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283

Garuda

OLogy Series
anthropology
card
283

Garuda

OLogy Series
anthropology

The mythic bird-creature Garuda is often shown attacking Nagas, snakelike creatures with human heads. For over 3,000 years, stories of Garuda have been a part of Hindu culture in India and Southeast Asia. Buddhism emerged 500 years later, and as it spread, so did the story of Garuda. Today, artistic representations of Garuda can be seen from India to Japan, but artists in each culture make Garuda in their own local style.

Garudas can be seen in:

architecture

plays

both of these

Are you right?

Correct!

Garudas can be found everywhere--in stories, painting, sculpture, theater, architecture, shrines, national flags, company logos, television, and more.

Some stories of Garuda claim that its wings are so large, the creature can:

fly to the stars

hold the Earth in its wings

darken the sky

Are you right?

Correct!

According to the legend, the Garuda can also cause hurricanes simply by flapping its wings.

Laurel Kendall, anthropologist

I am fascinated by the different artistic interpretations of Garudas. With each culture, artist, and medium, this mythic creature takes on a unique appearance.

The battle between Garuda and Naga always represents good versus evil.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Garuda and Naga symbolize different things to different cultures. They can represent opposites, such as light and dark, the Sun and Moon, and air and water.

Garuda inspired a character in the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card series.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

"Garuda the Wind Spirit" is a monster in this Japanese card game where players use their cards to battle each other.

Garuda is always one single character.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

In Hinduism, Garuda is a single character, often shown carrying the god Vishnu on his back. But in Buddhist stories, there are flocks of garudas whose aim is to spread the religion.

Physical features: human torso and arms (some have four arms); wings, legs, and clawed feet of a bird; head of a bird, or a human head with beak
Commonly found: Hindu and Buddhist cultures across Asia (China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Tibet, Bali)
Cool fact: Some claim a garuda can protect people against snakebites and other poisons.
Cool fact: Garuda is the national symbol of Thailand and Indonesia.

Image credits: Sean Murtha; Laurel Kendall: courtesy of AMNH.