Vahanas – Divine Vehicles of Hindu Gods

In Hinduism, every image of God is accompanied by either an animal or bird. These are called Vahanas, which are a constant companion to their corresponding deities. Several Hindus who are not too familiar with the Hindu Pantheons may find God’s companionship with animals or birds rather amusing and strange. But, there is a very deeper significance that is attached to these animals. In this post, we look into some of the Vahanas of the most adored Hindu Gods and Goddesses and what they signify.


Shiva bull

Shiva’s vehicle is the Nandi, a bull. God Shiva, the destroyer, possesses the power to destroy and restore and the bull exemplifies independence, along with brute and blind power. These are qualities that only Shiva can help us harness.


Vishnu snake

God Vishnu is the ‘Preserver of the Universe’. He enters the earth in various avatars to maintain cosmic harmony and fight evil, in order to maintain order of things. God Vishnu can be seen sitting on a Shesh Nag, which signifies the desire of consciousness in humankind and the Garuda represents mobility and wider vision of things.



God Brahma, known as ‘The Creator of the Universe’ can be seen carrying the Vedas, a sceptre, a rosary of rudraksha beads and a water pot. The swan or hamsa as it is called in Sanskrit is God Brahma’s vehicle. The swan is known to have the power of segregating milk from water, implying the knowledge to separate the good from the bad to achieve spiritual growth. Hamsa is also linked with the fundamental sound of the universe – the breath of life. Inhalation is said to make the sound “ham” while exhalation is “sa”. This is the very fundamental exercise of any yogi.



God Ganesha, more commonly known as the ‘Obstacle remover’, is always seen with his Vahana, the rat. A rat is known for gnawing its way through almost everything. By having control over this rodent, God Ganesha gets rid of any obstacles that affects our lives.



Goddess Durga, the embodiment of Shakti, is more commonly referred to as the ‘Divine Mother’. The lion is the Vahana of Goddess Durga which denotes strength and fearlessness. These qualities are mandatory in addition to anger, pride and mercilessness, when she battles demons.



Goddess Lakshmi, the mother of wealth, represents happiness, prosperity and material wealth. The owl is the vehicle related to the Goddess of fortune. The owl has the abilities to see in the dark even though it is blind during the day. But having control over an owl, Goddess Lakshmi teaches her devotees to look past the glamor of worldly possessions and strive for inner wisdom.



Goddess Saraswathi is the embodiment of knowledge, art, music and learning. As a result, she is commonly referred to as Goddess of Wisdom. Goddess Saraswathi’s vehicle is the swan which symbolizes purity and realization of the highest reality and knowledge. Next to the Goddess, one can witness a peacock, it signifies arrogance and pride over its beauty. Through this, the Goddess teaches us to forgo our external appearances and focus on identifying the eternal truth.

To get an extensive temple listing of all Hindu Gods and Goddesses, click here.



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