Mahadeep Singh Jamwal Animals are the gift of nature to us. They are the ones which are closely associated with us in daily life. Animals contribute a lot to human lives. Traditionally Hindus regard all living creatures as sacred mammals, fishes, birds and more. The Hindu faith, the cradle of which is India, is a religion which dotes upon the birds and animals. Animals are such agreeable friends, they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms. Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains un-awakened”, Anatole France. Almost all the animals that are regarded as friends of human are more associated with Hindu Gods/Goddesses. All the numerous Hindu gods and goddesses are considered the manifestations of one supreme creator, the almighty God and in Hindu mythology are associated with animals that are their ‘Vahans’ (‘Vahana’ literally “that which carries, that which pulls” denotes the being, typically an animal or mythical entity, a particular Hindu deity is said to use as a vehicle. In this capacity, the vahana is often called the deity’s “mount”. There are numerous gods and goddesses in Hinduism. The tales of them with their respective vahanas have filled voluminous books, Deities are often depicted riding or simply mounted upon the vahana). When we take into account the Hinduism, we jump to the belief of the ‘Trinity of Gods’ The Brahma, the creator, presumed to travel all over outer space on a swan, Vishnu the preserver/protector mounts an eagle-like creature called Garuda/Adi Shesha, and Shiva, the destroyer, rides a bull named ‘Nandi’. When we speak incarnation of Lord Vishnu, we come across his some avatars associated with water/land species such as: the first avatar of Lord Vishnu ‘Matsya’ is depicted in two forms: as a zoomorphic fish or in an anthropomorphic form. In the latter form, the upper half is that of the four-armed man and the lower half is a fish. Kurma avatar’s iconography is either a tortoise, or more commonly as half man-half tortoise. Varaha avatar has an animal (boar) head and a human body as its iconography. Narasimha avatar is always shown with a lion face with clawed fingers fused with a human body. In the boundary among other Hindu Gods, we have ‘The Ganesha’ huge elephant headed god, who is worshipped as first deity in all Hindu rituals, mounts on a mouse. Kartikeya, the god of war is seen in pictures as perched on a magnificent peacock. Indra, the god of rain and thunderstorms, rides a white elephant called Airavata. Surya, the sun god treated to be mounted on a golden chariot, pulled by seven white horses. The moon is associated with Antelope as his divine Vahan. Agni, the Hindu fire god, rides upon a ram. Surya Devta that connotes the solar deity is worshipped in Hinduism. A chariot pulled by seven horses is his divine ‘Vahan’. Vayu rides on thousands of horses. The Shani to whom Hindus pray to ward off influences of evil forces rides on Crow/Raven/Vulture. The Yama, the lord of death, rides a black buffalo. ‘Kamadeva’ is the Hindu god of human love or desire. He has a Parrot as his divine vahana. Bhairava (Maha Kala Bhairava) is a Hindu Tantric deity worshiped by Hindus. Bhairava has a dog (Shvan) as his divine vahana. When we shuffle the pages of Hindu Goddesses, we come across nine forms of mother divine ‘Nav Durga’. Goddess Durga basically has two vehicles and seen in some of the idols and paintings, sitting on the lion and in some of the pictures sitting on the tiger. The nine forms of ‘Nav Durga’ are: Shailaputri rides on mount Nandi – bull. Brahmacharni, do not have any sort of ‘Vahan’ to ride upon. Chandraghanta rides on a tiger or lion. Kushmanda rides on a lioness. Skandamata sits on a lotus flower. Kathyayini rides on a magnificent lion. Kalaratri rides on Donkey, Lion or Tiger. It is widely regarded as one of the many destructive forms of the mother goddess, (such as; which include Kali and Mahakali both have lion as their divine ‘Vahan’, Bhadrakali, Bhairavi, Mrityu, Rudrani, Chamunda, and Durga). Maha Gauri rides the bull. Siddhida sits on a lotus or rides on a lion. Apart from nine forms of Nav Durga, ‘Lakshmi’, the goddess of fortune, wealth and prosperity, mounts the wise old white owl. ‘Saraswati’, the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, learning, music and arts is seen with a swan or peacock. Apart from nine forms of Nav Durga, Shitla Mata mounts on Donkey. The river goddess holy mother Ganga is depicted as riding on Makara (crocodile). The river goddess ‘Yamuna’ mounted on tortoise. Hindus believed in the existence of nine planets called Navagraha. These are Sun known as ‘Surya’ rides on a Chariot drawn by seven horses. Charioteer: Aru?a. Moon known as ‘Chandra’ rides on a Chariot pulled by an Antelope. Mars also known as ‘Mangla’ rides on Ram. In Hindu mythology, Budha is the name for the planet Mercury, Lion or chariot hauled by eight horses of deep yellow colour is his divine ‘Vahana’. Jupiter known as ‘Brahaspati’ has abode on elephant/ chariot of gold drawn by by eight horses of brown color, The ‘Shukrya’, diety of Venus is shown mounted on Camel/ Horse/ Crocodile. Saturn also called Shani’ rides on Crow / Raven/ Vulture but he is also supposed to ride on nine other Vahans at different positions. Rahu is one of the nine major astronomical bodies (navagraha) in Indian texts. His divine ‘Vahan’ is a chariot drawn by black eight horses. Ketu. in Hindu astrology represents karmic collections both good and bad, spirituality and supernatural influences. It mounts on Eagle. Based on the services of animals towards Hindu Gods/Goddesses, we can easily say that animals are more close to Gods/Goddesses than human beings. A brief study of animals associated was ‘Vahans’ with many Gods/Goddesses of Hindu belief, we find that it is the cow that is not in the list. To the Hindu, the cow symbolizes all other creatures. It is revered and worshipped by millions of Hindus and Hindu religion has raised the status of cow to that of mother to the level of Goddess. A household can never appear prosperous without a cow. Hindus respect, honor and adore the cow. By honoring this gentle animal, who gives more than she takes, we honor all creatures. ‘Cow Raksha’ is expected from every Hindu because of the reason; the cow is considered a sacred animal. In the Vedas, cows represent wealth and joyous Earthly life. By her docile, tolerant nature, the cow exemplifies the cardinal virtue of Hinduism, no injury, known as ahimsa. The cow also symbolizes dignity, strength, endurance, maternity and selfless service. Concluding there’s yet another god whom Hindus are looking forward to. He is to make his entry into the world along with his vahana in future. Currently, Kaliyug, or “age of vice”, is ongoing as per the Hindu mythological calendar. It’s believed that Kalki, an incarnation of Vishnu, will come galloping on a white horse, to usher in Satya Yuga, “the age of truth.
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