Juhyung Rhi, "The Garuḍa and the Nāgī/Nāga in the Headdresses of Gandhāran Bodhisattvas: Locating Textual Parallels"

Fig. 1. Bodhisattva (standing). Detail. From Shahbaz-garhi, Gandhāra. H. 120 cm. 2nd-3rd century. Musée Guimet AO 2907. Photo: Musée Guimet.

The motif of a gigantic bird holding what appears to be a human figure occasionally decorates the headdresses of bodhisattva images from Gandhāra. The bird is evidently a garuḍa (or suparṇa or suparṇin), and the human figure is thought to be an anthropomorphic form of the nāgī or nāga. The garuḍa’s enmity with the nāga is well known in Indian literary and religious traditions. What significance was this apparently non-Buddhist theme intended to convey within Buddhist contexts?