Vishnu is the Supreme Being, or God, or Ultimate Reality. The Garuda has a large gold body, a white face, and an eagle’s beak. He is a less prominent presence on the hierarchy of deities or divinities.
The Divine Vehicle of Vishnu
The story of Garuda’s “life” plays out in Mahabharata, one of two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. The Garuda is the vehicle of Vishnu, one of the principal Hindu deities, who is the restorer of moral order (dharma). The Garuda carries Vishnu to Vaikuntha (heaven), where Vishnu lives. Garuda is the son of Kasypa (father) and Vinata (mother). Garuda had six sons, all of whom were birds. Garuda is portrayed in the Mahabharata as having violent force and speed.
The symbolization of Garuda with a snake
Some Hindu art portrays Garuda with a snake or serpent protruding on his chest. The reason for this symbolization is that Garuda was arrogant when he went atop the Vishnu, which was the same location as immortality. The king of the Gods, Indra, granted the serpent Sumukha the elixir of immortality. Garuda had already devoured Sumukha’s father and stated his intent to devour Sumukha. Since Garuda was a bird and part eagle, it made sense that he would eat the snake. Garuda argued with Indra and bragged that he was mightier and better than Vishnu. Vishnu did not like this and put his hand on Garuda. Feeling horrible pain, Garuda pleaded for relief, but Vishnu reminded Garuda of his arrogance and placed Sumukha the snake on his chest like a necklace.
An independent Upanishad (Hindu Scripture) is devoted to Garuda, as is a Purana (a genre of ancient Hindu or Jain literature), the Garuda Purana. Garuda has many other names which are attributed to him, including Kamayusha, Khageshvara, Gaganeshvara, and Kashyapi. Other literature references to Garuda are in the Vedas, the oldest, most sacred texts of Hinduism coming out of ancient India. The earliest reference to Garuda is in the Vedas, which refers to Garuda as which is the Sanscrit word for eagle. A Purana reference later confirms that syena and Garuda are the same.
In the Cambodian city of Preah Khan, you can see the city wall decorated with large images of Garuda standing on top of a serpent and holding one another over his head. In Bali, you can visit a 40-story high statue of Garuda built by Nyoman Nuarta near the international airport. The Garuda is also the Hindu name of the constellation Aquila. Garuda is mentioned in Chapter 10, verse 30, of the Bhavagad-Vita by Krishna. In Buddhism, garudas are large predatory birds who combine the attributes of birds and gods, and whose wings span many miles.