Antique Banteay Srei Style Seated Bronze Khmer Vishnu Garuda Statue - 71cm/28"

Garuda: The Divine Eagle in Hinduism and Buddhism

Garuda, the mythical bird-like creature, holds a revered place in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Known for his immense power, speed, and his role as the mount (vahana) of the Hindu god Vishnu, Garuda is a symbol of strength, protection, and the triumph of good over evil.

In Buddhism, Garuda is also a significant figure, often depicted as a protector and a symbol of wisdom. This blog post explores the origins, symbolism, and cultural significance of Garuda in Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

Origins and Mythology of Garuda

Garuda's origins are rooted in ancient Indian mythology, particularly in the Vedas, Puranas, and epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana. According to Hindu mythology, Garuda was born to Vinata and sage Kashyapa. His birth was marked by extraordinary events, as he emerged fully grown, radiant, and powerful. Garuda's most famous myth involves his quest to obtain the nectar of immortality (amrita) to free his enslaved mother from the clutches of her sister, Kadru, and her serpent sons, the Nagas.

Garuda's quest showcased his incredible strength and valor. He fought his way through numerous obstacles, outwitting the gods and demons to retrieve the amrita. This feat earned him the eternal enmity of the Nagas, symbolizing his role as their nemesis and protector against serpentine evil.

Garuda in Hinduism

In Hinduism, Garuda is primarily known as the mount of Vishnu, one of the principal deities responsible for the preservation of the universe. Vishnu, the protector, often rides on Garuda during his divine missions to restore cosmic order.

Symbolism in Hinduism:

  1. Strength and Power: Garuda’s immense physical strength and speed symbolize the power to overcome evil and obstacles. His wings are said to be so mighty that they can block out the sun, reflecting his formidable nature.

  2. Protector: As Vishnu’s vahana, Garuda is seen as a protector of dharma (cosmic law and order). His role is to aid Vishnu in his divine missions, ensuring the victory of good over evil.

  3. Wisdom and Knowledge: Garuda is also associated with wisdom and knowledge. His ability to navigate the skies and transcend earthly limitations signifies spiritual insight and the pursuit of higher knowledge.

  4. Emblem of Royalty: In many Hindu kingdoms, Garuda has been adopted as a royal emblem, symbolizing sovereignty, protection, and divine authority.

Garuda’s imagery is prominent in Hindu temples, scriptures, and iconography. He is often depicted with the body of a man and the wings, beak, and talons of an eagle, adorned with a crown and other royal insignia.

Khmer Garuda

Garuda in Buddhism

Garuda also plays a significant role in Buddhist mythology and art, particularly in Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhism. In these traditions, Garuda is viewed as a protector and a symbol of overcoming obstacles on the path to enlightenment.

Symbolism in Buddhism:

  1. Protector of the Dharma: In Buddhist mythology, Garuda is often depicted as a fierce protector of the Buddha and his teachings. He guards against negative forces and aids practitioners in their spiritual journey.

  2. Wisdom and Enlightenment: Garuda’s association with the sky and flight symbolizes the transcendence of ignorance and the attainment of enlightenment. His ability to soar high above the earth represents spiritual elevation and insight.

  3. Overcoming Obstacles: Garuda’s battles with the Nagas are symbolic of the struggle against ignorance, attachment, and negative emotions. His triumphs illustrate the victory of wisdom and virtue over vice and delusion.

  4. Tantric Symbolism: In Tantric Buddhism, Garuda is sometimes depicted in fierce forms, representing the transformation of wrathful energies into enlightened awareness. He is also a part of various protective mantras and rituals.

Garuda is depicted in various Buddhist texts and artworks, often with a majestic and fearsome appearance, emphasizing his protective and transformative qualities.

Cultural Significance and Depictions

Garuda’s influence extends beyond religious texts and into the cultural fabric of several Asian countries. He is a national symbol in countries like Thailand and Indonesia, where his image represents strength, protection, and national identity.

In Indonesia: Garuda is the national emblem, featured prominently on the national coat of arms and used in the name of the national airline, Garuda Indonesia. This symbolizes the country’s rich cultural heritage and the values of freedom and power.

In Thailand: Garuda, known as Krut, is a royal symbol representing the Thai monarchy. It is used in official emblems and documents, signifying authority and divine protection.

In Nepal: Garuda is a prominent figure in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Statues and carvings of Garuda are common in temples and religious sites, underscoring his protective and auspicious qualities.

Thai Garuda


Garuda’s significance in Hinduism and Buddhism transcends mere mythology, embodying profound spiritual and cultural values. As a symbol of strength, protection, and the victory of good over evil, Garuda inspires devotees to overcome obstacles and pursue higher knowledge.

His role as Vishnu’s mount in Hinduism and as a protector in Buddhism highlights his versatile and enduring presence in the spiritual and cultural landscape of Asia.

Through the ages, Garuda has remained a powerful and revered figure, inspiring art, literature, and national symbols. His legacy continues to be celebrated, reminding us of the timeless values of courage, wisdom, and devotion. Whether in the soaring heights of myth or the grounded reality of cultural identity, Garuda’s majestic flight continues to captivate and uplift those who seek his blessings and guidance.