THE MYTHICAL GARUDA BIRD
Garuda is known as the king of birds
in Thai mythology. It's characteristics are
very much eagle like. Garuda in the act of tearing Naga in two,
the Thai monarchy. It is an ancient and enduring symbol. Besides serving
royal insignia, the Garuda is also the official seal of the civil
The emblem has varied in design from one reign to the next. The Garuda
appears in all forms of art, architecture and even modern sculpture.
Some old paintings have been found depicting Narai or Vishnu mounted on
Garuda, with Naga in his talons, or in flight.
Garuda in Wat Phra Kaeo (Grand Palace) This mythic eagle and symbol of
sovereignty was inspired by Hindu mythology. Hinduism portrays Garuda
as a powerful deity in the lower domains of heaven, who sometimes comes
among human beings. In the story of Kaki, Garuda came down from his
celestial residence to gamble with the king in a dice game. In this well
known story, Garuda saw the beautiful Kaki and stole her away.
According to Hindu mythologies, Garuda was a powerful celestial being.
birth, there appeared a radiance so brilliant that all heaven was
Thinking that the new arrival was Agni, the Fire God, the heavenly hosts
pay homage. Garuda is sometimes shown with the bill and wings of bird,
but the body and limbs of a man. His face is typically white, the mouth
red and his body green.
Garuda is also found in royal Buddhist temples The influence of ancient
Brahmanism is still felt in royal ceremonies which pay homage to
Garuda. The various ancient kingdoms in Southeast Asia, including
Thailand, have been touched by Indian culture as far back as the 12th
and 13th centuries of the Buddhist Era. The supreme deities in the Hindu
pantheon are Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. There are a host of lesser
spiritual divinities, of which Garuda is one. His likeness is depicted
in the sculpture, architecture and painting adorning Hindu and Brahman
Garuda is also found in
royal Buddhist temples, in accordance with the Hindu belief that the
king is an incarnation of Narai, who comes to alleviate human suffering.
Garuda is the vehicle of Narai, and has been a symbol of the monarchy
for hundreds of years. Garuda appears regularly in the history of Thai
art. Bronze Garuda adorn royal sedan-chair and embellish the throne.
Sometimes the figure decorates the gables and rooftops of royal
residences. The frequent appearance of the symbol certainly reflects the
belief in the Devaraja of divine king. The sovereign is revered as a
divine epiphany, and incarnation of Vishnu who comes into the world,
bringing peace and end to suffering.
The sculpture of Garudas Depositions of Garuda vary, in part, according
to the fantasies and visions of the artists in different eras. In the
Dvaravati art of 1200 to 1400 B.E., Garuda is a winged creature with a
plump, male body. Much later, in the Lop Buri art of 1500 to 1799 B.E.,
Garuda becomes a powerful bird, like an eagle, king of the sky. The
artist saw the deity as half-bird, haft-man. The face was human, but
with a long, hooked beak, and the figure had both arms and wings. The
lower part was like a bird. Images like this appear in the Ayutthaya and
The most familiar image of Garuda shows him holding a serpent in each
taloned hand. The origins of this image lie in an ancient story.
According to one
interpretation, Garuda is really powerful because of the blessing his
Kasyapa, granted to his mother, Vinata. She asked that her son have
power over all the gods. Garuda has a brother, Aruna, who has only the
upper part of his body. It happened because Vinata, in her excitement
and anxiety to see her son, broke open the egg too soon. Angry with his
mother, Aruna cursed her. She would be Naga's slave until her younger
son, Garuda, could purchase his mother's freedom by bringing Naga some
Garuda was able to carry off the ambrosia, even though it was heavily
It was told that Garuda overcame many heavenly beings indeed in order to
the ambrosia. No one was able to get the better of him, not even Narai.
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
residence. However, whenever Narai wants to travel anywhere, Garuda must
serve as his transport.
This legend is expressed
in court protocol. When the King is in residence, the maharaja flag with
the Garuda insignia is raised above the royal apartments. When his
Majesty travels, however, the flag flies from the front of the royal
vehicle. That is, Narai is seated above Garuda. Some say that Garuda is
as powerful as the Fire God, or that Garuda represents the Sun God. It
is also notable that Garuda is the symbol, in philosophy, of Wisdom.