P. nodosus possess rows of spines or "horns"; black conical points arranged in a single row, radially on the dorsal side, which may erode and become blunt. These dark protrusions are used to scare away possible predators, by looking frightening or dangerous. On the ventral side, tube feet, purple in color (or pale, transparent pink), are arranged in rows on each arm.
Very large amongst all the barbets. This bird has a blue head, large yellow bill, brown back and breast, green-streaked yellow belly and red vent. The rest of the plumage is green. The great barbet is a resident breeder in the lower-to-middle altitudes of the Himalayas, ranging across northern India.