The name is a transliteration of garuda, a race of enormously gigantic birds in Hinduism, 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).
The karura is said to be enormous, fire-breathing, and to feed on dragons/serpents, 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. Shumisen or Mount Meru is said to be its habitat.
One famous example is the Karura statue at Kōfuku-ji, Nara, amongst the eight deva statues presented at the Buddhābhiṣeka dated to the year Tenpyō 6 or 734, pictured top right). This karura is depicted as wearing Tang Chinese-style armor, and thus is seen wingless.
But more conventionally, the Karura 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.
In fine art
In popular culture
- Shinchosha (1985). 新潮世界美術事典 [Shincho Encyclopedia of World Art]. Shinchosha. ISBN 4-10-730206-7.
- Chaudhuri, Saroj Kumar. Hindu Gods and Goddesses in Japan. p. 151.
- Shinmura, Izuru (1976). 広辞苑 [Kōjien]. Iwanami.. Japanese dictionary, 2nd revised edition
- 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).
- The multilexic Shinchosha 1985 dictionary does not give an English or any other language equivalent for this entry.