We went to South India for several reasons, but the primary reason was to take this picture at the Hampi Temple Complex.
The object of this picture is a chariot carved from stone. The chariot originally contained a Garuda, an eagle-like creature from Hindu mythology. The chariot represents the type of cart that Hindu idols are carried in during religious processions. This chariot stands guard outside a temple to Vishnu and is oriented so that the Garuda can gaze at the idol representing the god inside.
Vishnu is one of the three main Hindu gods. Brahma is the creator of the universe, Vishnu is responsible for its continuation, and Shiva is responsible for its destruction. Each Hindu god has an animal-like vehicle for travel and Vishnu travels on the back of the Garuda. Vishnu is incarnated at times of need. Two incarnations of Vishnu that are familiar in the West are Buddha (not everyone in India agrees with this) and Krishna, whose American supporters — the Hari Krishnas — made it difficult to pass through airports in the 1970’s because of their chanting and soliciting of donations. It wasn’t clear to us if the Garuda gets reincarnated also.
(1) This chariot is of such significance that its image is on the money.
(2) For centuries, the stone wheels could be turned, but the Indian government decided to cement them in place.