Shelly Bryant

Garuda and Naga


at the stupa near the entrance of the Killing Fields


I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for legends and mythology.  On my recent trip to Cambodia, I was especially taken by the Garuda and Naga motif that is visible in much of the country’s architecture.  The two creatures have their roots in Hindu mythology.  The Garuda (Sanskrit for “eagle”) is a bird that was the mount of the god Vishnu, while the Naga is a 7-headed hooded serpent (like a cobra) that is thought to be the father of the Khmer people.  The Naga and Garuda are natural enemies.  When they are represented together (often upholding the Buddha), it is a symbol of peace.

The Garuda-Naga motif is often seen on buildings in Cambodia, much like the two images here.  In both instances, the Garuda is supporting the Naga, whose head is spread out in a protective embrace over all that pass beneath it.

in the complex of the Silver Pagoda, next to the grounds of the Royal Palace