Most Imporatnt Vahana of Vishnu Temples
Research Article Written by London swaminathan
Date: 26 FEBRUARY 2017
Time uploaded in London:- 17-21
Post No. 3672
Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.
In the Rig Veda and the Egyptian literature Eagle or falcon was mentioned. Rig Veda is the oldest book in the world if we go by the dating of Herman Jacobi and BG Tilak. Both used the astronomical data in the Veda independently and arrived at the same date, around 4500 BCE.
Picture of Eagle shaped Vedic Fire Altar
Hindus and Egyptians identified eagle or falcon with death and immortality. Both identified the bird with divinities and kingship. They praised the eagle or falcon sky-high. The beliefs were same.
In ancient Egypt, the falcon was a royal symbol, because the gaze was said to have paralyze birds as such the countenance of the Pharaoh his enemies. It was the manifestation of Sky God Horus, presumably because the bird flew so high.
Rig Vedic Reference:
Syena (eagle) is described as a strong bird in the Rig Veda (1-32-14; 1-33-2; 1-118-11; 1-163-1; 1-165-2; 2-42-2; 4-38-5 etc In the other Vedas lot of references are there.
Saghan is mentioned in Tattiriya Brahmana; it may be a vulture or an eagle.
Su-parna means well-winged and is mentioned in RV 1-164-20; 2-42-2; 4-26-4;8-100-8;10-48-3 etc
In the RV 4-26, 4-27 falcon is praised. But the full meaning is not explained in the translation. It may be the seed for later stories of Garuda and Amrita and Garuda and death and immortality.
(I am afraid there is no scholar at present to explain the significace of eagle in the Vedas. For example, there is one hymn addressed to The Falcon (4-27). No proper explanation is found in any book. Probably this is the only hymn addressed to falcon in ancient civilizations)
The Satapata Brahmana (12-2-3-7) praises eagle as Maha Suparna, i.e. Great Eagle
Roman eagle discovered in London Aldgate area.
When Roman emperors were cremated ritually, an eagle was released above the funeral pyre to indicate that the soul has gone to dwell among the gods. One old Babylonian text tells us of the ascension of King Etana borne into the heavens by an eagle.
In fact, it is a Hindu belief. Hindus read the Garuda (Eagle) Purana during the 13 day mourning period after the death of a near and dear relative. Of the 18 major Puranas (Hindu Mythology), Garuda Purana is the only one that has got a special funeral liturgy called Pretakanda. Garuda (eagle) was the one who brought Amrita according to a Hindu story and so it symbolised immortality. Bird is always associated with the soul in Hindu literature.
Tamil Veda Tirukkural
Tamil Veda Tirukkural confirms it with a couplet:
The affinity of the body and the soul is like that of the nest and a bird in it. The soul departs from the body even as the chick deserts the nest – Tirukkural 338.
It is in Sangam Literature as well:
Tamil poet Kalladanar says in Akam 113:
“Oh, my friend! I won’t cry if my soul (life) leaves my body and goes to the place where my lover is working, like the bird that deserts its desolate nest and flies away”- said by a woman to her friend.
So, this is a Hindu concept of soul which is seen in many Hindu scriptures including Manu smrti and Bhagavad Gita with different similes.
Eagle is associated with Sun God in several cultures. In Palmyra in Syria, the eagle was associated with the Sun God.
Egyptian God Horus from Wikipedia
Garuda Vahana in Egypt
Horus is Sky god in Egypt recorded from 3000 BCE. Horus symbol is falcon, and he is generally depicted either wholly or in human form with a falcon’s head, exactly like Hindu’s Garuda Vahana.
Other divinities similarly portrayed were the Sun God Rue; Mentu, with adouble crown of feathers; Seker the god of the dead (as a mummified hawk); Hariese with the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Horus is a form of the sun god. The alternative name Harakhti translates Horus of the horizon. He is sometimes depicted as a sun disc mounted between falcon’s wings. Kings are identified with Horus.
Horus as a baby on her mother Isis’ knee is as an amulet against snakes and other animals. In Hindu scriptures Garda mantra is used against snakes.
In many countries, such as Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia, India Garuda emblems are used.
The noticeable marking in the feathers under the hawk’s eyes is called Udjat-eye. This is Horus’ all seeing Udjat eye which became a symbol for visual acuity and imperviousness to injury as well as treasured amulet.
Assyrian Eagle Genie, 883 BCE (May be Garuda carrying amrita)
Gothic windows portray the eagle carrying its unfledged young up into the sky to teach them to gaze into the sun. It figures in Norse mythology Odin. In Europe several saints have falcon as their symbol.
In Christian iconography, the eagle appears frequently as a symbol of john the Evangelist, as an attribute of ascended phrophet Elijah and the resurrected Christ.
Quauhtli (eagle) is the 15th of the 20 days of the Aztec calendar. In ancient China it was the symbol of power and strength.
In Tamil Nadu, King Karikal Choza constructed an eagle shaped fire altar (Yaha Gunda) to perform a yaga according to Purananuru (verse 224). In Kerala even today eagle shaped fire altars are constructed for Atiratra fire ceremony.
Eagle Vahana (Mount of God in processions) of Hindu temples
Eagle in Mahabharata similes
Bhima and Sikhandin wander about in the battlefield enraged like an eagle (6-78-28).
The Pandavas rush towards Jayadratha’s army as an eagle rushes towards meat (3-253-24)
The Pandavas and Kauravas fight like two eagles fighting for meat (6-111-42)
I have already given the story of Garuda and Vinata as found in the epic.
All ancient cultures used eagle, hawk and falcon as symbols of power and might.
But there are more similarities between Vedic and Egyptian cultures in attributing divinity to eagles.
Both identified eagle with Sun and Death and Immortality.
All other civilizations that used falcon and eagle have dies long ago and gone into museums. But the culture is still alive in Hindu India.
There are innumerable towns named after eagle and falcon; there are hundreds of temples where Eagle Vahana is use to carry Lord Vishnu’s idol.
Garuda is worshipped by villagers and sight of it is considered an auspicious sign.
Garuda Hymns and Mantra are used as anti-dotes for poison.
Rig Vedic hymns, the oldest in the world are still used!
(Please see below my previous articles on this subject)
Eagles fed at Tirukkazuku Kundram in Tamil Nadu Temple
Dictionary of Symbolism by Hans Biedermann
Encyclopaedia of Gods by Michel Jordan
Elements of Poetry in the Mahabharata
From my old article:
Hindu Eagle Mystery deepens, 16 February 2013
1.Why do Hindus worship eagle (suparna=garuda) from Rig Vedic Days till today?
2.Why do Hindus including the greatest Tamil king Karikal Choza built their Yaga Kundas (Fire altars) in eagle shape?
3.How is that two eagles come to Tirukazuku kundram just to eat rice pudding everyday for over 1300 year period?
4.Why do Hindus call Emeralds as Garuda Ratna (eagle gem), which Sindbad story writer copied it from the Hindus?
5.Why a Saivaite saint sang 1300 years ago about an eagle bringing flowers to Shiva every day?
6.Why do Tamil children shout ‘Drop me a flower please’ when they see Garudas (falcon/eagle) in the sky? Why do Hindus recite a Sanskrit hymn when they see Garuda?
7.Why does Vishnu use Garuda as his Vahana (Mount of God)?
8.Why did Rama cremate an eagle Jatayu in Ramayana? Was it eagle totem people or real eagle? Why Tamils associate this with Vaitheeswarankoil (eagle town)?
- Why did Eagle people and Snake people (Garudas and Nagas) fight all over the world? We have the story here in Puranas, but symbols are in Egypt and Maya civilization?
- How come eagle brought Soma plant for the Yagas (Fire ceremonies of Hindus)?
- Why did a Greek build an eagle pillar with inscription calling himself as a great devotee of Vishnu?
Falcon symbols in Egypt
12.Tamil Encyclopedia Abithana Chintamani ( year 1899) attributes sixteen acts to Garudas. Many of them actually belong to people with eagle totem. They were against people with snake totem (Nagas). It is the ancient history of India. One must go deeper in to it to reveal the secrets.
- Why do women fast on Garuda Panchami day every year?
- Why is Garuda Purana is associated with the departed souls? It is read in the 13 day mourning period.
- Indus People painted eagle in (funeral ??) potteries, Why? Has it anything to do with Hindus reading Garuda Purana after the funeral?
- Why is it that Amrita (ambrosia) is linked with Garuda/suparna?
- In the Assyrian bas-relief in Khorsabad (885 BC) Eagle headed winged genie is carrying a vessel of lustral water and a pine cone sprinkler. It is one of the benevolent genies that protected men from diseases and evil forces. Is it Garuda with Amrita? (see the images)
- Why does Jaiminiya Brahmana (Vedic literature) say that eagle separates water from milk like Krauncha (swan) bird?
- Why does Romulus saw an eagle on the Aventine Hill and considered it as a good omen like Hindus and keep it in front of his army? Orthodox Hindus wait for Garuda Darsanam every day.
20.Why do newspapers report sighting of Garuda as a good omen during Kumbhabishekam or any religious event?
- Why does Krishna say that he is garuda/eagle among birds in Bhagavad Gita (10-30)(vainatheyascha pakshinam)? Western cultures also consider eagle as ‘King of Brids’.
If I write answers to all these questions it would become a big book. I am going to answer a few of these questions in this article.
(Please read the full article for more information)
I have already written about Vahanas, eagle shaped fire altars of Karikal Choza, Eagle Vs Naga clans enmity in Mayan civilization, Double headed Eagle, Garuda Sthamaba of Greek Ambassador etc. Please see the titles of the articles given below:-
Double Headed Eagle: Sumerian-Indian Connection, posted on 18 December 2011
Picture of Double Headed Eagle in Turkey (Ganda Beranada Bird of Hindu literature)
Eagle/Garuda in India, Rome and Sri Lanka
25 September 2014
Karikal Choza and Eagle shaped Fire Altar
14 January 2012
A Hindu Story in Sumerian Civilization
11 May 2014
Eagle shaped fire altar at Vedic ceremony