Flying Humanoid or bird of the Indian subcontinent. In Hindu mythology, it is the king of the birds and is identified with fire and the sun.

Etymology: Sanskrit (Indo-Aryan) word.

Variant names: Garutmat, Gerda (in Malaysia), Kruth (in Cambodia), Nagantaka ("destroyer of snakes"), Sitanana ("white face"), Taraswin, Vinayaka ("destroyer of obstacles").

Physical description: Large bird with human arms and legs. Said to be as bright as the sun. Its white face is half human, half bird. Golden or green body feathers. Scarlet wings.

Behavior: Enemy of snakes (Naga).

Distribution: India; Southeast Asia.

Present status: In Hindu mythology, this entity is the vehicle of the god Vishnu. Earlier depictions show the Garuda as an eaglelike bird; later artwork makes it more human. In Indonesia, the Garuda has survived modernization to become the national emblem.

Possible explanation: The Brahminy kite (Haliastur indus) is a common hawk found from India east to the Solomon Islands. It has a distinctive, deep-chestnut color and a white head and neck. Length, 20 inches. Hindus consider it a sacred bird associated with Garuda.

Sources: The Maharbharata, ed. J. A. B. van Buitenen (Chicago: University of Chicago

Press, 1973-1978), vol. 1, pp. 78-92, 419, and vol. 3, pp. 389-395 (Asteka, i. v 19-31; Galava, v liv 99-103); The Garuda Puranam, trans. Manmatha Nath Dutt Shastrl (Varanasi, India: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1968); Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook Translated from the Sanskrit, ed. Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty (New York: Penguin, 1975), pp. 221-228; Joe Nigg, A Guide to the Imaginary Birds of the World (Cambridge, Mass.: AppleWood, 1984), pp. 73-75; Shanti Lal Nagar, Garuda, the Celestial Bird (New Delhi: Book India, 1992); Garuda, 2001, http://www.

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