Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Wooden Sculpture of a God That Gets Around!

This resource is part of the Museum Snapshot collection - a collection of smaller resources perfect for starters, plenaries or spare moments to explore something fascinating.

Wooden carving a a bird like creature.  It is standing on clawed feet and has large wings outspread behind it.  what looks like wings are also coming up from above its head.
Carved sculpture of the Hindu God Garuda

This wooden sculpture of a bird-like creature is found in many parts of South East Asia. In Thailand and Indonesia he is their national symbol, and is part of the Buddhist faith.


In India he is the god or deity known as 'Garuda' and is part of the Hindu group of gods. His job is to carry the important god Vishnu on his back and there are stories about him in the Hindu story called The Mahabaratha. You can see the canopy over his head - Vishnu would sit below this.


Close-up of the face, showing bulging eyes, beak open with lots of teeth and tongue.  The statue is gold leafed and painted red and black.
Close-up of a Sculpture of the Hindu God Garuda

Sometimes a Garuda sculpture would be placed in the rafters of peoples’ houses. He is known for getting rid of snakes so that might be why!

Young persons response to this object:

Quite a scary character possibly to indicate the powers of the gods.  Group response from Young Consultants.

Discussion Ideas:

  • Birds with magical abilities are found in many cultures and faiths. Sometimes they are given the power of eternal life. Name another mythical bird that features in a well known story?
  • Why do you think different faiths and religions use stories with 'larger-than-life' characters to get a message across, rather than just telling you what to do?
  • What parts of the bird look human?

Activity Ideas:

  • This Garuda is used to symbolize the country of Bali. It represents qualities that the people like to see in their country. Make up your own creature by drawing it and by describing its qualities. For example, maybe it has large eyes to see everything that is going on...
  • Garuda is known in both India and Indonesia. Use a map to see how far apart these two countries are.