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A scene from the epic Mahabharata: Garuda overcomes the gods and steals the nectar of immortality
Place of Origin: Indonesia, Bali
Date: approx. 1875-1925
Materials: Paint on cotton
Dimensions: H. 46 in x W. 56 in, H. 116.8 cm x W. 142.2 cm
Credit Line: Transfer from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Katherine Ball
Department: Southeast Asian Art
Collection: Painting
Object Number: 2010.352
On Display: No

Description

Label:

The Hindu god Vishnu has as his loyal mount the mythical bird Garuda. How Garuda became Vishnu's mount is shown in this painting. Long ago, Garuda's mother lost her and her son's freedom through a rigged wager. They could regain their freedom only by capturing the gods' nectar of immortality and giving it to their creditors. Garuda set out to seize the nectar: "The gods attacked Garuda, using all kinds of weapons like thunderbolts and discuses, but to no avail. Garuda whipped his wings and blew away the gods." This scene is depicted in the lower half of the painting. In front of Garuda's face a thunderbolt, having been thrown by the god Indra, is shown broken in half by the wind Garuda created. The capture of the jar of nectar and its aftermath is shown in the upper half of the painting, starting at the left and moving right: "Then fire encircled the place of nectar. Garuda sucked up the ocean and sprinkled the same on the fire. . . . Then he marked two serpents protecting the nectar. The demon serpents never blinked their eyes and whoever came into their sight got burned up by the flame emitted by their eyes. Garuda waved his wings and the serpents were forced to close their eyes. Garuda immediately cut the serpents with his beak and ate them up as his food. By the time Garuda was about to fly away with the nectar, kept in a jar, the god Vishnu called him."

A discussion of their relative powers followed, and finally Vishnu said, "'You will be my vehicle, and your figure will be on my banner.' Garuda pondered and then agreed. That is how Garuda became the vehicle of the god Vishnu. After that the god Vishnu and Garuda became friends." The two dwarfish figures in checked loincloths in the lower middle of the painting are the clown servants called Twalen and Merdah in Bali. They and other clown servants were added to Indian epics like the Mahabharata in their Indonesian retellings. (Quotations adapted from a translation by Dr. I Gusti Putu Phalgunadi of the Indonesian version of the first book of the Mahabharata.)


Label:

The Hindu god Vishnu has as his loyal mount the mythical bird Garuda. How Garuda became Vishnu's mount is shown in this painting. Long ago, Garuda's mother lost her and her son's freedom through a rigged wager. They could regain their freedom only by capturing the gods' nectar of immortality and giving it to their creditors. Garuda set out to seize the nectar: "The gods attacked Garuda, using all kinds of weapons like thunderbolts and discuses, but to no avail. Garuda whipped his wings and blew away the gods." This scene is depicted in the lower half of the painting. In front of Garuda's face a thunderbolt, having been thrown by the god Indra, is shown broken in half by the wind Garuda created. The capture of the jar of nectar and its aftermath is shown in the upper half of the painting, starting at the left and moving right: "Then fire encircled the place of nectar. Garuda sucked up the ocean and sprinkled the same on the fire. . . . Then he marked two serpents protecting the nectar. The demon serpents never blinked their eyes and whoever came into their sight got burned up by the flame emitted by their eyes. Garuda waved his wings and the serpents were forced to close their eyes. Garuda immediately cut the serpents with his beak and ate them up as his food. By the time Garuda was about to fly away with the nectar, kept in a jar, the god Vishnu called him."

A discussion of their relative powers followed, and finally Vishnu said, "'You will be my vehicle, and your figure will be on my banner.' Garuda pondered and then agreed. That is how Garuda became the vehicle of the god Vishnu. After that the god Vishnu and Garuda became friends." The two dwarfish figures in checked loincloths in the lower middle of the painting are the clown servants called Twalen and Merdah in Bali. They and other clown servants were added to Indian epics like the Mahabharata in their Indonesian retellings. (Quotations adapted from a translation by Dr. I Gusti Putu Phalgunadi of the Indonesian version of the first book of the Mahabharata.)