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Garuda Images in Salar Jung Museum


                                                 By Balagouni Krishna Goud


Garuda is the carrier (vahana) of Lord Vishnu. Garuda, the celestial eggle is worshipped traditionally, and the various Hindu scriptures give him the status of devta.

Garuda is known by several names that describe his appearance like Sitana (white faced); Rakta-paksha (red-winged); Swet-rohita (the white and red); Survarna-kaya (golden-bodied) and Taraswin (the swift).  In sculptures and paintings, Garuda is represented as having head, wings, talons and beak of an eagle, and the body and limbs of a man. His body is golden, his wings red but his face is white.  His wife is `Unnati' or `Vinayaka' and `Sampati' is his son.


The Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad has a few very fine sculptures of Garuda.  They are in stone, metal, ivory and wood.  The miniature bronze sculpture belongs to Chalukya (10th century A.D.), while the stone and wood images of this demigod, belong 18th century AD. These carvings are on display in the Indian art Galleries, i.e. room No.3, 3A and 4 respectively.  An ivory sculpture of Garuda (early 20th century AD) is on display in Room No. 14 (Ivory Gallery).

Garuda with Vishnu and Lakshmi (bronze)

This is a bronze sculpture (height 16.5 cm, width 9.1 cm.) in which a miniature two handed standing Garuda with wings open is seen opposite to the figure (probably) of Sri Lakshmi, who holds a flower in her hand, near the left foot of Sri Vishnu, the main image, in the middle.

Garuda is seen standing as dwibhanga with frontal view and his hands dangling down.  The image of Garuda in front of Lord Vishnu depicts the submissive nature of Garuda who is ready to serve to the God. This piece might have belonged to a temple used as Utsavavigraham (uninstalled idol used during festivals).

Standing Garuda (granite)

This `Standing Garuda' is a Brahmini kite with powerful open wings.  As an attendant and devotee of Lord Vishnu, he serves as his vehicle.  The head is that of a mythical bird and the lower part of the body is human-like.  The image has two hands, which depict an `anjalimudra'.  The nose is long and raised and pointed.  The beak of the image is slightly damaged.  The sacred iconographical marks of Lord Vishnu such as discus, conch etc. are seen on the top of the `prabhavali on either side of the image of Garuda in relief work.

He wears kritamakuta, (crown), beaded ornaments like earlobes, kanthahara, hara, bhujavalayas, keyuras, waist-band, padasuras, a belt like pattern hanging down from hands, anklets etc. Standing in `samabhanga', the image has an expression of adoration.  The sculpture measures 70X33 cm. The style belongs to South India, probably Andhra Pradesh and it reveals the influence of Vijayanagara art.

Kneeling Garuda (Wood)

The wood carving is Garuda on a rectangular pedestal depicts him in kneeling posture i.e. Garudaasanga, with left knee on the ground and the right leg half bent with feet resting on the ground.  The front of the image from forehead to the waist level has bronze cover.  This remarkable piece is decked with ornaments in relief work.

The Vaishnavite symbol `namamu'  is also seen on his forehead clearly.  There is a wheel (chakra) design on the centre of his body.  Two small bulbous rounds on the bronze cover are seen at its bottom end.  His hands are raised upward as if in prayer. His powerful wings are seen open.  It is also said that `his half raised hands kept open, facing to sky', are to bear the feet of his god, Vishnu when he sits on his shoulders while riding.

The central `pathka' with flutters has a design of mukhasimha' in the middle, which is prominently carved.  At least three wooden parts have been joined besides metal cover in the image.  The body, except wings and bronze cover, is probably made in one piece of raw-wood and has several bends. His long and powerful wings are fixed at the back with screws.  This sculpture, measuring 162 cm. in height and about 112 cm in width, is datable to late 18th century A.D.  The technique of combination of metal and wood denote the remarkable workmanship of the artist.  The piece is disintegrating at places, mainly at the right ear.

Garudavahana Vishnu with Consorts (ivory)

This image has Lord Vishnu seated on Garudavahana with his forehands embracing Sridevi and Bhudevi.  The rear hands of the Lord hold chakra and sanka in the right and left respectively.  The prabhavali rises on a stepped pedestal on the back serving as a frame to all the three divine figures and Garuda.

The top of the prabhavali has a `kirtimukha with its teeth laid bear along with scroll work.  The hips of the goddesses rest on the wings of the Garuda with their legs dangling down Garuda, completely in the form of a bird, is perched on a pedestal.

The sculpture in 13.6 cm. in height belongs to early 20th century A.D. It is the creation of traditional ivory carvers in Andhra Pradesh. They are a lost tribe of artistes now because of the ban imposed by the government on ivory trade.

(The author works in the Museum)



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