Vol. 29: The Crow-Goblin: The Tutelary Deity of Thailand

Soon after arriving in Thailand for the first time, I saw this strange relief from the car in which I was traveling. The white-walled exterior of the building made me think that it might be a museum of the traditional performing arts. The bright red naked figure was particularly striking and somehow attractive.

Thereafter, I saw the same figure on several occasions wherever I went and became fascinated by this image with its weird atmosphere. I thought I had seen the image of a birdfs beak attached to the human body on various occasions before, and I suddenly realized that it was identical to the crow-goblin figure that appears in Japanese mythology.

I presumed that this image was that of figure appearing in a traditional folk tale or myth, but it was only much later that I discovered it was Garuda, the tutelary deity and formerly the symbol of Thailand.

For many years I thought that this image was merely the mark of Thailandfs largest financial institution, the Bank of Bangkok, because it can invariably be seen at the entrance to the branches of the bank that one encounters throughout the country. The Thai people seem to have the greatest respect for Garuda, and I discovered later that this wonderful image could be seen on all national buildings in Thailand. Garuda is of course also the symbol of Indonesiafs national airline company.

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