In the Adiparwa, the Hindu story of creation, Garuda stole the Water of Immortality from the gods, to rescue his mother from bondage. For this transgression, the gods attacked him, but he escaped. In this painting eight gods, each in the appropriate colour and with their respective weapons, attack the indestructible Garuda. Normally Garuda is shown holding a flask of the water, but this detail has been omitted here.
In Bali, each of the four principal directions is associated with a god and a colour. The four intermediate directions each have a god whose colour is intermediate between their closest principal sides. For example, Sambu in the north-east is located between Wisnu (black/north) and Iswara (white/east), and his colour is blue/grey.
The Balinese conception of the Eight Directions and centre are an important model of the natural and supernatural worlds. The centre is multi-coloured and usually occupied by the highest Hindu god, Siwa. In this painting the place of Siwa is taken by the multi-coloured Garuda, who is shown as invulnerable to the attacks of all the gods, and being a great power is suitable for the centre. Each of the eight gods hurls the weapon appropriate to his direction at Garuda. Each of the masculine deities has a feminine consort.
When looking at this painting from above, (as if reading a map) the positions of east and west appear as if reversed. However, the directions are correctly orientated because the painting is designed to be hung on the ceiling and is positioned face down above the viewer to be viewed from below.
Adiparwa is a prologue from the Mahabharata Epic and contains creation stories about the emergence of the world and the gods of the Hindu tradition with their demonic counterparts.