The gods and their vehicles, known as Vahanas, each god or goddess has their own individual vahanas. One thing that always puzzled me growing up is how could a mighty elephant ride a rat! Since rats are seen as being capable of gnawing their way through most things, the rat symbolises Ganesh’s ability to destroy every obstacle.
Vahana means that which carries, bears or conveys, which is usually a reference to a vehicle. It is derived from the sanskirt word “vaha” means bearing, carrying. The idea of vehicle or Vahana is rooted in the Vedas. The gods live in the higher worlds. They use the Vahanas to travel from world to world or to visit their devotees and other divinities. When a ceremony is performed upon earth, they descend to the earth in their respective vehicles to receive their offerings.
These vahanas are their constant companions. They represent the strength and beauty of the deity. Each of these animals stands for specific qualities that are in parallel with the image and functions of Hindu deities. I will write on another blog the list of deities and their vahanas as there are so many. The one god I realised that does not have a vahana is Hanuman.. does anyone know why?
Garuda the eagle is the Vahana of Vishnu since he is the protector and agility is an essential quality to have for him. Nandi the Vahana of Shiva represents strength, load-bearing capacity, and virility. Simha the lion is the Vahana of Goddess Durga as Durga is a female and fights fierce wars and the lion indicated courage and feistiness. Hansa is the Vahana of Goddess Saraswati who is the Goddess of knowledge and swan indicates beauty and purity, the qualities to develop knowledge.
Most of the Vahanas of gods and goddesses are worshipped by Hindus devotees with offerings of food and prayers. The relationship between the deity and mount is not as a master and servant, but almost like the body and soul.
The vahanas either animal and birds, representing the several spiritual and psychological forces that each deity carry. The gods use Vahanas for both warfare and travel.