Indian Gods And Their Modes Of Transport
Greek mythology is filled with references of gods having their own sacred animals, without which they don’t travel anywhere. While the Greek goddess Athena is represented by the owl, Zeus is accompanied by bulls and eagles. Indian mythology particularly has a vahana (the Sanskrit name for transport) for each of its gods and goddesses, which not only transports the divine entity wherever it wants, but also represents the qualities the deities themselves stand for. We delve into the popular mounts of Indian Gods.
Swan: Lord Brahma being the Creator of the Universe as per the Hindu Purana texts, let us begin with his vehicle, the swan. Called Hamsa, the swan is favoured by not only him, but also by his consort Goddess Saraswati. Brahma is considered to be the epitome of wisdom, from whom all learning and knowledge (read: The Vedas) comes forth, and Saraswati is known for her divine grace and beauty. The Hansa represents these very qualities of its riders. It also has the ability to separate water from milk, symbolising its ability to separate the bad from the good.
Lotus and white owl: The Hindu goddess of wealth Lakshmi who is also the divine consort of Lord Vishnu, is usually seen seated on a lotus or a white owl. While the white owl stands for intelligence, wisdom, purity, patience and fortune-telling powers, the lotus too symbolises purity, beauty, self-awareness, spiritual liberation, fertility and prosperity. The owl also doubles up as a barn owl, which signifies good harvest and therefore good luck for the farming community. Sometimes, Lakshmi is also portrayed being paraded around by an elephant, another symbol of wisdom and intelligence.
Eagle: Lord Vishnu is known to mount an eagle, also known as Garuda (meaning the one who can lift heavy loads). Once, to free his mother from the bondage of the snakes, Garuda circled over the heavens and fought off two snakes to fetch some of the amrita or nectar contained within the heavens as the price for his mother’s freedom. Since then, he is considered as the arch nemesis of snakes and serpents and is even depicted with two snakes held in his hand and serpents coiled around him. Garuda’s lightning speed signifies the speed of our thoughts, which can be quietened by praying to his master, Lord Vishnu.
Lion and tiger: Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva is carried by the King of the Jungle himself. Alternatively, she is depicted riding a tiger, also a majestic and brave animal. Her incarnation Durga the warrior goddess also rides the lion and the tiger and is mostly venerated in the form where she mounts the lion while slaying the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura.
White elephant: The chief of the Hindu gods Indra has a beautiful white elephant named Airavata as his vahana. Since Indra is the god of rain, his mount symbolises his ability to spray water from the heavens onto earth. It is believed that Airavata was born from a cosmic egg and out of the sixteen born, Airavata was the strongest among his brothers. Together they hold up the eastern hemisphere of the globe and help keep it in place.
Mouse: According to legend, it is believed that one day, when Ganpati had gone to visit the sage Parashara at his ashram, a mouse named Mooshik appeared and began to trouble the ashram’s inmates. Deciding to teach him a lesson, Ganpati used his lasso to catch hold of him and mounted him. Since then, Ganpati does not appear anywhere without his vehicle Mooshik. Being dark in colour, Mooshik is said to represent our impure desires and ignorance, which are controlled when Ganpati mounts his vehicle.