November 14, 2022
This is one of the most beautiful animal sculptures in gallery E of the Angkor National Museum (pic. 1). It depicts very dynamic figures of Garuda tramping on or combining with the Nagas, dated to the Angkorian period, Bayon style, late 12th–early 13th century AD. According to the EFEO’s archives, this stunning sculpture is originally from Prasat Chrung, located in the southeast corner of Angkor Thom’s enclosure wall; please see the old picture in June 1925 (pic. 2) and July 1925 (pic. 3&4).
Garuda, the king of birds, is portrayed as a composite symbiotic form of a gigantic eagle with a human body. In bas-reliefs, the figures of Garuda and Naga or serpent are frequently depicted on the ancient Khmer architectural elements such as lintels, pediments and walls. And in high reliefs and three-dimensional sculptures, the Garuda images are shown in varied features and positions in Angkorian period. Remarkably, in Bayon style, a number of large-scale sculptures of Garuda with Naga were created.
This Garuda-Naga sculpture probably reflects an impressive theme of great Hindu epic Mahabharata, telling the story of fighting between Garuda and Nagas in order to take a pot of divine nectar (Amrita) for liberating his mother (Vinata) from her servitude.
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