The Gods and Their Vahanas

- September 20, 2020

By Sanjana Kapur and Aparna Kapur

The gods in Indian mythology have vahanas or vehicles on which they ride. These vahanas are their constant companions. They represent the strength and beauty of the deity, and at times, symbolise various human traits, including those that are negative. The negative traits are those that the gods are said to overpower.

Among the gods and their companions, the more famous combinations are Vishnu and Garuda, Shiva and Nandi, Brahma and Hamsa, Indra and Airavata, and Ganesha and Moushika. Here is a list of some of the lesser-known vahanas of various divinities.

Illustration: Adarsh Achari and Ritoparna Hazra
  • Vayu, the wind god, is depicted riding a deer.
  • Bhairava has a dog as his mount.
  • Varuna’s vahana, Jaladhi, was born from Rudra’s earwax and has the divine power of movement.
  • Agni, the fire god, rides a ram.
Illustration: Adarsh Achari and Ritoparna Hazra
  • Kaalratri, a form of Kali, rides a donkey.
  • Kama and his wife, Rati, have the parrot as their vahana. Rati is sometimes shown riding a pigeon.
  • The god of wealth Kubera’s vahana is a man.
Illustration: Adarsh Achari and Ritoparna Hazra
  • With a pot of water in her hand, Yamuna is depicted riding a tortoise.
  • Saraswati rides a swan. It is said that she rode an elephant to Shiva and Parvati’s wedding ride.
  • The Ashwini Kumaras are said to ride horses, although the Rig Veda also mentions the donkey as their vehicle.
Illustration: Adarsh Achari and Ritoparna Hazra
  • Durga travels on a fierce tiger.
  • Ganga is said to ride Makara, a creature with the body of a crocodile and the trunk of an elephant.
  • Shani rides a crow. This is why it is believed feeding crows is a way to please Shani.
  • Surya rides a chariot drawn by seven white horses.
Illustration: Adarsh Achari and Ritoparna Hazra
  • Lakshmi rides an owl. Sometimes, she also rides an elephant.
  • Paundraka, the black buffalo that Yama is said to ride, was born from Rudra’s thigh.
  • Goddess Shashthi, the protector and benefactor of children, is often symbolized riding a cat.

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