This finely executed sculpture depicts Garuda, the mythical bird and the vahana or sacred vehicle of Lord Vishnu.
In the present form he is seated on a lotus throne. He has two hands which are making the gesture of adoration (anjalimudra). He has the staring eyes, wings and nose of a hawk.
There is a Vaishnavite mark on his fore-head
between the eyebrows. His hair is partly upswept and partly loose hanging
down on the back. He has webbed feet and is wearing a loincloth richly
incised with decorative designs.
He is traditionally inimical to the nagas (serpents) who are but his
step-brothers. In fact Garuda eats up serpents and that is why he is also
known as Pannagabhojana (eater of serpent). It is said that besides being
the mount of Vishnu, Garuda is also regarded as a divine being and
One of the earliest surviving images of Garuda is carved on the inner side
of the middle architrave of the eastern gateway of Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh).
He has also been richly mentioned in early Indian literature. The Rigveda
calls him Garutman and describes him as a bird with 'beautiful wings'. The
Mahabharata mentions Garuda as Amritaharanata who had stolen the heavenly
nectar or amrita. Indeed, Garuda is widely represented in art, thought and
This description by Dr. Shailendra Kumar Verma, Ph.D. His doctorate thesis
being on the "Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (from its
inception to 8th century A.D)."
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