Garuda -The Devourer

Garuda’s mother and the mother of the Nagas shared the same husband. He offered to grant each wife one wish. The mother of the Nagas wished for one thousand children. Garuda’s mother wanted only two but demanded that they be superior to all the Nagas. Rivalry between the two wives escalated until finally Garuda’s mother lost a bet and became the prisoner/slave of the Nagas’ mother. Garuda freed her by stealing the nectar of immortality from the Devas. He vowed eternal vengeance on the Nagas.

Rather than be angry at the theft, Vishnu was so impressed with Garuda that he offered to grant him a wish. Garuda’s deepest wish was to serve as Vishnu’s mount.

Garuda is the King of Birds. Although he is a unique, mythic bird—Garuda names its own mythic species—he is sometimes associated with eagles or kites. He serves Vishnu and incessantly hunts Nagas. Sometimes Garuda wears Nagas as jewellery.

Hindu Garuda tales date back over three thousand years. The war between Garuda and the snake spirits called Nagas is mythic but allegorical, too. The Nagas represent indigenous spirits and traditions. Legends of Garuda overcoming them represent the victory of Hinduism over tribal religion.

Garuda is venerated by both Hindus and Buddhists, playing a similar role in both faiths. However, Hinduism acknowledges one single Garuda while in Buddhism, Garuda names a class of guardian spirits who wrestle with Nagas until they, too, accept Buddhism.

Garuda is venerated independently of Vishnu. Invoked to protect against snakes and snakebite, he is an excellent guardian for those who fear snakes. Garuda is fearless and may be invoked to banish ghosts and malevolent spirits. He is a storm bringer and has dominion over weather. Although Naga-lovers may feel differently, for many, Garuda epitomizes strength and righteousness. His name and/or image are ubiquitous:

• Garuda is the national symbol of Indonesia and Thailand.

• Garuda is the name of Indonesia’s national airline and countless Indonesian restaurants.

• The yoga pose known as Garuda-asana, or the Eagle Pose, helps relieve leg cramps.

• Garuda the Wind Spirit appears on the animated children’s show Yu-Gi-Oh!

• Garudamon is an ultimate Digimon on the animated children’s show of that name.


Karura (Japanese); Galon (Burmese)


Garuda is an extremely large hybrid man-bird, usually appearing with a horned bird’s head and wings on a human body. In Tibet, he manifests with an eagle’s head but human arms. He can, however, transform into man or bird.


Hindu Garudas usually have wings and four arms. Buddhist Garudas may have only wings. He is frequently depicted in battle with Nagas or clutching one in his beak or talons. Images of Garuda kneeling respectfully are placed opposite the main shrine in Vishnu’s temples.






  • Naga;
  • Nandi
  • Vajrapani
  • Vishnu


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.