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From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Vāhana literally means ‘mount’, ‘vehicle’.

Deities and Their Vehicles[edit]

There are many deities in the religious pantheon who have a vāhana or carrier vehicle which are usually animals or birds. These deities are supposed to ride or be seated on them. The following is a list of the important deities and associated vāhanas with them:

Deity Vāhana
Brahmā Swan
Caṇḍī Tiger
Devī Lion
Gaṇapati Rat
Gaṅgā Crocodile
Gaurī Iguana
Indra Elephant
Kubera Man
Nirṛti Dog
Rati Parrot
Sani Crow
Sitalā Donkey
Śiva Bull
Subrahmaṇya Peacock
Surya Seven Horses
Varāha Serpent
Vāyu Deer
Vikhanas Antelope
Visnu Eagle
Yama Bison
Yamunā Tortoise

Vāhana as per Kālikāpurāṇa[edit]

A particular vāhana for a particular deity has not only a legendary association, generally as depicted in the purāṇas, but also a symbolical meaning. According to the Kālikāpurāṇa,[1] the vāhanas are only transformations of the deities themselves. Iconographically, a deity is not necessarily represented as riding the vāhana. The latter may be merely indicated on the pedestal of the image.

Vāhana as per Festivals[edit]

Sometimes the vāhanas are independently installed in front of the main icon outside the sanctum facing it or even in separate pavilions. During the festivals in the big temples, especially during the rathotsava,[2] gorgeously decorated utsavamurtis,[3] gorgeously decorated, may be seated on a vāhana and taken round the streets in a colorful procession. On such occasions, there may not be any specific association of the vāhana with the deity. The vāhanas made of wood or metal or both, may be anyone of the following:

  1. Gaja - elephant
  2. Vṛṣabha - bull
  3. Aśva - horse
  4. Śeṣa - serpent
  5. Śibikā - palanquin
  6. Hañisa - swan
  7. Simha - lion
  8. Hanumān
  9. Garuḍa
  10. Ratha - chariot


  1. Kālikāpurāṇa Chapter 57
  2. Rathotsava means car- festival.
  3. Utsavamurtis means processional images.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore