Object: Statue of Vishnu Riding Garuda

Figure 1    Basalt statue of Vishnu riding Garuda from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Basalt statue of Vishnu riding Garuda from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/2003/14/1
Statue of Vishnu Riding Garuda
Indonesia
Unknown Date
Materials: Basalt, stone

Carved basalt statues of Vishnu riding Garuda are a prominent artistic and religious feature of southeastern Asia. These particular types of carved statues are often found in temples and shrines dedicated to Vishnu and his bird mount Garuda. The image of Vishnu and Garuda spread throughout Southeast Asia with the spread of Hinduism, and has even been adopted as the national emblem of Indonesia and Thailand. This statue from the Ethnology Collection is carved from basalt—a volcanic rock found naturally in plateau deposits and volcanic terrains—and is commonly used for carving statues, tools, and weapons. Carved basalt statues like this are incredibly heavy, which indicates that they aren’t intended to be moved around, but instead stationed at a temple or shrine for long periods of time. Statues of Vishnu and Garuda are often carved from basalt, granite, wood, and bronze, and are also featured in pillars and architecture. This particular statue was acquired in Indonesia, and measures about 5 feet in height.

Vishnu is one of the three iconic deities of the Hindu faith and is often depicted with his mount, Garuda. Garuda is often portrayed as half man, half bird, with his wings spreading out as he supports Vishnu. Stories and myths of Garuda date back more than 3,000 years, and his image can be found throughout Buddhism as well as Hinduism. The Hindu myth of Garuda tells that he became the mount of Vishnu when he attempted to steal the elixir of immortality from the gods to free his mother from the serpents who imprisoned her. Garuda resisted drinking the elixir himself and prevented the serpents from taking it. Vishnu was impressed by his strength and determination and made him king of all birds. After that point, Garuda became the mount of Vishnu and the enemy of all serpents. The image of Garuda is often used today for protection against snakes and snakebites, and he continues to be an important religious icon across Southeast Asia.

Take a look at this video of a sculptor carving a wooden statue of Vishnu riding Garuda:

[Adisson Bolles]

References Cited:

Behera, Prajna Paramita. “The Pillars of Homage to Lord Jagannatha” http://www.orissa.gov.in/e-magazine/Orissareview/jun2004/englishpdf/pillar.pdf

“Carved and painted figure of Vishnu riding Garuda” britishmuseum.org. Accessed February 13, 2015. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/asia/f/figure_of_vishnu_riding_garuda.aspx

Dietrich, R. V., “Basalt” Gemrocks: Ornamental and Curio Stones. Accessed February 12, 2015. http://stoneplus.cst.cmich.edu/basalt.htm

“Garuda Wisnu Kencana Statue” GWK Cultural Park. Accessed February 14, 2015. http://www.gwkbali.com/about/2/garuda-wisnu-kencana-statue

“Hindu deity Vishnu, 1100-1200” Asian Art Museum. Accessed February 13, 2015. http://education.asianart.org/explore-resources/artwork/hindu-deity-vishnu-1100%E2%80%931200

“Prambanan Temple Compounds” unesco.org. Accessed February 15, 2015. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/642/

“Opposites Attack” American Museum of Natural History. Accessed February 13, 2015. http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/mythic-creatures/air-creatures-of-the-sky/opposites-attack

“Prambanan Temple Compounds” unesco.org. Accessed February 15, 2015. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/642/

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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