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Garuḷa

Skt. Garuḍā.– A class of mythical birds generally mentioned in company with Nāgā (e.g., J.iv.181, 202).

They live in cotton-wood (simbali) groves (e.g., J.i.202) and are usually huge in size, sometimes one hundred and fifty leagues from wing to wing (J.iii.397). The flapping of their wings can raise a storm, known as the Garuḷa-wind (J.v.77). This wind can plunge a whole city in darkness and cause houses to fall through its violence (J.iii.188).

A Garuḷa has strength great enough to carry off a whole banyan tree, tearing it up from its roots (J.vi.177). The Garuḷā are the eternal enemies of the Nāgā (J.ii.13; iii.103) and live in places, such as the Seruma Island (J.iii.187), where Nāgā are to be found. The greatest happiness of the Nāgā is to be free from the attacks of the Garuḷā (J.iv.463). A Garuḷa’s plumage is so thick that a man — e.g., Natakuvera (J.iii.91) — could hide in it, unnoticed by the bird. Sometimes Garuḷā assume human form; two Garuḷa kings are said to have played dice with kings of Bārāṇasī and to have fallen in love with their queens, whom they took to the Garuḷa city — one of the queens being Suyonandī (J.iii.187) and the other Kākavatī (J.iii.91). In each case the queen, being found unfaithful to her Garuḷa lover, was returned to her husband. The Garuḷā know the Ālambāyana spell, which no Nāga can resist (J.vi.178, 184). It is said that in olden days the Garuḷā did not know how to seize Nāgā effectively; they caught them by the bead, and the Nāgā who had swallowed big stones were too heavy to be lifted from the ground; consequently the Garuḷā died of exhaustion in trying to carry them. Later the Garuḷā learnt this secret through the treachery of the ascetic Karambiya, as related in the Paṇḍaranāgarāja Jātaka (J.vi.175 f).

Garuḷā are mentioned as sometimes leading virtuous lives, keeping the fast and observing the precepts. One such was the Garuḷa king mentioned in the Paṇḍara Jātaka, and another, the son of Vināta, who visited the park of Dhanañjaya Korabya and gave a golden garland as present after hearing Vidhurapaṇḍita teach (J.vi.261 f).

The Garuḷa’s body was evidently considered to be specially formed for quick flight, for the ancient prototype of the aeroplane was based on the Garuḷa (DhA.iii.135). One of the five guards appointed by Sakka to protect Tāvatiṃsa from the Asurā was formed of Garuḷā (J.i.204).

The Bodhisatta (J.iii.187) and Sāriputta (J.iii.400) were both, on different occasions, born as Garuḷa kings. The Simbalī is the special tree of the Garuḷa-world (Vism.i.206). The Garuḷa is often represented in art as a winged man. (See Fergusson: Tree and Serpent Worship, pl.xxvi.1; xxviii.1. etc; also Gründwedel: Buddhistische Kunst, pp.47‑50).

The Garuḷā are sometimes called Supaṇṇas (Suvaṇṇas). VvA.9.

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