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The Naga and the Garuda

Naga in Chiang MaiNagas are seen as strong guardians on temple balustrades, yet on temple roofs they appear to be victims in the clutch of a garuda (much as snakes in the crutch of an eagle in flight), the sworn enemy of the naga. The garuda is symbolized by the cho fa at the apex of the roof.

Cho Fa in Chiang MaiThe garuda, an eagle-like bird with a human-like head and torso, serves as a mount of Vishnu (the garuda is the symbol of the Thai government). A legend states that a naga was once caught by a garuda at the time of the Buddha. The naga grasped onto a Bhodi tree under which the Buddha was seated and asked for his help. Whereupon the Buddha taught both creatures the value of the dhamma - symbolized in the temple by the cho fa and naga on the bargeboards.

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