Garuda is a bird creature from Hindu mythology that has a mix of eagle and human features. He is the vehicle (vahana) of Vishnu and appears on the god's banner. Garuda represents birth and heaven, and is the enemy of all snakes. In Indian art, Garuda gradually acquired more human form over the centuries and so maintained only his wings. In Cambodia, however, he retains even today the great talons and vicious-looking beak of a bird of prey.
Appearance & Associations:
Garuda traditionally has the torso and arms of a man and the wings, head, beak and talons of an eagle or vulture. His body is gold in colour, his wings are red and his face is white. Garuda is also known as the 'king of the birds' (Khagesvara), as 'he who has beautiful feathers' (Suparna), as 'golden bodied' (Suvarnakaya) and 'the devourer' (Nagantaka). The latter name is in reference to his role as the enemy of all snakes which are symbolic of death and the underworld. In contrast, Garuda represents birth and heaven; in addition he is associated with the sun and fire.
Garuda's wife is Unnati (or Vinayaka in other versions) and his son is Sampati, another mythical bird and ally of Rama. Garuda is the offspring of Kasyapa and Vinata (or also Tarksya in other versions). It was following his mother's quarrel with her co-wife Kadru, the queen of serpents, that Garuda acquired his dislike of snakes.