Originally the Indian Garuda was represented as a bird. Later his form assumed that of a 'bird man'- a creature half eagle and half man, combining a human body with a bird's head, beak, and wings. Zoomorphic variations of the Garuda's artistic representation diffused throughout India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and South East Asia. In Bali his animalistic image assumed great popularity.
Bejewelled richly, and wearing a short dhoti which ends slightly above his knees, Garuda is adorned here with the typical South Indian high-crown, known as kirti-mukuta, or the 'crown of glory.' He stands upon a high, multiple-tiered pedestal, embellished with lotus-petal motifs all round.
Garuda's body is well-proportioned and majestic. Though his hands folded in the 'namaskar' mudra express his humility, the strong and lithe body are ample indicators of his inherent power. He stands in a dynamic posture with the left leg slightly ahead of the right. There is a Vaishnavite tilaka on his joyful, smiling face, indicating his status as the mount of Lord Vishnu. His fully outstretched wings extend to the two sides. For earrings, Garuda has two serpents, while another entwines itself in his left arm, raising its venomous hoods at the wrist.
Garuda has always been the sworn enemy of snakes and nagas. The archetypal legend of the enmity that exists between birds of prey and serpents occurs across a wide spectrum of transcultural mythologies. Such birds include the Sumerian and Greek eagle, the poison-transmuting peacock of Persia and India, the Chinese peng-niao, and the gigantic snake-eating simurgh or rukh of Sinbad's adventures in Arabian nights.
Literally, the word Garuda means 'wings of speech'. He actually personifies Vedic knowledge. On his wings,as it were, Vedic knowledge has come down to us. He is also known as Suparna (beautiful wings), Garutman (the solar bird), Sarparati (enemy of serpents), and Khageshvara or Pakshiraj (Lord of birds). The female bird is known as Garudi.
The sculptor of this fine representation of Garuda is Shri S. Dhatcinamoorthi of Kallakurichi (dist. Villupuram, Tamil Nadu).
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