The distribution of murtis and images in honor of Sri Garuda are a testament to the devotees’ great affection for this transcendental vahana (carrier) of Lord Visnu. Beautiful murtis of Garuda are found throughout the southeastern Asia, from Patan, Nepal to Kerala, in Bali, Cambodia, Fiji, and elsewhere. While a tremendous number of Garuda images are found in temple carvings, on stambhas, and in murti form, there are few temples dedicated primarily to the worship of Garuda, in which he is the presiding Deity.
Given the pastime of Garuda’s attempt to Kill Vasuki, one would expect to find temple shrines to Garuda in Fiji, but unfortunately little is found there in the way of his worship. According to the Skanda Purana, Garuda was once hunting for snakes to devour and came across Vasuki, hiding in a large cave, called Biladvara. Striking Vasuki with his mighty wings and tearing at him with his sharp claws and beak, Garuda tried to kill him. Owing to Vasuki’s strength however, Garuda became dazed by the poisonous vapors emitting from Vasuki’s mouth, as well as the luminous jewels on his hood.
As they fought, the great sage Kasyapa Muni appeared and requested Garuda to desist from killing Vasuki who was a great devotee of Lord Siva. With great humility, Garuda folded his palms and told the sage that he was starving and had not eaten in days. Kasyapa told him, “Go to the Ramanaka Islands (modern day Fiji) where snakes and uncivilized Kiratas (hunters) are available in plenty.” Immediately Garuda went to that place to satisfy his hunger.
Vellamassery Garudan Kavu
In Kerala, India, only one Garuda temple is found. The Vellamassery Garudan Kavu is located in the Malappuram district of Kerala, near Tirur. This 1,800 year old temple is positioned nearby the Mahavishnu temple. Many come to the temple to pray for an easy recovery from snakebite and other diseases. The Garudan temple is said to be the only temple in the area in which Garuda is worshipped in his flying form.
The origins of Vellamassery Garudan Kavu is explained by the temple officials: “Centuries ago a great sage immersed in penance was able to realize the vision of Lord Vishnu and requested him to boon him a way out for the human soul from pain and sin. As if explaining to his divine vehicle Garuda, Maha Vishnu elucidated the methods and ways of redemption open before the human soul in its predicaments. To keenly participate in this dialogue of his master, the Garuda flew and sat on a location which now is the bank of the Theertha pond of the Garudan Kavu temple. That place where Vishnu gave darshan to his devotee too became a holy spot. Centuries later at this divine location, as if explaining to his divine vehicle Garuda, His highness the Raja of Vettathu Nadu constructed a temple. He gave it as a danam. It is believed that later the penance undertaken by Sree Padmapadacharyar, a disciple of Jagad Guru Sri Sankaracharya in this temple added much to its nobility and lore.
The Temple Complex
The temple has developed over many years. Sankara Narayana and Shiva prathisthas facing the east were installed. On the left of Lord Garuda are found Veettekkaran and Kartha Veeryarjunan. Vishnu and Sankara Narayanan have Namaskara Mandapa. Vishnu has a balippura on the south as well. In the west are placed Sastha, Bhagavathy, Ganapthy and Bhadra Kali. There is a gopuram at the west and a deepasthambham inside. The large and serene temple pond on the south is a favored feature of the temple site.
The temple is proud to admit not only Hindus by birth, by all devotees. Temple officials state that Sri Garuda always retained an elitist height, from which every jivatma had an equal opportunity to approach, and this principle was enunciated by Lord Vishnu in the Garuda Purana.
Naga murtis at Garudan temple
Tirupati Garuda Stambha
Where only a small and select group of temples are found to be entirely dedicated to the glorification of Sri Garuda, there are many temples who provide murtis, stambas and temple art of Sri Garuda, for the worship and devotees. Once example is the famous Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple of Kerala, in which the presiding Deity is Lord Visnu Himself. Located in the City of Thiruvananthapuram, devotees visiting this well known Vaisnava temple are greeting by a large murti of Garuda Vaaghanam, the vahana of Lord Visnu.
The temple is an architectural wonder, bearing a gopuram that is 100 feet high. The Deity of Sri Visnu measures 18 feet in length and is covered with gold and other precious stones. The Deity, which can be viewed through three different doors, is seen resting gracefully on the Serpent Anantha. The head and torso is visible through the first opening, the midriff and hands are visible through the second door, and the Lord’s lotus feet are visible through the third door.
The temple is famous for its Arattu festival, which even today is led by the royal family of Travancore. The procession is a grand spectacle of beautifully ornamented elephants and devotees chanting Visnu kirtan. Standards are high for pilgrims coming to Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple. Only Hindu devotees are permitted to enter the temple. Men must be in dhoti, shirt removed and wearing vaistee.
Garuda in Tirupati
Several excellent murti forms of Sri Garuda are found in Tirupati. The Tirumala Tirupati Brahmotsavam ritual is conducted in honor of Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy. This mahapuja has been going on since the 10th century, with 12 Brahmostavams being conducted nearly every year. A very special maha-Brahmotsavam is held every year in the month of Bhadrapadha, and another special Brahmotsava is held once every three years, called the Navarathri Brahmotsavam.
During the Brahmotsavam, the Lord Venkateswara is taken out on 9 days, each day one a different vahana. Sri Garuda, pictured above, is offered worship during Tirumala Tirupati Brahmotsavam and is a primary members of the 9 vahanams, which also include
Pedda Sesha, Hamsa, Muthyapu Pandiri, Sarva Bhoopala, Gaja, Chandra Prabha, Aswa, and Dwajavarohanam Vahanam.
Sri Venkateswara on Garuda
In addition to Sri Venkateswar’s Brahmotsava and the main Garuda Deity shown above, there are many murtis of Sri Garuda to be found through the Tirupati region. The prominence of this great devotee of Lord Visnu is reflected in the fact that at the start of Brahmotsava, a temple flag, called a Garuda flag, is hoisted at the Dhvajastambham to mark the commencement of the ritual. This signifies Sri Garuda’s travels to Devalokam, where he invites the Devas to attend the function.
Devotees offer prayers at the Garudotsav, asking the Lord to bless their efforts to live a life of piety and high moral values. Garuda was requested by the Lord himself to stay in the high hills, guarding the skies from anything untoward coming by, and in this way, Sri Garuda is seen as a protector of the devotees.
Sri Garuda, Tirupati
Sri Garuda, Patan Durbar Square, Nepal
Along the northeast ridge of India lies the nation of Nepal, whose cities and ancient villages were built in amongst the great Himalayan range. Best known to international travelers is the capital city of Kathmandu, which has long been an exotic destination. But for the devotees, there are hundreds of temples and holy sites throughout the country of great interest.
Outside of Kathmandu is the broad region of Laitpur, which is comprised of Bhaktapur and Patan. Hundreds of Hindu temples and Buddhist Vihars are found here, including many worshipable Vaisnava sites. The presiding Deities of these sites include Krishna, Visnu and Lord Nrsimhadev, along with many Shiva sites. But most surprising are the great number of murtis and stambhas erected in honor of Sri Garuda, whose presence is felt throughout Nepal, even in the heart of its Buddhist enclaves.
Lalitpur was founded by King Veer Deva of the Kirat dynasty in 299 A. D. It was later expanded by Lichhavis in the sixth century, then by the Malla rulers during the medieval period. Patan is said to be the oldest of all the cities in Nepal. Patan is laid out in a complex design of stupas and temples, water conduits, spouts and tanks, and beautifully adorned gateways into the various city sectors.
An endless stream of pilgrims and tourists arrive at Patan’s Durbar Square, where they are greeted by a famous stambha of Garuda (shown above). This is perhaps the single most photographed and recognized murti of Sri Garuda anywhere in the world.
Patan Durbar Square is one of a group of sites named by UNESCO as ‘the seven monument zone of Kathmandu Valley’. Included on the World Heritage List in 1979, there are dozens of important religious shrines in the area, and the Garuda stambha is one of them. Patan is situated at a high elevation in the Kathmandu Valley, on the south side of the Bagmati River, which separates it from the Kathmandu City on the northern side.
The Garuda stambha in Durbar Square is surrounded by holy sites, including two Krishna temples, the Vishwanath temple, Temple of Bhimsen, Jagannarayan Mandir, and Hari Shankar Temple.
Lalitpur has produced the greatest number of renowned artists and the finest craftsmen in all of Nepal’s art history. Almost without exception, the focus of their artistic expression has been sacred, including both Vaisnava and Buddhist subjects. Not surprisingly, many images of Garuda are found that have been done in Buddhist iconography, rather than the traditional Vaisnava style. These are easily identified by the crown and the flame motif on the stella or murti background. Nepalese Buddhist Garuda’s typically have a prominent hooked beak, clawed feat, and various styles of naga. The Vaisnava depictions, on the other hand, tend to show Garuda’s human form in face, arms and hands, with prominent wings behind him.
Garuda on the Sun Dhoka Golden Gate, Durbar Square
The Vaisnava presence in Nepal undoubtedly began in its earliest days, and has continued over the centuries. All the early sculptures of large dimension in Nepal are of Vaisnava devotional themes, and all the heroic themes are centered on Visnu. The avowed Vaisnava ruler Visnugupta, c. 640, appears to have had his hand on the power in Nepal even while the local Licchavi ruler, Bhimarjuandeva was the seated ruler.
Patan was initially designed in the shape of the chakra, which is also a primary Buddhist icon for the Wheel of Dharma, or Righteousness. On the perimeter of Patan are four mounds, or thurs, on which are inscribed various historical data. These are popularly known as the Ashoka Stupas, in honor of the visit by the Emperor Ashoka, a legendary King of India who visited Kathmandu with his daughter Charumati, in 250 B.C. He erected a number of stupas around Patan.
As is the case throughout India, the Vaisnava and Buddhist presence are well blended – not surprising, given that Lord Buddha is understood to be an incarnation of Sri Krsna, Himself.
Sri Garuda, Patan Square
Sri Garudasan, Changu Narayan Temple
Adjacent to the City of Patan, Nepal is Bhaktapur. This holy dhama is home to a number of beautiful murtis of Sri Garuda, several of which reside in the famed Changu Narayan temple. Located at a height of 1541 m. in Bhaktapur, Changu Narayan is the oldest temple in the Kathmandu Valley, dating back to 323 A.D. The temple was erected by King Hari Dutta, a Licchavi king. He ordered the building of four hilltop Narayan temples around Changu Village (Doladri, in Sanskrit). The other temples are Ichangu Narayan, at the West, Sikhara Narayan, and Lokapalasvamin.
Built upon a single rock foundation, the impressive Changu Narayan temple holds some of Nepal’s finest examples of devotional art in stone, wood and metal. Adorning the struts are the Dasavatar. A stone murti of Lord Krsna in his Universal Form is joined by a stone murti of Garuda, who is shown in half-man, half bird Vaisnava iconography, kneeling before the temple.
Sri Garuda, before Changu Narayan Temple
Inside the temple is another murti of Garuda, which the devotees offer sweets each year on Nag Panchami. This is done to memorialize Sri Garuda’s epic struggle with the great naga, Taksaka. Drops of moisture which form on the murti are collected by the priests, and are believed to be effective against diseases such as leprosy.
Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
To the north of the temple is a 9th c. murti of Lord Vishnu seated on Garuda (Garudasana Vishnu). This image appears on Nepal’s 10 rupee note. Another sculpture, from the 8th c., presents the Lord’s Vishvarupa form. An 8th c. murti of Visnu Vikrant is there, depicting the Lord in His Vamana incarnation.
Intricately carved sculptures appear in wood throughout the temple, including beautiful images of the Devas, dragons, elephants, and various paraphernalia. Sri Garuda is carved in the lintel at each doorway.
A stone pillar in the temple was established by King Mandev in 464 A.D. This inscription to Manadev I, on the Garuda Dhwaja pillar, is the oldest inscription to have been discovered in Nepal.
Sri Garuda Stambha, Bhaktapur
The Vaisnava devotees pray to Changu Narayan as Garuda Narayan, while the Buddhists refer to the presiding Deity as Hari Hari Hari Vahan Lokeshwor. Buddhists revere Changu Narayan as Boddhisattva Avalokiteswara. They believe that while Garuda and Taksaka were engaged in ferocious battle, Taksaka was fearful of Visnu’s assisting Garuda, and prayed to Boddhisattva Avalokiteswara for his own safety. The compassionate Avalokiteswara stopped the battle and brought peace to the adversaries. Vishnu then offered to carry Boddhisattva Avalokiteswara to Changu, thus the worship of Hari Hari Hari Vahan Lokeshwor. At Changu Narayan, Boddhisattva Avalokiteswara is shown separately as a stone murti behind the temple, while Garudasana Narayan, Vishnu on Garuda, is the presiding murti of the temple.
Another Garuda Stambha, Bhaktapur
Pashupatinath Ghats, Kathmandu
In previous segments, we looked at the history of Sri Garuda’s presence in Nepal, and at a number of the beautiful murtis found in Patan and Bhaktapur. Today we complete the Nepal Garuda tour with a visit to the City of Kathmandu.
Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal, and its largest metropolitan city. Situated in Kathmandu Valley along with Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, Kathmandu is home to some 700,000 souls. The city stands at an elevation of about 4,600 feet above sea level – a height that is dwarfed by the distant rise of the Himalayas.
Overview of Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
Like neighboring Patan, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, Kathmandu is home to many beautiful murtis of Sri Garuda, done in both Buddhist and Vaisnava style. Some of the most well known are those in the area around the Pashupatinath Temple, a large complex dedicated to the worship of Lord Siva.
Situated on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, Pashupatinath Temple is another of the holy sites included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site list, along with the Patan complex.
Sri Garuda, Pashupati
Pashupatinath is the oldest Vaisnava temple in Kathmandu. According to Nepali sastra, Mahatmaya and Himvatkhanda, one day Lord Shiva grew tired of his palatial home atop Mt. Kailash, and went searching for a new domain. Upon finding the Kathmandu Valley, and secretly left Mt. Kailash and came here to live. Thus, Siva became famous in Pashupati as the Lord of the Animals.
When the other demigods came to retrieve him, and gain his return to Mt. Kailash, Siva disguised himself as a deer and refused to assist the demigods when they came asking for his help. Eventually Vishnu grabbed him by his horns, which shattered into pieces, and these were used by the Lord to form a lingam on the banks of the Bagmati River.
This temple site was eventually lost and to time and forgetfulness, until a mother cow sprinkled her milk over the mound, alerting the cowherds to dig. Doing so, they uncovered the lost linga and temple relics.
Only Hindus are permitted to enter the Pashupatinath Temple, in which a class of brahmins act as servitors, having come from South India during the reign of the Malla king, Yaksha Malla. The tradition of service here is said to have been established by the request of Adi Shankaracharya.
One of the unique aspects of temple rituals is that only four priests are permitted to touch the presiding Deity, which is made of black stone, standing 6 feet in height and circumference. The temple itself is of pagoda style, with gold-covered copper roofs. The four main doors are covered in silver sheeting, and a golden Nandi stands at the western door.
Not surprisingly, where Visnu and his devotees are found, the Lord’s transcendental vahana, Garuda, is also nearby. The Kathmandu Garuda murti’s featured here are among the most beautiful. And below, another famous vahana murti of Kathmandu – Sri Ganesh’s devoted Mooshika.
Glorification of Garuda
We have offered in this series an introductory tracing of the presence of Sri Garuda from India’s southern tip to the northern Himalayas. There is such an abundance of examples of Garuda worship around the world that we can’t begin to cover even the finest here. In fact, the presence of Garuda throughout Java, Sumatra, Bali and Cambodia is so great it will require a number of articles dedicated to that region alone.
Before we complete our series tomorrow with a study of some of the prominent stone sculptures of Garuda in Rajasthan, Central India, and back in the south, in Halebid and Belur, let us first recall some of Sri Garuda’s most prominent attributes and pastimes, as noted in Ramashraya Sharma’s study of the Valmini Ramayana:
“Among birds only Garuda (variously known as garutmat, the winged, suparna, of lovely wings, tarkshaya, the son of Tarksha-Kasyapa, paksi-raja and pattagotama, the lord of birds) is noteworthy. He is the son of Vinata, the great-grand-daughter of the Prajapati Kasyapa. Arjuna the charioteer of Surya is his brother and Sumati his sister. Sumati was married to king Sagara and on that account Garuda is called matula (maternal uncle) of the sixty-thousand sons of Sagara.
Garuda bears an everlasting hostility to the serpants — pannagasana, bhujagiri, and other synonyms are his popular epithets – who are possessed of panic the moment they smell of him and try to slip away from his sight in whichever direction possible.
His principle feat is the carrying off of ambrosia from the home of Mahendra, disregarding the blazing flames that were set around it as hurdles. He is also glorified for having saved the Balakhilyas from getting crushed under the heavy branch of the Sucandra-nyagrodha as it gave way under his own weight, rendered heavier by the elephant and the huge tortoise whom he was carrying as food on his onward journey to the Mahendra-bhavana for ambrosia. He is said to have carried a long distance the entire branch along with his load (of the elephant and the tortoise) and dropped it over a habitation of the Nishadas.
Garuda is renowned for his great speed. He ranges in the sky like a meteor, throwing the clouds topsyturvy. The gush of wind produced from his wings causes a tremor in the mountains, a strong flutter in the water of the sea and overturns a large number of trees. Visnu has a great liking for him on account of his might and speed, and employs him as His conveyance. Garuda not only serves Visnu as his conveyance, but also assists him in actual fighting. He flung away the Rakshasa Malyavan fighting against Visnu and released Rama and Laksmana in the Lanka war from the effects of Indrajit’s sarpa-bandha.”
And given that we will close this series with examples of Garuda murtis from Karnataka in the South, we also offer an excerpt from Garuda Dandakam, spoken by Tamil Swami Desikan, who was initiated into the Garuda Mantram by his Acarya, Sri Appullar. Incidentally, the Tamil word ‘pul’ means ‘a bird’. Here the reference is to the divine bird, Garuda, who is also known as Pakshi Raja (the king of Birds). The Garuda Mantram includes among its five syllables the two syllables constituted by the word ‘pakshi’.
This Garuda Mantram was a mantram of Appullar’s family. After instructing Sri Desikan on all relevant Sri Vaishnava granthas, Rahasyas Tarka and Vyaakarna, Sri Appullar initiated him into the recitation of Garuda Dandakam, which glorifies Garuda by observing the following:
Vedas praising Garuda Bhagavaan
Garuda’s service to Sriman Narayana as His Vehicle and Flag
His matrimonial status with his two wives, Rudrai and Sukeerthi
His adornment of great serpents as his jewellery on his limbs
His heroic deed in bringing nectar from Indra Loka
His other heroic deeds in battles on behalf of his Lord
His splendour as the Amsa (aspect) of para Vasudeva, his Sankarshana Swaroopam
His manifestion in five individual forms
His conferral of Vedhanta Vidya to his aspiring devotees, i.e., his status as an Acarya
The worship of Lord Garudan by learned scholars and saints
His power as the Garuda mantra Moorthy
His power to bless one with the four Purusharthas (goals) of life
His incarnation as Garudan as a result of the prayers of the Vaalakilya sages
His power to bless one with the true knowledge, or Brahma Vidya
Garuda with Pot of Amrta
Sri Garuda Dandakam
Salutations to Sri Garuda with beautiful wings
Nama: pannaganaddhaaya vaikunta vasavardhineh
Sruti-sindhu Sudhothpaada-mandaraaya Garutmathe
My salutations to Garuda with the beautiful wings. His limbs are adorned by the mighty serpents that he has conquered in battle. They are his jewellery. He does all the intimate kainkaryas to his Lord and is His Antharanga dhaasan. Garuda is devoted always to the Lord and His services. He is adept like the Mandara Mountain in churning the milky ocean of Vedas and to bring out the Brahma Vidyas. We can get the benefits of these Brahma Vidyas by offering our worship to him. My salutations are to him.
Dhandakam Paada 1
Garudamakhila Veda NeeDadhirooDam Dhvishath Peedanothkantithaakunta
vaikuntapeetikrta skandhameedhe SvaneeDaa gatipreetha Rudraa Sukeerthi
sthanaabhoga-gaaDopakuDa sphuratkantakavraata veda vyataavepamaana
dhvijihavaadhikalpa vishppaaryamaaNa sphataavatikaa ratna rochischataa raaji-
neerajitham kaanti kallolinee raajitam
Sri Garudans wives Rudrai, Sukeerthi – Bindignavile
Garuda Bhagavan has designed the Vedas as his cage and uses that cage as his seat. (This suggests that the Vedas sing his praise). His Lord Sriman Narayana is bent upon destroying the enemies of His devotees. No one can stop Sriman Narayana in these endeavors. When He sets about to destroy the enemies of His devotees, he uses the shoulders of Garuda as his transport. When Garuda transports his Lord on His missions, his wives-Rudrai and Sukeerthi– miss his absence from home. When the Lord’s mission is successfully concluded, Garuda returns to his wives and they embrace him intimately with affection. In that ecstatic state, the hairs on the body of Garuda become stiff like thorns. This in turn hurts the serpents, which are covering his body. The serpents are overcome with fear and they raise their hoods. On those occasions, the ratnas positioned on their hoods radiate their brilliant red rays. That splendorous group of red rays appear at that time as the mangala Aarathi to Garuda and he sparkles in that flood of red light.
Dhandakam Paada 2
Jaya Garuda Suparna Darveekaraahaara Devaadhipaahaarahaarin diwowkaspati
Kshipta Dambholi Dhaaraa kinaakalpa Kalpaantha Vatoola Kalpodhayaanalpa
Veerayithoodhyacchamatkaara Dhaityaari Jaitra Dhwajaarohanirdhaaritothkarsha
Sankarshanaatman Garutman Marutpanchakaadheesa Sathyaathimurthe na Kascchit
samas te namaste punaste nama
O Garuda Bhagavan! You have been named Suparna, because of the beauty of your wings. Serpents of immense size serve as your food. You brought Nectar, the food of the Devas- from Indra Loka to release your mother from the bonds of servitude. Indra got angry at you during that time and threw his Vajra weapon at you. The sharp edge of that powerful weapon caused wounds on your wings and rest of the body. The welts from those wounds look today as pieces of jewellery on your body and attest to your heroic deed in defeating Indra. Your other heroic deeds stand out like the mighty winds that sweep the universe during the time of the great deluge. You are sitting on the flag of your Lord, which denotes His victory over His enemies; from your position on the flag of your Lord, we are able to infer your glories. You have incarnated as Sankarshana among the four Vyuha Murthys of Sriman Narayana, which are Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradhumna and Aniruddha.
You have divided yourself into five forms– Satyar, Suparnar, Garudar, Taarkshyar and Vihageswarar– and matched those five forms with the five Vayus (Praanan, Apaanan, Samaanan, Udhaanan and Vyaanan) and shine thereafter as a supreme Devan. O Lord with the most exquisitely beautiful golden Wings! There is none, who is equal to you. I offer my salutations to you first and then again repeat my salutations.
Dhandakam Paada 3
Nama Idhamajahath-saparyaaya Paryaaya-niryaata- pakshaanilaasppalanodhvela
PaToti Veechi- chapetaahataagaadha paatala Bhankara sankruttha nagendra
peetaasrunee bhaava bhasvannakhasreNayE chandatundaaya nrtyat bhujanga
bhruve vajrine dhamshtrayaa thubhyam Adhyaatmavidyaa vidheyaa vidheyaa
bhavath dhasyamaapaadhayeta dhayaTaasccha meh
O Garuda Bhagavan! Learned scholars offer their uninterrupted worships to you. Your wings in flight generate mighty winds that stir up all the oceans and make them flow over their boundaries. The waves that rise and fall from those powerful winds reach down to the netherworld (Paatalam) and the effect is like a violent blow given by the palm of one’s hand.
A frightening sound heard as “Bhaam” reverberates around the world at that time. The mighty elephants guarding the quarters are shaken up by this mighty sound of “Bhaam” and run to attack you, the generator of that sound. Your rows of sharp nails acting as the elephant goad attack those angry elephants of the quarters and repulse them. Your mighty beak raises terror in the minds of your enemies. When you knot your brows, it looks like the movement of the hood of a Cobra. Your canine teeth look like the Vajra weapon of Indra and strikes terror in the hearts of your enemies. My salutations to you of such limitless glory! May thou bless me so that Brahma Vidyas become easy to be possessed by me! Please bless me out of your infinite compassion so that I can have the good fortune to offer kainkaryams to you.
Dhandakam Paada 3
Manuranugata Pakshi-vaktra sphurattharakas taavakaschitrabhanupriyaa
sekharastthrayathaam nasthrivargaapavarga prasuthi: paravyoma dhaaman
valadhveshidharpajjvalath Vaalakilya PratigynaavatheerNa sTiraam tatvabuddhim
paraam bhaktidhenum jaganmoolakandhe Mukundhe mahaanandadhogdhreem
O Garuda Bhagavan residing permanently in Sri Vaikuntam! Your mantram confers to the reciters the four fold (Dharma-artha-Kama -moksha) goals of Life. That mantram of yours made up of 5 syllables, has the Pranavam as its first syllable. At the end, it carries the syllable associated with the wife of Agni. May the mantram of that structure protect us! Once, Devendran became arrogant over his powers and insulted the Sages with the name of Vaalakilyas. (The sages got angry and cursed Indra. They cursed that Indra’s arrogance be destroyed by an incarnation of Sankarshana (Garuda) on a future date). You were born from the vow made by the Vaalakilyas that you destroy the mighty arrogance of Indra and you made their words come true. You serve as the lord of Death for mighty serpents that challenged you.
Please bless me with the discriminating knowledge to distinguish between true (superior) and false (inferior) knowledge. Your Lord is the fundamental and principal cause of all the universes. Please bless me to have the cow representing the limitless devotion to your Lord, so that it can yield for me its delectable milk. May that devotion of mine be free from the distractions of the insignificant and evanescent pleasures of life! May thou confer on me the boon of possessing such a superior devotion to your Lord and True Knowledge about Him!
Shat-thrhimsathgana-charanoh nara paripaati naveena Ghumbhagana:
Vishnurata-dhandakoyam Vigatayathu vipaksha Vaahini Vyuham
This entire Garuda Dhandakam is of the form of one slokam. This has four Paadas. Each of the Paadas has 36 GaNaas. Each Gana has three syllables. This Dhandakam follows strictly the rules of composing Dhandakams and has the NagaNaas and RagaNaas in each of the Paadas and yields novel word constructions. When one recites this Garuda Dhandakam, it will destroy the formations of the enemies, who have assembled to do battle with us and scatter them to the winds.
Vichitra siddhidada: soyam Venkatesa Vipascchitaa
Garudadhwaja-thoshaaya Gheetho Garudadhandaka
“Bless us with the superior devotion to your Lord – Garudan, Pomona”
This Garuda Dhandakam was composed and sung by adiyen, the Vidwan known as Venkatesa to please the Lord, who has Garuda on His flagstaff. The recitation of this Garuda Dhandakam will confer on the reciter multifold blessings and fulfill their heartfelt wishes of every kind.
Sri Garuda, Channakeshava
Garuda in Belur
We close this Garuda series today with a look at two very well-known stone sculpture murtis from Halebid and Belur, and a few lesser known examples from Rajasthan and Central India.
The town of Belur is in the Hassan District of Karnataka, once the capital of the Hoysala empire. The Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana built the Channakeshava temple, which is famous for its exceptional architecture and beautiful devotional sculptures and ornamentation.
Sri Garuda, Channakeshava
In the broad temple complex around Channakeshava is the Sri Keshava temple, along with the temples of Soumyanayaki and Ranganayaki. A beautiful Garuda-gambha and a Garuda statue (shown above) face the Sri Channakeshava temple. Sri Keshava temple’s carvings include images of Venugopala, Laksmi-Narayana, Saraswati, Ganapati, and Chamundeshwari. From the eastern doorway is a Kalinga-mardana Krsna, along with Visnu, Hanuman and Garuda.
Vishnuvardhana built the Channakeshava temple as an offering after he accepted Vaishnavism, as advised by Sri Ramanujacharya. The 13th century stone murti of Sri Garuda overlooking Channakeshava is an exceptionally beautiful piece. We show several images of it here because the murti is even more appreciable when seen in perspective of the temple complex surroundings.
Sri Garuda, Channakeshava
Garuda in Halebid
Another very well known stone murti of Sri Garuda is found on the highly sculptured walls of Hoysaleshvara temple, in Hassan District of Halebid, Karnataka. Like the Belur temple, this 12th century temple construction was considered part of the Hoysala empire’s capital region.
Hoysaleshvara temple is laid out on a double plan, as if the two temples were joined side by side. Both temples open to the east, resting on star-shaped foundations. The temples have no gopuras or towers, but are instead highly ornamented by the exquisite stone sculptures that encompass the temple complex.
Garuda Fighting the Nagas
Sri Garuda is joined here by a host of transcendental personalities, including numerous Forms of Sri Krsna in His various incarnations like Varaha, Nrsimhadev, Trivikrama, along with Harihara, Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Sarasvati, Ganesh, Bhairava, Durga, Kali, Chammunda, Dvarapala, and others. Two murtis of Nandi are positioned on the two outer pavilions that face the shrines. Inside are various Shiva lingas and sculptures of Lord Shiva.
Chloritic Schist (soapstone) was used to construct the temples and carvings, which cover it from end to end, with no duplication of images. Although the temple complex was under construction for over 85 years, it was never completed. Today it is dilapidated and falling into ruin, and hopefully the state archeology officials will see to its preservation.
Garuda on a Goa Pillar
Garuda in Goa and Hampi
At the 16th century Vittala temple in Hampi resides a beautiful sculpted figure of Sri Garuda. Work on this temple complex began during the reign of Krishnadevaraya (1509-29) and although it was never completed, the incredible stone sculptural work here is a fine example of Vijayanagar art. The image of Garuda below appears on the large stone chariot in the temple compound.
Also found in Goa, at the Shirr Purchevo Ravalnatha temple in Mandrewm village is a medieval murti of Sri Garuda in half-man, human-bird form, dressed as a soldier. And at the Key Gallery, part of Goa’s famed Archaeological Museum, is an intricately carved 13th century standing sculpture of Lord Visnu, flanked by Laksmi Devi and a winged Garuda.
Garuda in Rajasthan
Kumbha Shyam Temple
Ending this journey in Rajasthan, a beautiful murti of Sri Garuda is found at the Chittogarh Fort complex, which houses the Kumbha Shyam and Meera temples. Kumbha Shyam temple, built sometime in antiquity, was significantly renovated by the Rana Kumbha, in 1448 AD. The temple was originally dedicated to Lord Varaha, and the presiding Deities of the temple are Sri Sri Radha-Krishna and Lord Vishnu.
In the front of the temple is this excellent murti of Garuda, who is positioned in front of the temple, under a canopy supported by four pillars. Carved in what appears to be black chlorite, Garuda is shown in his half-man, half-bird form with relatively small wings. Offering pranams to his Lord Visnu, Garuda’s hands rest upon the head of a naga.
Kumbha Shyam Garuda