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A statue depicting a wingless Karura, from Kofukuji Temple, Nara, Japan, 8th century.

The Karura (迦楼羅) is a divine creature with human torso and birdlike head[1] in Japanese Hindu-Buddhist mythology.

The name is a transliteration[1] of Garuda (Sanskrit: Garuḍa[1] गरुड ; Pāli: Garuḷa) a race of enormously gigantic birds in Hinduism,[2] upon which the Japanese Buddhist version is based. The same creature may go by the name of konjichō (金翅鳥, lit. "gold-winged bird", Skr. suparṇa).[1]

The karura is said to be enormous,[3] fire-breathing,[3] and to feed on dragons/serpents,[3] just as Garuda is the bane of Nāgas. Only a dragon who possesses a Buddhist talisman, or one who has converted to the Buddhist teaching, can escape unharmed from the Karura.[citation needed] Shumisen or Mount Meru is said to be its habitat.[3]

Karura is one of the proselytized and converted creatures recruited to form a guardian unit called the Hachibushū (八部衆, "Devas of the Eight Classes").[4][5]

One famous example is the karura statue at Kōfukuji temple, Nara (amongst the eight deva statues presented at eye-opening ceremony dated to the year Tenpyō 6 or 734 AD, pictured top right).[4] This karura is depicted as wearing Chinese Tang dynasty style armor, and thus is seen wingless.

But more conventionally, the karura (garuda) is depicted as a winged being with human torso and avian head, as in the Vajra Hall (Kongō buin (金剛部院)) section of the Womb Realm mandala (Taizōkai mandara (胎蔵界曼荼羅)) and other iconographic books and scrolls.[1]

Fine art[edit]

karura gikau mask (source:Shuko Jisshu, Todaiji Hachimangu (1895))

The karura (garuda) mask is one of the stock character masks worn by performers of the ancient Japanese courtly dance art of gigaku.[1][3]

The flaming nimbus or halo is known by the name "karura flame"[1] and typically seen adorning behind the statue of the Fudō-myōō (不動明王)).

The karura is also said to be the prototype of the depictions of the tengu[3] or karasutengu.[1]

Popular Culture[edit]

The Pokémon family of Magby Magmar, and Magmortar are based on the karura, as well as an iguana.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Shinchosha (1985). 新潮世界美術事典 (Shincho Encyclopedia of World Art). Shinchosha. ISBN 4-10-730206-7.
  2. ^ Hindu Gods and Goddesses in Japan By Saroj Kumar Chaudhuri p.151
  3. ^ a b c d e f Shinmura, Izuru (1976). 広辞苑(Kōjien). Iwanami.. Japanese dictionary, 2nd revised edition
  4. ^ a b Murano, Takao (1997). 興福寺国宝展(Kōfukuji kokuhō ten)(exhibit catalog). Tetsurô Kôno (trans.). Art Research Foundation., Item #3-2, p.vii (English caption), 32-33 (photo), p.189 (text by Kaneko, Tomoaki(金子智明))
  5. ^ The multilexic Shinchosha 1985 dictionary does not give an English or any other language equivalent for this entry.