Nathan (vovat) wrote,
Nathan
vovat

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Oh, pity me, Garuda

A mythological figure I've been thinking about recently is Garuda, the King of Birds from Hindu legend. I like the idea of an avian deity, and his name is just fun to say. So I thought I'd do a little looking into the background of the bird.

While the term can apparently be used as a generic term for divine birds (sort of like Triton in Greek mythology, I suppose), THE Garuda hatched fully grown from an egg (sometimes said to be the same egg that produced eight celestial elephants), and was so powerful that he had to reduce his size and energy after a plea from the gods. He is the steed of Vishnu, and one of the most famous myths concerning him involves his enmity with his aunt Kadru, the mother of serpents. His own mother, Vinata, ended up as a slave to her sister due to losing a bet. In order to win back her freedom, Garuda had to steal the elixir of immortality from the gods. He succeeded, but made a bargain with the sky god Indra, which resulted in the bird-god's tricking the snakes into performing religious rites before drinking the elixir, which gave an opportunity for Indra to steal it back. Ever since then, Garuda and the snakes were enemies, with the bird devouring as many serpents as he could. It's also said that his journey to take the elixir is when he became Vishnu's mount, but this page says that this relationship started when Garuda stole the Moon, and Vishnu was the only god who could prevail against him.

Garuda is sometimes depicted as fully avian, and other times as partially human. I have to say that images of him with a partially human body and Vishnu riding him look a bit homoerotic. {g}



When I was searching for pictures of the god on Google, this one immediately caught my attention, probably because it looks kind of like a Chocobo:



This unfinished Garuda statue is in Indonesia, where the bird is an important symbol, appearing on the flag and in the name of their national airline. It was meant to be a giant monument and the centerpiece of the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park. They ended up having neither the budget nor the cooperation necessary to complete it, though.

And if I may leave the avian ruler aside for this final thought, happy birthday to colleenanne!
Tags: mythology
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