Garuda is the Hindu name for the constellation Aquila. The Garuda (Sanskrit: Garuḍa, Pāli Garuḷa) is a large mythical bird or bird-like creature, the king of birds, that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology.
Garuda is one of the three principal animal deities in the Hindu Mythology that has evolved after the Vedic Period in Indian history. The other two are Ganesha, the elephant-headed and Hanuman, the monkey god. Thailand and Indonesia uses the garuḍa as its national symbol. It is after Garuda that the Indonesian National Airlines is named. Even today, Garuda is much revered by devout Hindus for his ethics and his strength in applying his ethics to correct evil-doers.
The story of Garuda's birth and deeds is told in the first book of the great epic Mahabharata. In Hindu mythology, a Garuda is a lesser Hindu divinity, usually the mount (vahanam) of Vishnu. Garuda is depicted as having a golden body, white face, red wings, and an eagle's beak, but with a man's body. He wears a crown on his head. He is ancient and has size enough to block out the sun.
His stature in Hindu religion can be gauged by the fact that an independent Upanishad, the Garudopanidad, and a Purana, the Garuda Purana, is devoted to him. Various names have been attributed to Garuda - Chirada, Gaganeshvara, Kamayusha, Kashyapi, Khageshvara, Nagantaka, Sitanana, Sudhahara, Suparna, Tarkshya, Vainateya, Vishnuratha and others. The Vedas provide the earliest reference of Garuda, though by the name of Śyena, where this mighty bird is said to have brought nectar to earth from heaven. The Puranas, which came into existence much later, mention Garuda as doing the same thing, which indicates that Śyena (Sanskrit for Eagle) and Garuda are the same. One of the faces of Śrī Pañcamukha Hanuman is Mahavira Garuda. This face points towards the west. Worship of Garuda is believed to remove the effects of poisons from one's body. In Tamil Vaishnavism Garuda and Hanuman are known as "Periya Thiruvadi" and "Siriya Thiruvadi" respectively.
In the Bhagavad-Gita (Ch.10, Verse 30), in the middle of the battlefied "Kurukshetra", Krishna explaining his omnipresence, says - "Of birds, I am the son of Vineeta (Garuda)" indicating the importance of Garuda.
Garuda plays an important role in Krishna Avatar in which Krishna and Satyabhama ride on Garuda to kill Narakasura. On another occasion, Lord Hari rides on Garuda to save the devotee Elephant Gajendra. It is also said that Garuda's wings when flying will chant the Vedas.
Many many thanks to “Ajnaabi” for providing ACK scan.