Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Garuda (British Museum)

Garuda - British Museum - Joy of Museums


This gilt bronze statue depicts a Garuda as part bird, and part human with flaming hair that bears the symbols of the sun and moon. The Garuda is a legendary bird creature from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythology. A Garuda is generally a protector with the power to swiftly go anywhere and is ever watchful against enemies. A Garuda is a part of state insignia in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.

This Garuda was acquired from Tibet where the main religion is Tibetan Buddhism which a form of the Buddhist doctrine named after the lands of Tibet but also found in the regions surrounding the Himalayas and much of Central Asia. In the Buddhist tradition, a Garuda is the golden-winged bird from Buddhist texts and can be found with either zoomorphic (animal form) or anthropomorphic (part bird, part human form) iconography.


  • Why is anthropomorphic (part animal and part human) iconography so pervasive in many cultures?
  • Is this Garuda figure a fusion of myths, imagination, metaphors and symbolism?
  • Is the power of nature invoked through the use of anthropomorphic art?
  • Is anthropomorphic art an expression of our awe of the power, grace and wisdom in animals?
  • Does this Garuda image capture both our love and fear of nature?



  • Title:               Garuda
  • Date:               19th Century
  • Findspot:       Tibet
  • Materials:      Gold gilded bronze
  • Culture:          Tibetan Buddhism
  • Dimensions:  H: 69.3 cm; W: 60 cm; Depth: 24 cm; W: 9 kg
  • Museum:      The British Museum


“A child without education is like a bird without wings.”
– Tibetan Proverb


Photo Credit: 1) JOM