Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

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GARUDA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] A mythical bird or vulture, half-man, half-bird, on which Vishnu rides. He is the king of birds, and descended from Kasyapa and Vinata, one of the daughters of Daksha.

He is the great enemy of serpents, having inherited his hatred from his mother, who had quarrelled with her co-wife and superior, Kadru, the mother of serpents.

His lustre was so brilliant that soon after his birth the gods mistook him for Agni and worshipped him. He is represented as having the head, wings, talons, and beak of an eagle, and the body and limbs of a man. His face is white, his wings red, and his body golden. He had a son named Sampati, and his wife was Unnati or Vinayaka.

According to the Mahabharata, his parents gave him liberty to devour bad men, but he was not to touch Brahmans. Once, however, he swallowed a Brahman and his wife, but the Brahman so burnt his throat that he was glad to disgorge them both.

Garuda is said to have stolen the Amrita form the gods in order to purchase with it the freedom of his mother from KadruIndra discovered the theft and fought a fierce battle with Garuda. The Amrita was recovered, but Indra was worsted in the fight, and his thunderbolt was smashed.

Garuda has many names and epithets. From his parents he is called Kasyapi and Vainateya. He is the Suparna and the Garutman, or chief of birds. He is also called Dakahaya, Salmalin, Tarkshya, and Vinayaka, and among his epithets are the following: Sitanana, `white faced;' Raktapaksha, `red winged;' Swetarohits, `the white and red;' Suvarnakaya, `golden bodied;' Ganganeswara,` lord of the sky;' Khageswara, `king of birds;' Nagantaka, and Pannaganasana, `destroyer of serpents;' Sarparati, `enemy of serpents;' Taraswin, `the swift;' Rasayana, `who moves like quicksilver;' Kamacharin, `who goes where he will;' Kamayus, `who lives at pleasure;' Chirad, `eating long;' Vishnuratha, `vehicle of Vishnu;' Amritaharana and Sudhahara, `stealer of the Amrita;' Surendrajit, `vanquisher of Indra;' Vajrajit, `subduer of the thunderbolt,' etc.

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM