Vahanas – The Rides of Hindu Gods and Goddesses

Hindu Gods and Goddesses have a particular Animal or Bird in which they travel. These travel vehicles are called Vahanas or Vehicles. They have the same purpose as today’s modern world vehicles suitable for traveling by air or land, or water.

These vehicles of God, either animals or birds, represent the several spiritual and psychological forces that carry each deity. The gods use Vahanas for both warfare and travel.

Vahanas of gods and goddesses

Vahanas of Gods and Goddesses

Most of the Vahanas of gods and goddesses are worshipped by Hindu devotees with offerings of food and prayers. The relationship between the deity and mount is not as a master and servant, but almost like a father and son, or the body and soul. Here are some of the Deities and their vahanas.

1. Brahma – Swan

Brahma rides Swan

Lord Brahma has the vehicle Hamsa (Swan). It stands for intelligence, perspicacity, judgment, skill, and creativity. The word “Hamsa” is a combination of two words, “aham”+ “sa.” It means “I am he.” The bird hamsa is beautiful, peaceful, and graceful. It indicates that Brahma is the creator and master of all the beauty and grace of the world.

Vedas also mentioned that the bird could separate milk from water. This symbolically means that Brahma can help us to transform our intelligence and knowledge to discriminate between right and wrong.

2. Saraswati – Hamsa (Swan)

Goddess Saraswati

Goddess Saraswati is the consort of Brahma. She is also shown riding a Hamsa. Saraswati is the goddess of learning and education. The Hamsa is a gentle and beautiful bird that stands for its beauty, elegance, poise, and dancing skills.

3. Indra – Airavata (A White Elephant)

Indra – Airavata (A White Elephant)

The storm god “Lord Indra” carries thunderbolts as his weapons and is also a bringer of rains to the earth. Indra is an important god of Aryan warriors. His Vahana Airavata is a great white elephant often depicted with four tusks.

4. Shiva – Nandi (The Bull)

Shiva – Nandi (The Bull)

Lord Shiva is one of the prominent deities of Hinduism. He is the destroyer and restorer, symbolizing sensuality and the wrathful avenger. His mount Nandi stands for sexual energy – kama and fertility. Riding on its back, Shiva has the power to control all impulses.

5. Durga – Lion or Tiger

Maa Durga rides Lion

Goddess Durga is the unconquerable form of Devi. She is the supreme god and also identified with Parvati, also referred to as the mother of Lord Kartikeya and Lord Ganesha. Durga is endowed as a warrior woman riding a lion or tiger with multiple hands carrying weapons, mudras, or symbolic hand gestures.

6. Vishnu – Garuda and Adi Shesha

Vishnu – Garuda and Adi Shesha

Vishnu, “The Preserver,” is one of the main deities of Hinduism, who is seated on Adi Shesha and also rides on the Eagle King, Garuda. According to Hindu Scriptures, Adi Shesha or Shesha Naga holds all planets and earth on his hoods. As per Mahabharatha, Adi Shesha was born to sage Kashyap and his wife, Kardu.

Garuda, a deity himself, is often shown as a winged human-shaped figure with a beak-like nose. Vishnu mount carries Vishnu to Vaikuntha (Heaven), where he lives. His mount Garuda stands for wisdom, thoughts, and incredible speeds. Hence, if anyone wants to control unfulfilled thoughts and balance their mind, one should worship Lord Vishnu.

7. Lakshmi – Ulka (Owl)

Goddess Lakshmi - Owl

Maha Lakshmi is the goddess of success, fortune, prosperity, and wealth. Interestingly, she has the Vahan Owl called Ulka as her Vehicle. Her Vahan – Ulka is a symbol of patience and intelligence.

8. Ganesha – Mouse

Lord Ganesha in Vahana
Painting by Raja Ravi Verma

Lord Ganesha was known as the remover of obstacles. The chubby, gentle, elephant-headed Ganesha is one of the popular deities of Hinduism. Interestingly, he is using a Mouse as his mount. One cannot imagine an elephant can ride on a small rat. However, there is much deep symbolism hidden in fact.

Lord Ganesha 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 a mouse also can get out of trouble swiftly.

9. Kartikeya – Peacock

Kartikeya rides Peacock

Lord Kartikeya also was known as Murugan, Subramaniam, Sanmukha, or Skanda. He is the second son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. He is also known as the god of the war. Kartikeya is a popular deity in the southern part of India. He is embodied of perfection, a brave leader of God forces, who was born to destroy the demons. He has the Vahan Peacock.

10. Agni (Fire) – Ram (Goat)

Agni (Fire) – Ram (Goat)

The god of fire, Agni, is one of the main deities of Hinduism. God Agni is always seen riding the Ram. Agni is shown riding the Ram and rarely, a chariot pulled by goats. Some versions also talk about Agni riding a chariot pulled by horses. The Ram signifies power, strength, and vitality. The vibrancy of Agni is also reflected in the vehicle he chose for himself, the Ram.

11. Surya Dev – Seven Horses

Lord Surya and 7 Horses
Art by Molee

In Hindu dharma, the Surya Deva gives light to the world. He is the father of Kasyapa, and her wife is Chhaya Devi. The god sun represents willpower, health, fame, and vitality. The sun is also known as Ravi, Pusha, Aditya, or Grahapati.

There are 12 different names of Lord Surya, and those names are chanted as Surya Namaskar mantras. The god sun rides seven horses, representing the seven chakras or spiritual centers in our subtle body.

12. Yama – Buffalo

Yamaraj rides Buffalo

In Hindu Dharma, Yama is known as the God of Death. One with red eyes, a club, and a noose in his hands, he rides the Buffalo as his Vahana. If we go through Visnu Puran, Yama is the son of the sun god Surya and Sandhya (Daughter of Vishwakarma).

13. Maa Ganga – Makara (Crocodile)

Maa Ganga – Makara (Crocodile)

Goddess Ganga is worshipped across the country. She flows in the form of the 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 which is a Crocodile.

14. Shani – Vulture, Crow, and Raven

Shani – Vulture, Crow, and Raven

Lord Shani refers to the planet Saturn and is one of the nine heavenly objects as Navagraha in Hindu Astrology. He is one of the most worshipped deities in the Purans and looks like a black figure carrying a sword in his right hand and sitting on Vulture, Crow, or Raven. He is considered the god of bad luck and is also popularly called Ara, Kona, and Kroda.

15. Hanuman – (He Does Not Have a Vahana)

Lord Hanuman is one of the most worshipped gods by Hindus. Hanuman helped Lord Rama defeat the Asura- King Ravana of Lanka. It is believed that Lord Hanuman did not need a Vahana because he could fly himself and go anywhere.

Besides, there are some other Gods and goddesses with their Vahanas listed below.

  • Varuna – Seven Swans
  • Vayu – Thousands of Horses
  • Maheshwari – Bull
  • Bhairava – Dog
  • Chandi – Pig
  • Chandra (Moon) – Antelope
  • Kubera – Man, Parrot, or Horse