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Garuda (गरुड)

Sanskrit. A large and savage, firebreathing, mythological bird, mount of the Hindu god Vishnu (fig.), with enough size to block out the sun and wings that create hurricane-like winds, that darken the sky, and chant the Vedas when flying. He is the king of birds, a son of Kasyapa and Vinata, whose sister was Kadru, the mother of serpents, thus making him a half-brother of the nagas and snakes. However, in a bid to liberate his mother Vinata, who had become enslaved to her sister after losing a imprudent bet, he became the arch-enemy of the serpents. He is usually depicted with a golden body of a human and the wings and feet of a bird, and the beak of an eagle (fig.).  He has a white face and a crown on his head and is in art often shown in battle with a snake or naga (fig.), or sometimes flanked by a pair of nagas, a depiction in Thai referred to as Phaya Krut yuk Naak (fig.). However, his depiction varies from country to country, and in some places he may be portrayed with more human-like features (fig.). His birth and actions are told in the first book of the epic Mahabharata, where it is written that when he first hatched, he appeared as a raging inferno equal to the cosmic blaze that consumes the world at the end of every yuga. Frightened, the gods begged for mercy, whereupon Garuda reduced himself in size and force. The flaming nimbus usually depicted with Fudo Myoo (fig.), also known as Budong (fig.) and Acalanatha (fig.), is said to be the flame of the Garuda and in iconography, the features of a bird can hence sometimes be discovered entangled in those flames (fig.). In the Vedas, where he is mentioned the first time, he is said to have brought nectar from heaven to earth. In Hinduism, worship of Garuda is believed to remove the effects of poisons from one's body. Krishna (fig.) carries the image of Garuda on his banner and in Thailand, he is since 1911 the nation's royal symbol, replacing the unofficial coat of arms of the Kingdom of Siam (fig.), while showing the connection between the Thai monarch as the protector of the nation, and the mighty god Vishnu as the protector of the universe. In line with this, the Garuda is also the emblem of the Civil Service, whose flag consists a white field with a golden Garuda (fig.), and whose members wear it on the buckle of their uniform belts, akin to members of the Royal Thai Police and the Royal Thai Armed Forces. A red Garuda over a green banner with the golden inscription Dooy Dai Rap Phra Boromma Racha Anuyaht, i.e. ‘By (having received) Royal Permission’ is a Royal Warrant of Appointment given by the King of Thailand to any purveyor to the royal household or to someone who or a business that has shown exceptional services and commitment to the development of the nation, and is known as Krut Trah Tang Hahng (fig.). Garuda has six sons from whom the race of birds descended. In Buddhism, garudas are huge and intelligent predatory birds with social order, and believed to dwell in silk cotton trees (fig.). In 1924, his image was portrayed on the nation's first ever issue of airmail postage stamps (fig.) and he somewhat became the unofficial emblem of the Thai Post in its early form, before the establishment of the Thailand Post Public Company Limited in 2003, and appears in several forms on the General Post Office Building in Bangkok (fig.), sometimes depicted holding a post horn (fig.). There is a rather unique Garuda shrine, known as Sahn Chao Pho Khrut (fig.), tucked away in a short and narrow street in Bangkok's Phra Nakhon District. He is also known by the names Chirada, Gaganeshvara, Galohn (fig.), Kamayusha, Karura, Kashyapi, Khageshvara, Khangard, Nagantaka, Shyena (eagle), Sitanana, Sudhahara, Suban, Suparna or Supanna (well-winged), Tarkshya, Vainateya, Vineeta, Vishnuratha (ratha or chariot of Vishnu), etc. See also look lep krut (fig.). See also THEMATIC STREET LIGHT and WATCH VIDEO (1) and (2).