Sri Garuda, Part Three

BY: SUN STAFF


Jan 08, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of Sri Garuda, the transcendental carrier of Lord Visnu.

Where only a small and select group of temples are found to be entirely dedicated to the glorification of Sri Garuda, there are many temples who provide murtis, stambas and temple art of Sri Garuda for the worship and devotees. One example is the famous Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple of Kerala, in which the presiding Deity is Lord Visnu Himself. Located in the City of Thiruvananthapuram, devotees visiting this well known Vaisnava temple are greeting by a large murti of Garuda Vaaghanam, the vahana of Lord Visnu.

The temple is an architectural wonder, bearing a gopuram that is 100 feet high. The Deity of Sri Visnu measures 18 feet in length and is covered with gold and other precious stones. The Deity, which can be viewed through three different doors, is seen resting gracefully on the Serpent Anantha. The head and torso is visible through the first opening, the midriff and hands are visible through the second door, and the Lord's lotus feet are visible through the third door.

The temple is famous for its Arattu festival, which even today is led by the royal family of Travancore. The procession is a grand spectacle of beautifully ornamented elephants and devotees chanting Visnu kirtan. Standards are high for pilgrims coming to Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple. Only Hindu devotees are permitted to enter the temple. Men must be in dhoti, shirt removed and wearing vaistee.


Tirupati Garuda Stambha


Garuda in Tirupati

Several excellent murti forms of Sri Garuda are found in Tirupati. The Tirumala Tirupati Brahmotsavam ritual is conducted in honor of Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy. This mahapuja has been going on since the 10th century, with 12 Brahmostavams being conducted nearly every year. A very special maha-Brahmotsavam is held every year in the month of Bhadrapadha, and another special Brahmotsava is held once every three years, called the Navarathri Brahmotsavam.

During the Brahmotsavam, the Lord Venkateswara is taken out on 9 days, each day one a different vahana. Sri Garuda, pictured above, is offered worship during Tirumala Tirupati Brahmotsavam and is a primary members of the 9 vahanams, which also include

Pedda Sesha, Hamsa, Muthyapu Pandiri, Sarva Bhoopala, Gaja, Chandra Prabha, Aswa, and Dwajavarohanam Vahanam.


Sri Venkateswara on Garuda


In addition to Sri Venkateswar's Brahmotsava and the main Garuda Deity shown above, there are many murtis of Sri Garuda to be found through the Tirupati region. The prominence of this great devotee of Lord Visnu is reflected in the fact that at the start of Brahmotsava, a temple flag, called a Garuda flag, is hoisted at the Dhvajastambham to mark the commencement of the ritual. This signifies Sri Garuda's travels to Devalokam, where he invites the Devas to attend the function.

Devotees offer prayers at the Garudotsav, asking the Lord to bless their efforts to live a life of piety and high moral values. Garuda was requested by the Lord himself to stay in the high hills, guarding the skies from anything untoward coming by, and in this way, Sri Garuda is seen as a protector of the devotees.


Sri Garuda, Tirupati


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