Hindu dieties have particular vahanas on which they travel. These vahanas represent particular energies and the Gods are very rarely shown without them. In this article we discuss various vehicles of different Gods that they use for moving around.
Hindu Gods and Godesses have sacred vahanas or vehicles. The word vahna has its root in the Sanskrit word ‘vah’ meaning ‘to carry’ or ‘to transport’. The vahanas that are associated with various Gods and Godesses are sometimes real animals and birds and sometimes a mythological being. These vahanas are devoted companions to the God and Goddess and take active part in their adventures. This also signifies the importance that Hinduism attaches to other beings. Some of the interesting vahanas are discussed in detail in the following sections.
Nandi – the vehicle of Lord Shiva
The vehicle of Lord Shiva is Nandi. Nandi is basically a bull. Bull is a symbol of strength and purity this is exactly why it is considered as the vahana of Lord Shiva. The bull is always seen facing the idol of Lord Shiva. It is said that Nandi used to guard Kailash (the abode of Lord Shiva) and anyone who wanted to meet the Lord needed his permission and the same is still followed in all the temples. Unless Nandi allows you cannot meet Lord Shiva. It is also said that a devotee can whisper his wish in Nandi’s ears and the same will be communicated to the Lord.
Lion – the vehicle of Maa Parvati
The vehicle that goddess Parvati is seen riding is the Lion. Goddess Parvati killed many demons and she is also considered as the protector of all. She is an aggressive goddess and thus Lion is a suitable vahana for her. In many of her fights against the demons the Lion also played a vital role.
Mouse/Mooshakraj – the vehicle of Lord Ganesha
Lord Ganesh was very fond of mouse and the mouse is his vahana. Lord Ganesh was very intelligent and he could find ways out of any trouble. This is exactly why a mouse was his vahana as mouse also has the ability to swiftly get out of trouble.
A Peacock – vehicle of Lord Karthik
Karthik, the elder brother of Lord Ganesha is often seen riding the peacock. He used to fly the peacock while fighting demons. The peacock was very fast and helped him in fighting better.
A White Swan – Vehicle of Maa Saraswati
Goddess Saraswati is the goddess of education and knowledge. She is also worshipped for excellence in fine arts. She can be seen riding a white swan. Similarly her husband Lord Brahma can also be seen riding a swan at times. The white swan is a symbol of peace and tranquillity which is needed for achieving great heights in education and fine arts.
White Owl – vehicle of Maa Laxmi
Goddess Laxmi is the goddess of wealth and good fortune. The vahana of goddess Laxmi is a white owl. White owl is not very common to see. Even today if anyone comes across a white owl it is considered as very auspicious and harbinger of good fortune. White Owl symbolises prosperity.
Chariots driven by seven and ten horses – vehicle of Suryadev and Chandradev
Lord Surya (sun lord) can be often seen riding a chariot that is pulled by seven white horses. Similarly the lord of the moon chandra can be seen riding a chariot that is driven by ten white horses. White horses are considered to be symbol of strength and royalty. All Indian rulers used to ride white horses. White horses are also considered auspicious and were extensively used in ashwamed yajnas too.
Garuda – vehicle of Lord Vishnu
The vahana of Lord Vishnu was Garuda, a bird like creature. Supernatural eagle like being is revered as a remover of obstacles. The Brahminy kite and the phoenix are considered to be modern depiction of Garuda. Portrayed as a strong man with glowing skin, red wings and an eagle’s beak it wears a crown. The bird is associated with violent force, speed and prowess and is considered an ardent enemy of serpents.
Ram – vehicle of Lord Agni
Lord Agni can often be seen riding a Ram. Agni is revered as a main God in the Rig Veda. Agni is considered to be Indra Dev’s twin brother.
Makara – vehicle of Maa Ganga
Goddess Ganga is worshipped across the country. She flows in the form of Ganga River giving life to millions of Indians. She is considered the mother of all and the most sacred river. She can remove all sins of the person who takes a dip in her holy waters. The vahana of goddess Ganga is a Makara. Makara is again a mystical creature. The Makara is a combination of many animals and these are elephant, deer, crocodile and stag. The tail of the animal is like that of a fish. The tail is sometime represented in the form of a peacock’s tail too. River Yamuna is another very popular river in India. The vahana of this river is tortoise.
Parrot – vehicle of Lord Kama
Kama is the lord of sexual desires. He is the Cupid in Hinduism. He can be seen riding a parrot. The parrot is a swift bird and it helps Kama to shoot his arrow at lovers.
White elephant – vehicle of Indra Dev
Lord Indra is often seen riding a white elephant. The name of this elephant was Airavata. Lord Indra is the king of heaven. This elephant is not an ordinary animal. It has four tusks and seven trunks.
Water buffalo – vehicle of Yam Dev
Lord Yama is the god of death his vahana is a water buffalo. You will often see images of Lord Yama riding on his buffalo as he goes about taking the lives of people.
Eagle – vehicle of Ketu
Ketu is another very popular god in Hinduism. The vahana of Ketu is an eagle. Shani who is always associated with Ketu can be seen riding a vulture. Rahu and Ketu are not considered very auspicious that is why they are associated with birds of prey.
Elephant – vehicle of Lord Vishwakarma
Lord Vishwakarma was the engineer of the gods and his vahana was an elephant. Being an engineer he would often need to lift heavy machines and tools so elephant was a great help to him.
The deities are generally associated with animals that resemble the nature of these deities. The vahana is as important as the Lord himself. Each Lord has a role to play and their Vahanas help them to perform their duties better. For example Vayu is the lord of wind and air that is why he must be swift. The Vahana of Vayu is thousand horses.