Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 25


BY: SUN STAFF - 15.11 2018

Garuda on the Sun Dhoka (Golden Gate), Durbar Square, Bhaktapur

The Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed.

Lalitpur has produced the greatest number of renowned artists and the finest craftsmen in all of Nepal's art history. Almost without exception, the focus of their artistic expression has been sacred, including both Vaisnava and Buddhist subjects. Not surprisingly, many images of Garuda are found that have been done in Buddhist iconography, rather than the traditional Vaisnava style. These are easily identified by the crown and flame motif on the stella or murti background.

Nepalese Buddhist Garuda's typically have a prominent hooked beak, clawed feat, and various styles of naga. The Vaisnava depictions, on the other hand, tend to show Garuda's human form in face, arms and hands, with prominent wings behind him.

All the early sculptures of large dimension in Nepal are of Vaisnava devotional themes, and all the heroic themes are centered on Visnu. The avowed Vaisnava ruler Visnugupta (c. 640 A.D.), appears to have had Nepal under his hand even while the local Licchavi ruler, Bhimarjuandeva held the seat of power.

Patan was initially designed in the shape of the chakra, which is also a primary Buddhist icon for the Wheel of Dharma, or Righteousness. On the perimeter of Patan are four mounds, or thurs, on which are inscribed various historical data. These are popularly known as the Ashoka Stupas, in honor of the visit by the Emperor Ashoka, a legendary King of India who visited Kathmandu with his daughter Charumati, in 250 B.C.

As is the case throughout India, the Vaisnava and Buddhist presence are well blended - not surprising, given that Lord Buddha is an incarnation of Sri Krsna, Himself.

Sri Garuda, before Changu Narayan Temple

Bhaktapur Garudas

Adjacent to the City of Patan is Bhaktapur. This tirtha is home to a number of beautiful murtis of Sri Garuda, several of which reside in the famed Changu Narayan temple. Located at a height of 1541 m., Bhaktapur's Changu Narayan is one of the oldest temples in the Kathmandu Valley, dating back to 323 A.D. The temple was erected by King Hari Dutta, a Licchavi king. He ordered the building of four hilltop Narayan temples around Changu Village (Doladri, in Sanskrit). The other temples are Ichangu Narayan, at the West, Sikhara Narayan, and Lokapalasvamin. Here you will find a good overview of the earthquake damage in Bhaktapur.

Built upon a single rock foundation, the impressive Changu Narayan temple holds some of Nepal's finest examples of devotional art in stone, wood and metal. Adorning the struts are the Dasavatar. A stone murti of Lord Krsna in his Universal Form is joined by a stone murti of Garuda, who is shown in half-man, half bird Vaisnava iconography, kneeling before the temple.

Sri Garudasan, 9th Century 
Changu Narayan Temple

Inside the temple is another murti of Garuda, which the devotees offer sweets each year on Nag Panchami. This is done to memorialize Sri Garuda's epic struggle with the great naga, Taksaka. Drops of moisture which form on the murti are collected by the priests, and are believed to be effective against diseases such as leprosy.

To the north of the temple is a 9th Century murti of Lord Vishnu seated on Garuda (Garudasana Vishnu). This image appears on Nepal's 10 rupee note. The sculpture depicting the Lord's Vishvarupa form dates to the 8th Century. An 8th Century murti of Visnu Vikrant is also there, depicting the Lord in His Vamana incarnation.

The Lord's Vishvarupa Form
Changu Narayan Temple, C. 1740


Intricately carved sculptures appear in wood throughout the temple, including beautiful images of the Devas, dragons, elephants, and various paraphernalia. Sri Garuda is carved in the lintel at each doorway.

A stone pillar in the temple was established by King Mandev in 464 A.D. This inscription to Manadev I, on the Garuda Dhwaja pillar, is one of the oldest inscriptions to have been discovered in Nepal.

Sri Garuda Stambha, Bhaktapur

The Vaisnava devotees pray to Changu Narayan as Garuda Narayan, while the Buddhists refer to the presiding Deity as Hari Hari Hari Vahan Lokeshwor. Buddhists revere Changu Narayan as Boddhisattva Avalokiteswara. They believe that while Garuda and Taksaka were engaged in ferocious battle, Taksaka was fearful of Visnu's assisting Garuda, and prayed to Boddhisattva Avalokiteswara for his own safety. The compassionate Avalokiteswara stopped the battle and brought peace to the adversaries. Vishnu then offered to carry Boddhisattva Avalokiteswara to Changu, thus the worship of Hari Hari Hari Vahan Lokeshwor. At Changu Narayan, Boddhisattva Avalokiteswara is shown separately as a stone murti behind the temple, while Garudasana Narayan, Vishnu on Garuda, is the presiding murti of the temple.

Another Garuda Stambha, Bhaktapur