The Hindu Mythology puts forth traditional anecdotes of 3 cardinal animal deities namely Ganesha -“The Elephant God”, Hanuman- “The Monkey God ” and Garuda, the mighty eagle faced god with his head, beak, talons and wings of an eagle and the body of a man.
From the past.
Garuda is said to have been born with radiance so blinding and so raging that he was mistaken to be the God of Fire. The mythological legend is believed to have a serene white face, red wings, head bedecked with a gold crown and a body that is all of shining gold. Folklore eulogize him as a deity so large that he could easily block out the sun whenever he so desired. Known to nurture a devout and indomitable hatred for evil and snakes alike, the eagle god is believed to be adorning serpents on his body as ornaments on his wrists, his neck, around his waist, his head and even as his sacred thread. Such is his piousness and allegiance to what is right that, it is also believed that his wings chant religious mantras during flight. He is the Lord Vishnu’s much loved mount and a trusted ally and aide of the “Devas”.
The eagle god is so revered in Hindu Mythology that he has an exclusive Upanishad – the “Garudopanishad” and a Purana ‘The Garuda Purana” dedicated to him. The Purana largely speaks of life, death after life, of rituals associated with funerals and even life beyond death.
Garuda has several mentions in the Epic of Mahabharata. Drona, the legendary warrior, had named his military formation after the God. Throughout Mahabharata the characters have sought inspiration from Garuda invoking him as a symbol of annihilating force, of speed and martial expertise, and they sought encouragement from him.
The eagle god has distinct mention in Buddhist Mythology as well and shares great precedence in this religion too. He is referred to as Garula or Suparna in Buddhism. The religion also speaks of the 4 Garuda-kings namely-
· The Garuda King of Great Power and Virtue
· The Garuda King of Great Body
· The Garuda King of Great Fulfillment and
· The Garuda King who was Free at Will.
Au – courant: in the present modern age the mighty lord has not lost his significance, still equally revered many seek its prowess and might by using his name for various important installations and units.
The Phoenix from the Greek Mythology and the Australian bird of prey Brahminy Kite are the two modern day representations of the ancient Garuda bird. The immortal eagle god also finds his place in miniature sized Garuda statuesand charms worn around by people as amulets or kept in their homes and worshipped so as to protect them from the evil snakes, against snake bites and even as a cure against the venom.
The bird has over the years in allegiance to its reverence etched a place in many National Symbols and in Emblems like Garuda has its place in the National Emblem of Thailand and Indonesia. The eagle god is also a symbol of Magnolia and many of Indian Military Symbols bear association to and resonate the might of this eagle god.
Capt (Retd) Shubhani Pathak.