>
  • In Japanese art, Karura is depicted as an ornate bird with human head; sometimes shown treading on serpents or holding serpents. Karura does not appear often in Japanese Buddhist sculpture, and is rarely the object of central devotion.
  • In Japanese art, Karura is one of the 33 Manifestations of Kannon Bodhisattva. See photo below.
  • Like the Phoenix, Garuḍa is associated with fire and serves as a symbol of flame (said to represent the purification of the mind by the burning away of all material desires). In Japan, the term Karura-en 迦楼羅焔 refers to the flames spewed from Karura’s mouth, while the term Karura Enkō 迦楼羅焔光 refers to the feiry halo (kaen kōhai 火焔光背) often attached to statues of Fudō Myō-ō. Some say Fudō’s customary flame halo originated from the vomit of Karura, while others say the halo resembles Karura’s outstretched wings. Karura’s head is sometimes depicted on Fudō’s halo as well. <Source: JAANUS>
  • There is a great deal of confusion about Karura and the mythical Phoenix. Many web sites refer to the Karura as Phoenix, and vice versa, but this is wrong. The two are different mythical creatures.
  • Garuda is the national symbol of both Thailand and Indonesia. The national airline of Indonesian, moreover, is named Garuda Indonesia.

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Karura, Wood, Hase Dera, Kamakura, 15th Century
Karura. Painted Wood. One of Kannon’s 33 Forms
Hase Dera (Hase Kannon Temple) in Kamakura
From a set of 33 presented to Hase Dera
by Shogun Yoshimasa (1449-1471 AD)

The 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra (Hokke-kyō 法華経) is popularly known as the Kannon Sutra (Jp. Kannonkyō 觀音経). It lists thirty-three forms that Kannon assumes when aiding sentient beings, including that of a Karura, dragon, monk, nun, official, child, general, king, & Buddha.
Karura, Hollow Dry Lacquer, Kofukuji Temple, Nara
Karura, Kōfukuji Temple, Nara
Hollow dry lacquer (dakkatsu kanshitsu 脱活乾漆)
H = 149 cm, Nara Period, National Treasure

Head of Garuda with body of Lion
The Eight-Legged Lion – Son of Union between Garuda and Lion.
One of the Three Symbols of Victory in the Fight against Disharmony.
From Buddhist Symbols in Tibetan Culture, by Loden Sherap Dagyab Rinpoche
Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-047-9. Click here to buy book at Amazon

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Karura image by Ida Made Tlaga of Sanur (Bali); dated around 1880.
Image made by Ida Made Tlaga in Sanur (Bali) around 1880.
The original is kept at the library of Leiden University. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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Karura is the name of a legendary bird
Karura flys in the four heavens over Mt. Shumisen
Eating dragons
Its wings shine with a golden color
Magical gems are at its head
Blazes from its mouth
Over 1,200 km. in size

Karura - Phoenix God, Protector of the South Quandrant
Photo courtesy of

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Engraving of Karyoubinga on Octogonal Pedestal, Chusonji Temple
Karura is sometimes associated / confused with Karyōbinga.
Karyōbinga Engraving on Octogonal Pedestal, Chūsonji Temple 中尊寺, 12th Century
(Length) 193.9 cm  (Height) 52.5cm., Photo courtesy 日本の美をめぐる, No. 35

Karyōbinga (Skt. = Kalavinka) 迦陵頻伽
Celestial beings who play music, dance, and fly through the air. They appear in many forms,
often with bird’s body and angelic head, and are sometimes associated with Amida Nyorai.
They appear often in Buddhist paintings, ritual robes, murals, and temple decorations.

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Karura, Modern Gigaku Masks
Japanese GIGAKU Masks of Karura
At the Tokyo National Museum
Gigaku 伎楽 = Masked theatrical performances.In Japan, Karura 迦楼羅 also refers to a gigakumen 伎楽面 (gigaku mask) representing the mythical bird and used in a gigaku bird dance that was performed during the 8th to 12th century.
Karura, Gyodo mask, Heian Era 12th Century, Houryuu-ji Temple
Karura, Gyōdōmen 行道面 Mask, Heian Era
12th Century, Hōryūji Temple 法隆寺, Nara
Gyōdōmen = Parade masks to teach the
commoner about gaining good karma

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Copyright 1995-2009. Mark Schumacher. Email Mark.
All stories and photos, unless specified otherwise, by Schumacher.

The above information is from:


Wikipedia 27.10.2011:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Garuda, the Vahana of Lord Vishnu
Devanagari गरुड
Sanskrit Transliteration Garuḍa

The Garuda (Sanskrit/Javanese/Balinese/Indonesian: गरुड garuḍa, “eagle”; Pāli garuḷa; Burmese: ဂဠုန်, [ɡəlòuɴ]; Tamil: karutan; Thai/Lao: ครุฑ khrut; Khmer: គ្រុឌ; Malay: geroda; Mongolian: гарьд garid) is a large mythical bird or bird-like creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology.

From an Indian perspective, Garuda is the Hindu name for the constellation Aquila and the Brahminy kite is considered to be the contemporary representation of Garuda.[1] Indonesia adopts a more stylistic approach to the Garuda’s depiction as its national symbol, where it depicts an eagle (being much larger than a kite).[2]


In Hinduism

Vishnu and Lakshmi riding on the Garuda – Painting in LACMA from Rajasthan, Bundi, c.1730

In Hindu religion, Garuda is a lesser Hindu divinity, usually the mount (vahanam) of the God Vishnu. Garuda is depicted as having the golden body of a strong man with a white face, red wings, and an eagle’s beak and with a crown on his head. This ancient deity was said to be massive, large enough to block out the sun.

Garuda is known as the eternal sworn enemy of the Nāga serpent race and known for feeding exclusively on snakes, such behavior may have referred to the actual Short-toed Eagle of India. The image of Garuda is often used as the charm or amulet to protect the bearer from snake attack and its poison, since the king of birds is an implacable enemy and “devourer of serpent”. Garudi Vidya is the mantra against snake poison to remove all kinds of evil.[3]

His stature in Hindu religion can be gauged by the fact that an independent Upanishad, the Garudopanishad, 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 Śyena, 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 Śyena (Sanskrit for Eagle) and Garuda are the same. One of the faces of Śrī Pañcamukha 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 – ” as son of Vinata, I am in the form of Garuda, the king of the bird community (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.

In the Mahabharata

Birth and deeds

Vishnu swoops down from heaven on an eagle named Garuda, who has four arms in this image, two of which hold vessels that probably contain the nectar of immortality.

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

The story of Garuda’s birth and deeds is told in the first book of the great epic Mahabharata.[4] 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.

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 preyed at every opportunity.

Garuda, Belur, India


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.[5]

As a Symbol

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.[6] Defeated warriors are like snakes beaten down by Garuda.[7] The field marshal Drona uses a military formation named after Garuda.[8] Krishna even carries the image of Garuda on his banner.[9]

In Buddhism

The statues of Krut battling naga serpent, a Thai Buddhist adaptation of Garuda in Wat Phra Kaeo temple, Bangkok

In Buddhist mythology, the Garuda (Pāli: garuḷā) are enormous predatory birds with intelligence and social organization. Another name for the Garuda is suparṇa (Pāli: supaṇṇa), meaning “well-winged, having good wings”. Like the nāga, they combine the characteristics of animals and divine beings, and may be considered to be among the lowest devas.

The exact size of the 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 (Kākātī Jātaka, J.327). They are also capable of tearing up entire banyan trees from their roots and carrying them off.

Garudas are the great golden-winged Peng birds. They also have the ability to grow large or small, and to appear and disappear at will. Their wingspan is 330 yojanas (one yojana being 40 miles long). With one flap of its wings, a Peng bird dries up the waters of the sea so that it can gobble up all the exposed dragons. With another flap of its wings, it can level the mountains by moving them into the ocean.

There were also the four garuda-kings : Great-Power-Virtue Garuda-King, Great-Body Garuda-King, Great-Fulfillment Garuda-King, and Free-At-Will Garuda-King, each accompanied by hundreds of thousands of attendants.

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.

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.

In the Mahasamyatta Sutta, the Buddha is shown making temporary peace between the Nagas and the Garudas.

The Thai rendering of Krut (Garuda) as Vishnu vehicle and Garuda’s quest for elixir was based on Indian legend of Garuda. It was told that Garuda overcame many heavenly beings in order to gain the ambrosia (amrita) elixir. No one was able to get the better of him, not even Narai (Vishnu). At last, a truce was called and an agreement was made to settle the rancor and smooth all the ruffled feathers. If was agreed that when Narai is in his heavenly palace, Garuda will be positioned in a superior status, atop the pillar above Narai’s residence. However, whenever Narai wants to travel anywhere, Garuda must serve as his transport.[citation needed]

The Sanskrit word Garuda has been borrowed and modified in the languages of several Buddhist countries. In Burmese, Garudas are called galone (ဂဠုန်). In Burmese astrology, the vehicle of the Sunday planet is the galone.[10] In Kapampangan the native word for eagle is galura. In Japanese a Garuda is called karura (however, the form Garuda ガルーダ is used in recent Japanese fiction – see below).

For the Mongols, the Garuda is called Khan Garuda or Khangarid (Mongolian: Хангарьд). Before and after each round of Mongolian wrestling, wrestlers perform the Garuda ritual, a stylised imitation of the Khangarid and a hawk.[citation needed]

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) 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 eventual political execution.[11] It is interesting to note 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.[12] 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 style name is Pengju (鵬舉).[13] A Peng (鵬) is a giant mythological bird likened to the Middle Eastern Roc.[14] Garuda’s Chinese name is Great Peng, the Golden-Winged Illumination King (大鵬金翅明王).[13]

As a cultural and national symbol

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

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


India uses Garuda as military symbols:


Indonesia uses the Garuda, Garuda Pancasila as its national symbol, it is somewhat intertwined with the concept of the phoenix.

  • The Garuda Pancasila is coloured or gilt gold, symbolizes the greatness of the nation and is a representation of the elang Jawa or 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 represent the date Indonesia proclaimed its independence: 17 August 1945. The shield it carries with the Indonesian Panca Sila heraldry symbolizes self-defense and protection in struggle.[2]
  • The Indonesian national airline is Garuda Indonesia.
  • Indonesian Armed Forces United Nations peacekeeping missions is known as Pasukan Garuda or Garuda deployments.
  • In Bali and Java Garuda has become a cultural symbol, the wooden statue and mask of Garuda is a popular artworks and souvenirs.
  • In Bali, we can find the tallest Garuda statue of 18 metres tall made from tons of copper and brass. The statue is located in Garuda Wisnu Kencana complex.
  • Garuda has identified as Indonesia National Football Team in international games, namely “The Garuda Team”.[15]

Garuda 18m tall statue in Garuda Wisnu Kencana, Bali.


Thailand uses the Garuda (Thai: ครุฑ krut) as its national symbol.

  • One form of the Garuda used in Thailand as a sign of the royal family is called Krut Pha, meaning “Garuda acting as the vehicle (of Vishnu).”
  • The statue and images of Garuda adorned many buddhist temples in Thailand, it also has become the cultural symbol of Thailand.


  • The Garuda, known as Khangarid, is the symbol of the capital city of Mongolia, Ulan Bator.[16] 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.
  • The bird also gives its name to Hangard Aviation
  • Khangarid (Хангарьд), a football (soccer) team in the Mongolia Premier League also named after Garuda.


See also


  1. ^ Russel, RV & Lal, H. 1916 The tribes and castes of the central provinces of India. Published Under the Orders of the Central Provinces Administration In Four Volumes Vol. I. Macmillan and Co., Limited St. Martin’s Street, London. pp. 2231
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Shakti Sadhana
  4. ^ Mahabharata, Book I: Adi Parva, Sections 23 ff.
  5. ^ Mahabharata, Book V: Udyoga Parva, Section 101.
  6. ^ “Loud was the noise with which Arjuna faced his foes, like that made by Garuda in days of yore when swooping down for snakes.” (Mahabharata, Book VIII: Karna Parva, Section 77.) “The impetuosity of Ashvatthama, as he rushed towards his foe, resembled that of Garuda swooping down for seizing a large snake.” (Mahabharata, Book VIII: Karna Parva, Section 59.) Arjuna “seized Drupada as Garuda seizeth a huge snake after agitating the waters of the ocean.” (Book I: Adi Parva, Section 140.)
  7. ^ Mahabharata, Book VIII: Karna Parva, Section 85.
  8. ^ Mahabharata, Book VII: Drona Parva, Section 20.
  9. ^ Mahabharata, Book VIII: Karna Parva, Section 94.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Hsia, C.T. C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature. Columbia University Press, 2004 (ISBN 0231129904), 154
  12. ^ Hsia, C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature, pp. 149
  13. ^ a b Hsia, C.T. C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature, pp. 149 and 488, n. 30
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ Garuda Team,
  16. ^ Michael Kohn. Mongolia. Lonely Planet, 2005. p. 52.

External links


From ‘Flight of the Garuda’ by Keith Dowman:,+Tsogdrug+Rangdrol,+author+of+The+Flight+of+the+Garuda.&source=bl&ots=kMBtrESxcC&sig=4Do2r81JfxBDXI5Hpo0EciRtm7c&hl=en&ei=y3WqTs7SHYaEhQeCwPS6Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Shabkar%20Lama%2C%20Tsogdrug%20Rangdrol%2C%20author%20of%20The%20Flight%20of%20the%20Garuda.&f=false

The book is a commentary on Shabkar’s poem ‘Flight of the Garuda’.  The full text of the poem is available here:

Extract  from Keith Dowman’s book:
Introduction to the chapter, Flight of the GarudaThe gentle pilgrim wanders Tibetan trails from power place to power place, sometimes passing over the high Himalayas down to the valley of Nepal. Long dreadlocks are piled on his head, and he wears a ragged patched skirt with a white shawl over his shoulders distinguishing him from most Himalayan monks. At nightfall he can sleep anywhere he finds himself, for he spent his early years in caves in the snow-capped mountains of the Tibetan plateau and cares nothing for comfort. He is vegetarian and he can fast if food is unavailable. Occasionally he may be spurned or ill—treated by bandits, but there is something about him that immediately evinces acceptance and kindness. At the house where he receives hospitality he may offer a healing charm to the sick or aged or an exorcising mantra to banish a malignant spirit. A request for help on the Dharma path is answered in a song composed spontaneously in the moment. He does not stay long in any place but leaves quickly and moves fast down the trail. This mellow yogin, an archetypal figure of the Tibetan plateau, is Shabkar Lama, Tsogdrug Rangdrol, author of The Flight of the Garuda.Shabkar Lama was the scion of a nomad family in a tribal area in the far northeast of the Tibetan ethnic region. In this area there were no aristocratic families ensconced in their hereditary castles producing tulkus for the local establishment monasteries in each generation. His tribal society was democratic and egalitarian. His wonderful life story reflects the humility of a beggar, the magnanimity of a saint without a shred of pretension or affectation, and the good humor and compassion of a man familiar with the hardship of life on the survival line. Lacking the advantages of a princely monastic education, he was a scholar nevertheless, but a scholar who wrote from experience, directly from his heart—he lived what he wrote and taught. Free of political and social bias, following the spirit of Dzogchen, he had no time for sectarian distinctions and took initiation and instruction from not only Nyingnn lanias but teachers of every school. It was this impartial ethos that was the foundation of the great nonsectarian revival in eastern Tibet in the nineteenth century. He heralded the great Khyentse Wangpo (i 820—92), Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye (1813—99), Patrul Rinpoche (1808—87), and Mipam Jamyang Gyatso (i 846—1912), who were the figures most prominent in the full blooming of the eastern Tibetan renaissance.Shabkar Lama was born in Rebkong in Amdo in 1781. At this time the Gelugpa school dominated Amdo through its great monastic academies; but the Rebkong region, to the north of the Amnye Machen massif, was—and still is—renowned for its Nyingma yogin-tantrikas (ngagpas) guided by the Dzogchen tradition. They were respected for their total commitment and devotion, but with their unshorn hair and unkempt appearance, roaming throughout Tibet, they were also feared. Practicing ritual magic for villagers while on pilgrimage, they also taught Tantra and Dzogchen to those ready and willing to learn. Shabkar grew up in this ngagpa ambience, receiving transmission from several Nyingma masters before taking full ordination with a Gelugpa lama at the age of twenty. Thereafter the Dzogchen ethos of Rebkong remained his heart practice, indicated by the white and red shawl he wore, while his gelong ordination, the outward show, was indicated by the patched lower robe. After ordination he was directed not to monastic discipline but to the lama who was to become his root guru and inspiration throughout his life, whose name was Ngakyi Wangpo.The Lord of Dharma Ngakyi Wangpo (1736—I 807) was a descendant of the Mongol prince Gushri Khan, and his extended family was the ruling family in an area south of Rebkong and the north of the Amnye Machen range. Ngakyi Wangpo was a secular leader and a married lama, a ngagpa. We may see this personage as a severe and uncompromising preceptor, like Marpa Dopa, Milarepa’s master; but Shabkar paints him only as the most gracious and compassionate of teachers. His principal gift to Shabkar was the initiation, transmission, and instruction upon the revealed cycle of The Wishfulfilling Union of Tamdrin (Hayagriva) and Dorje Pagmo (Vajravahari). This comprehensive cycle of theory and practice provided Shabkar with his personal buddha-deity (yidam)—the union of Hayagriva and Vajravarahi. It also gave him a manual of meditation and yoga practice that was to sustain him for the remainder of his life.After initiation Shabkar spent some time in retreat, practicing the preliminary techniques, the creative and fulfillment stages, and Dzogchen— Cutting Through and Immediate Crossing—according to the Wish-fulfilling Union of Tarndrin and Dode Pagmo, his lama’s chief practice and now his own. Then after spending more time with his lama, when he received all the initiations of his lineage, he entered a further period of rigorous retreat. In the middle of the Kokonor Lake, the vast Turquoise Blue Lake sacred to Avalokiteivara, is an island called Great God Heart of the Lake, Tsonying Mahadewa. Since no boat was permitted to sully the lake, the island could only be reached on foot by crossing the ice that covers the lake for a brief period each year. Yogins would provide themselves with a year’s provision and isolate themselves in the perfect solitude on the island at the center of the lake mandala. Shabkar remained there three years practicing the maha—, anu-, and ati- yogas of the Tamdrin-Pagmo cycle. During his sojourn on this island Shabkar wrote The Flight of the Garuda. It was an early work of his genius.Shabkar was known as an incarnation of Milarepa, Tibet’s great yogin and composer of divine songs extempore, and his lama, Ngakyi Wangpo, as an incarnation of Marpa the Translator, the patriarchal yogin. Milarepa’s talent in composing and singing mystical songs extempore was shared by Shabkar, and so was his propensity for the anchorite’s life. But the yogin from Rebkong in Amdo was also a wanderer, roaming on pilgrimage throughout the Tibetan heartland and beyond. Punctuating his pilgrimage with retreats in caves and hermitages, he visited Amnye Machen, Amdo’s sacred mountain; he performed the Tsari Rongkhor (the long circumambulation of the Tsari mountain); and he spent a year at Kang Rinpoche, on Mount Kailash. On his pilgrimage to Labchi, to the west of Mount Everest, it was said of him that wherever he traveled he left the people established in the Dharma, and wherever he stepped he converted “black:’ or tarnished, worldlings into “white,” or refined, practitioners. Thus he gained his sobriquet Shabkar (White Foot). During his pilgrimage, between retreats, he would continue his instruction at the feet of lamas of every school, particularly the Drugpa Kagyu, with which his own heterogenous brand of yogin-monk mix had a strong affinity. However he was also interested in the Kadampas (the school founded by Jowo Atisa and assimilated by the Gelugpas), and Je Tsongkhapa himself, whose great work, The Stages of tile Pat/i, received sustained attention from Shabkar.

Shabkar’s study and practice bore fruit in his own writing. He had the gift of speed writing. It was said that he could write a hundred pages daily. If so, he could have spent only a month or so to produce his thirteen volumes of writing, the chief of which concerned his principal practice, the TamdrinPagmo cycle. Other volumes treated the Kadampa School, bodhisattvahood, the Nyingma tantras, and Maflju~ri, demonstrating the wide purview of his scholarship. Shabkar’s rounded personality is evinced also by his meritorious works: the gift of a solid-gold butter lamp to the great monastery of Samye; the gilding of the superstructure of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu; the construction of numerous monasteries and temples in his own Arndo homelands. No antisocial, cantankerous hermit, he had the bodhisattva’s ability to transform himself into a receptacle of offerings that he used for the good of all sentient beings.

Shabkar passed away in 1851 at the age of seventy-one. On the completion of a long discourse to his disciples, his spirit left his body while he still sat upright in lotus posture. So passed the carefree spirit of the “little anchorite” who, in many ways, both by example and in words, did more to feed the faith and support the spiritual needs of the common people than a multitude of tulkus on brocaded thrones. His spirit returned to inhabit another body, but it did so in the obscurity in which the original Shabkar spent much of his hfe. His lineage, however, proliferated. Trulshik Rinpoche of Thubten Choling in Solu, Nepal, is the principal contemporary practitioner of his lineage.

That, then, is the Shabkar Tsogdrug Rangdrol who wrote and sang The Flight of the Garuda. In his own judgment he was a simple, perspicacious mendicant without a care in the world. The clarity and power of the succinct, simple expression for which he is justly renowned is evident on every page of his work. The Flight of the Garuda also demonstrates the writer’s eclectic erudition and the fertile memory that allowed him in his extempore compositions to quote or paraphrase verses of Saraha’s Dohakosa, for instance, and passages from Longchenpa’s Dzodun, among the works that he hsts in his colophon.

The Garuda of the title refers to a mythological bird, the Khading, or Khyung, of ancient Bon legend. It may have been that Khading and Khyung originally represented the powers of light and darkness in the eternal conflict of Manichean Bon myth. The Manichean influence on Bon was derived from countries to the northwest of Tibet. Later, Khyung and Khading were confounded, and the bird came to represent the Bon spirit of fire. It is to be found, for example, in the upper left-hand corner of prayer flags. When the Sanskritic tradition of Buddhism became dominant in Tibet, both Khading and Khyung were assimilated into the Garuda. In the Vedic mythology of ancient Aryan India, it was Garuda who stole the nectar of immortality from lndra, the king of the gods, in much the same way as the cosmic bird Zu stole the Tablets of Destiny from the gods in Babylonian myth. In the later Indian context, Garuda became the vehicle of Vishnu, the lord of preservadon and order in the cosmos, and particularly Lord Krisna’s vehicle. Also, in the Pural2as and epics, as a fire spirit, Garuda features as the implacable enemy of the naga water spirits. In Tibetan Buddhist Tantra, Garuda represents the energy of fire that heals naga—related diseases, particularly cancer.

In the Great Perfection, Garuda is seen to represent the Dzogchen yogin. The nature of the bird is illuminated by the ancient Bon myth that relates how, at the beginning of time, the Khyung manifested spontaneously out of the cosmic egg as a fully mature being. The Garuda can transfer itself instantaneously from one place to another. From the tantric tradition is derived the image of the garuda’s wings beating in unison to demonstrate the unitary nature of duality, particularly the simultaneous arising of the gender principles of skillful means and perfect insight. Then from nature, observing the flight of the Tibetan eagle vulture, the Dzogchen yogin can perceive an analog of his own effortless path. The bird in flight is a wonder to behold. Gliding for miles using the wind’s currents to support its weight, its instinctual mastery of aeronautics is incomparable. The same kind of natural, intu— itive faculty that coordinates the bird’s flight governs the Dzogchen yogin’s activity.

The two wings that beat in unison in the garuda’s poetic flight are form and meaning. Unfortunately the abstract, technical content of The Flight of the Garuda does not lend itself to versification and poetic expression in English, so that the balance in Shabkar’s songs is not reflected in this translation, in which poetic form and rhythm have been sacrificed to clarity of meaning. Often, several words are required to render a single technical term into English, and it is impossible to maintain a regular meter. Rather than attempt unsatisfactory versification, I have translated these songs into prose, which is a more suitable medium for their metaphysical and technical vocabulary. Still, the Garuda’s flight should appear effortless, its wings beating in unison.

Garuda Purana

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Garuda Purana (Devanagari: गरुड़ पुराण) is one of the Puranas which are part of the Hindu body of texts known as smriti. It is a Vaishnava Purana and its first part contains a dialog between Vishnu and Garuda, the King of Birds. The second half contains details of life after death, funeral rites and the metaphysics of reincarnation, thus it is recited as a part Antyesti (Antim Sanskar) or funeral rites (funeral liturgy) in Hinduism.[1]



Bhagawaan* = from the Sanskrit language: The Supreme, possessed of all material and spiritual opulences, in a proportion beyond limited human imagination or infinite as in the Sanskrit word, Ananta.

Garuda Purana is in the form of instructions by Vishnu to his carrier, Garuda (The King of Birds – a vahana of Bhagawaan* Vishnu). This Purana deals with astronomy, medicine, grammar, and gemstone structure and qualities. In addition, the Garuda Purana is considered the authoritative Vedic reference volume describing the Nine Pearls, which includes not only the well known Oyster Pearl, but also the Conch Pearl, Cobra Pearl, Boar Pearl, Elephant Pearl, Bamboo Pearl, Whale Pearl, Fish Pearl, and Cloud Pearl.

The Garuda Purana is a Vaishnava Purana. The others in this group are Vishnu Purana, Narada Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Padma Purana and Varaha Purana.

The Garuda Purana has nineteen thousand shlokas (lines). It is a medium-sized Purana. The Skanda Purana, for example, has eighty-one thousand shlokas. And the Markandeya Purana only nine thousand. The thousand shlokas of the Garuda Purana are divided into two parts, a purva khanda (first part) and an uttara khanda (subsequent part). Each khanda has several chapters (adhyaya). The purva khanda is much longer, it has two hundred and thirty-four chapters. The Uttara khanda has only forty-five.

The latter half of this Purana deals with life after death. The followers of the eternal Vedas, addressed as “Hindus” of India generally read this Purana while cremating the physically dead bodies of departed atmaas/souls. This has given great importance to the origin of Garuda. There are nineteen thousand verses describing the ways to the Lord.

Suta and the other sages

Suta was a very learned sage. He was very well-versed in the Puranas and in the shastras (sacred texts). He was also devoted to Vishnu.

Vedavyasa taught the Puranas to one of his disciples named Romaharshana or Lomaharshana. He was thus named because the hair (roma) on his body was thrilled (harshana) when he heard the Puranas from his teacher. It was Romaharshana who related the stories of the Puranas to everyone else. The Bhagavata Purana says the Romaharshana had a son named Suta and it was this son who related the story of that particular Purana to the other sages . On the other hand, Romaharshana himself belonged to the suta class, so that he too could be addressed as Suta. From reading the Garuda Purana, one does get the impression that it is Romaharshana himself who is relating the story, and not his son.

To come back to the point, Romaharshana came to a forest known as Naimisharanya. He sat there and contemplated the mysteries of the Lord Vishnu.

Several other rishis (sages) led by Shounaka also came to the forest. They told Romaharshana, “Sage, you know everything. Who is the god of all gods? Who is to be worshipped? What does one meditate on? Who destroys evil? How did the world come to be created? What is dharma (righteousness)? Tell us all these things and more”.

“I will”, replied Romaharshana. “I will recite to you the Garuda Purana. Many years ago, this Purana was told to the sage Kashyapa by the great bird Garuda himself. I learnt it from my teacher Vyasadeva. But first let me list for you the twenty-two avataras of Vishnu.

The first incarnation was a young boy. In this form, Vishnu adopted celibacy (brahmacharya) and performed difficult tapasya (meditation).

The second incarnation was as a boar (varaha). In this form, Vishnu rescued the earth from the underworld.

The third incarnation was as a great sage (devarishi). In this form, Vishnu spread the knowledge of several texts (tantras).

The fourth incarnation was as two sages named Nara-Narayana.

The fifth incarnation was as the great sage Kapila. Kapila taught his disciple Asuri the wonderful philosophy known as Samkhya yoga.

The sixth incarnation was as the sage Dattatreya, the son of Atri and Anasuya.

The seventh incarnation took place in the manvantra known as svayambhuva. Vishnu was born as the son of Ruchi and Akuti and performed many yajnas (sacrifices).

In the eighth incarnation, Vishnu was born as Urukrama, the son of Nabhi and Meru. He taught everyone the righteous way of life.

In the ninth incarnation, Vishnu became the king Prithu and restored foodgrains and herbs to the earth.

The tenth of Vishnu’s incarnations was as a fish (matsya). He saved Vaivasvata Manu from the flood that enveloped the world.

In the eleventh incarnation, Vishnu adopted the form of a turtle (kurma). This was to help out the gods (devas) and demons (asuras) in the churning of the ocean (samudra manthana).

The twelfth incarnation was as Dhanvantari, physician of the gods and the originator of medicine.

The thirteenth was Mohini avatara. In this form, Vishnu adopted the body of a beautiful woman to charm and rob the asuras of the amrita (a life-giving drink).

In the fourteenth incarnation, Vishnu became Narasimha, a being who was half-man and half-lion, to kil the evil asura Hiranyakashipu.

The fifteenth incarnation witnessed Vishnu’s adoption of the form of dwarf (Vamana). This was to hoodwink the asura King Bali and restore the heaven to gods.

In the sixteenth incarnation, Vishnu became Parashurama, killed all the wicked Kshatriyas in the world twenty-one times.

The seventeenth incarnation was as Vedavyasa, the son of Parashara and Satyavati. Vedavyasa divided and classified the Vedas.

Vishnu’s eighteen incarnation was as the sage Narada.

The nineteenth incarnation was Rama. This incarnation is thought to be a bit contradictory, (Parshuram was present in the swayamvar of Sita) but it is not. Parshuram was ardh-avatara(Half incarnation) & Rama was poorna manav Avatara (Full Incarnation as a Human Soul).

The twentieth incarnation was Balarama.

In the twenty-first incarnation, Vishnu was Krishna .

The twenty-second incarnation is yet to come. And Vishnu will come to destroy evil in the world and restore righteousness”.

There have been several other incarnations of Vishnu. But the ones mentioned above are the major ones.

List of Punishments

Garuda Purana Wrong doings Punishment given in Naraka Schema
Thamisra Stealing other’s property including wife, children and belongings Thrashing with the weapon, gada

Yama Kinkara using the Gada
Andhathamisra Post marital cheating between husband and wife Unconscious circulation in abyss
Rourava Destroying, spiliting other’s family and their belongings Spanking the Life organs with trident by Yama kinkaras

Yama kinkara with trident
Maharourava Brutally destroying other’s property and family for the sake of acquisition A wild animal, Guru, tortures them in various forms
Kumbipaka Destroying innocent lives for food Roasting in hot oil tank by yama kinkaras
Kalasuthira Torturing and putting elders & parents in starvation Same set of treatment in hell
Asipathira Abetting God and devolve from Dharma practises Torture by evil spirits; results in fear
Panrimukha Punishing innocent people and accomplice unlawful activiites Grinding under the sharp teeth of an animal resembling pig
Anthakoopa Torturing lives and inhumane activities Biting by wild animals; wild run over by animals
Agnikunda Snatching other’s property by force, gaining undue advantage and unlawfully making best out of everything in the world Roasting in agni kunda in inverted position with hands and legs ties under a stick
Vajrakandaka Unchaste people in physical contact with unmatching people Physical hugging with fire spitting idols
Kirumibhojana Selfish survival; eating other’s work Insects are left intruding the body
Sanmali Unchaste relationships by kamukas Thrashing with gada
Vaitharani Using official stature to attain undue advantge, acting against dharma Submerging in Vaitarna river where water is mixed with blood, urine and feces
Booyoga Shameless behaviour, mixing with unchaste women & leading the life without any motive Biting by poisonous insects and animals
Prayanyoga Torturing lives and killing them Spanking the Life organs with arrows by Yama kinkaras
Pasusava All devatas are in cows; torturing those cows Slashing by canes
Sarameyathana Gutting houses, torturing lives, poisoning lives, involving in massacre Torture by unknown wild animals
Aveesi Giving false evidence Submerging and torturing in livebodies
Paribathana Drinking and making others drink alcohol Drinking lava
Sharakarthama Involving in bad activities and defaming elders and living with selfish motives Torture the Life organs by unknown spirits
Rakshogana Performing narametha yaga, eating non vegetarian dishes and torturing soft animals The same victims torture the hecklers
Soolaproga Killing innocent people, masterminding people, committing suicide and doing nambike droha [i.e., betraying(droha) a person’s trust(nambike).] Unknown birds peck and torture with shoola
Susimuga Not doing any good, amassing wealth by wrong doings and stealing wealth Stinging with nails and torturing with hunger and thirst
Kunthasootha Not doing any good and always doing bad to others Stinging by insects like scorpio
Vadaroga Severrly torturing living beings Handcuffed and burnt in fire

Roasting in fire
Piravarthana Defaming guests and not treating them Torturing with hunger and thirst
Lalapakshuga Torturing wife and involving her in unchaste relationships Same set of treatment in hell

Further reading

  • Mani, Vettam. Puranic Encyclopedia. 1st English ed. Manipal: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975.
  • Govindarajan “Garuda Puranam”, 1st edition. New Horizon,2007


  1. ^ Introduction:The Garuda Purana, Translated by Ernest Wood and S.V. Subrahmanyam (1911).

External links


4 thoughts on “Garuda Resources”

  1. So interesting! Thanks for sharing!
    I’m looking forward to reading more about the role of Garuda in Buddhism.

  2. Hi, I’ve posted an article to my research blog that you may like. It traces how Garuda came to appear in Chinese fiction via Tibetan art and South Asian architecture.

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