What is Garuda Sthambha?

Usually, in Hindu temples, adjacent to Dhwaja Sthambha dedicated to Vishnu as the presiding deity, there is an additional but identical pole staff of equal or shorter height is found. This additional pole staff is called the Garuda Sthambha.

Commonly, the idol of the mythical bird Garuda or Garuda Pakshi aka Garuda Alwar in South India is placed high atop the second pillar. Garuda is widely known as the mythical king of birds who acts as the mount, vehicle (Vahana) and travel companion of the Hindu god Vishnu. This mystic bird is found perched atop the temple pillar.

The famous Heliodorus pillar erected in 113 BC at Besnaga, MP in Central India’s Sri Rangji Venugopal Swamy Temple is also another example of a Garuda Sthambha. It was erected by Heliodorus, a Greek ambassador to India who had converted to Vaishnavam in 2nd century BC.

Incidentally, it was the British Alexander Cunningham, who stumbled upon the Heliodorus column in 1877, but failed to notice or understand the historical significance of the pillar. In 1901, the pillar was researched, and the Brahmi texts on the pillar were translated by a British Indologist named Mr. Lake. The Heliodorus Sthambha’s archeological discovery proved to the disappointment of Britishers that the Vaishnava tradition and Vedic worship of Vishnu predated Christianity by at least 200 years.

The Dhwaja Sthambh and Garuda Sthambh are placed parallel and are the tall structures marking the entrance of the temples. This is where followers and practitioners of Sanatana Dharma prostrate before entering the temple.

Many historians, archeologists and Vedic architectural experts of Vastu Shastra have identified the Qutub Minar and the Iron pillar as the ancient remnants of what once used to be the Vishnu Sthambha and Garuda Sthambha leading to the 27 temple complex observatory or Vedashala of Mehrauli.

This article is authored by Prerna Thiruvaipati ji.

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