Garuda, king of birds and Vishnu’s vehicle. Soft greenish grey stone; 31 cm x 21 cm. North Gujarat or western Rajasthan. c. late 19th century. F/18.

Garuda, the divine eagle and king of birds, was born to Vinata, as a result of a boon from sage Kashyapa. He emerged from an egg, his body brilliantly effulgent like the rays of the sun.

Garuda’s heroic deeds enabled him to successfully retrieve the pot containing the nectar of immortality so coveted and guarded by Indra and the other devas. “He destroyed the wheels and the machine, and carrying the pot of nectar in his beak, rose to the sky shielding the light of the sun by his outspread wings. Mahavisnu, who became so much pleased with the tremendous achievements of Garuda asked him to choose any boon. Garuda requested Vishnu that he should be made his (Vishnu’s) vehicle and rendered immortal without his tasting amrita,”1 or nectar of the gods.

Having been granted both boons, Garuda became the vehicle or vahana of Lord Vishnu and is consequently depicted here holding a weapon with folded hands in a half-kneeling posture, as if alert for his master’s command.

1.Mani, 1984, p.282

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