Bheruṇḍā

Bearded Vulture

Bheruṇḍā is an old, now obscure Gāruḍa goddess invoked to cure snakebite. She is part of a family of female deities with avian associations whose worship was widespread. Some “sisters” in this family are Tvaritā/Troṭalā, Kurukullā (Śaiva and Buddhist versions), Jāṅgulī, and Mahāmāyūrī. The history of this now obscure family remains an open question. Bheruṇḍā, Tvaritā, and Kurukullā’s names often come up in lists of the (usually) nine Nityā goddesses, a cult which also is practically unstudied but the scriptures of which survive in several Nepalese manuscripts.
The word Bheruṇḍā also refers to a type of bird, which Dave (1985: Birds in Sanskrit Literature) identifies as either a Bearded Vulture, Adjutant Stork, or Dodo (397–399). The first two are pictured above and both seem quite possible.

Adjutant Stork

Some Sanskrit texts that have passages on Bheruṇḍā include Saṃhitāsāra (unpublished Nepalese manuscripts), Gāruḍapurāṇa, Nāradamahāpurāṇa, Brahmāṇḍapurāṇa, Yogaratnāvalī (unpublished, but manuscripts widespread), Mahāyāgakrama (Muktabodha etext), the commentary to Bhairavapadmāvatīkalpa (Jhavery 1944), and Svacchandapaddhati (Muktabodha etext). Sanderson 2009: 48fn15 has a few useful comments and references on the Nityā cult.

An Important Distinction

Viṣṇubhaktagaruḍa with Malla king in Bhaktapur

I am usually thrilled to be able to work with old manuscripts.  The older it is, the more excited I get!  But excitement aside, we really need to be clear on the following distinction: the age of the manuscript is almost never equivalent to the age of the text it contains.  Hypothetical example:  A text was penned in the 10th century, but the original is lost.  What survives are a 12th century palm leaf manuscript and an 18th century paper manuscript.  At first thought, one may suppose the palm leaf manuscript to be closer to the original text than the one copied 600 years later, and this may be, but it is not necessarily so.  We don’t know how many times the manuscripts that survive were copied.  It is possible, therefore, that the 12th century manuscript was the result of a copy of a copy x 10 of the original.  It is also possible that the 18th century manuscript is a direct copy of a 10th century copy of the original.  I exaggerate a bit to highlight the point that just because a manuscript is recent does not mean that the text it contains is recent and likewise just because a manuscript is old does not mean the text it contains is older than a more recent manuscript.  Each needs to be evaluated on its own merits.