The reason specific animals or birds are depicted as God’s vahanas is a symbolic representation of the various positive and negative traits that we humans possess. The Gods and Goddesses are the Supreme energies or the Upa Guru within us that we need to awaken. Whereas, the vahanas on which the Gods and Goddesses sit, ride, stand upon is a symbolic depiction of the ego that we humans possess. The positive traits of the respective animal signify the positive quality or qualities of the God or Goddess who rides on it. Whereas, the negative traits of the animals are symbolic of the vices we have and which we need to tame and gain control over. Thus the reasons Gods have animals as Vahans
- Is to educate us to destroy and to work on our ego,
- To work upon our negative traits and vices by taming and controlling them and
- To enhance and strengthen our positive energies.
The history of Hinduism is rich and holds deep-rooted meaning in each and every minuscule part of it. Be its customs, rituals to the iconography of the Gods and Goddess to their respective animal vahanas (animal mount). Everything has a meaning and knowledge that every individual needs to understand and learn from.
Manly Hall once truly quoted that “An unhealthy mind, even in a healthy body, will ultimately destroy health”.
Everything in this universe comprises of energies. Certain energies are pleasant while some are unpleasant. Similarly, we have energies that are pleasant and unpleasant. A few people live their life as it is! While some try to find their Supreme self. In this journey of finding self, we begin to realize who we really are and which energy is dominant in us. The best part about this journey or awakening the higher consciousness is that we also realize what we are not and we try to discipline and train these unpleasant or negative energies while moving closer to knowing who we really are.
As mentioned earlier Gods and Goddess are the Supreme energies that we need to awaken in order to realize our true selves. In order to realize who we really are, we have to realize who we are not and discipline and tame these energies. Every God and Goddess administer specific energy in form of the Vahana they ride on and accordingly control it. These energies are present in us too which we need to realize, control, and channelize in the correct direction. This exercise will help us to awaken the Supreme consciousness within us while transforming our lower self.
Let us further simplify the core question ‘why Gods have animals as Vahans’ by citing examples of certain Gods, their respective Vahanas and what they denote.
GODS AND THEIR VAHANAS
Lord Shiva and Nandi
Lord Shiva’s Vahana is Nandi the Bull. A bull is an animal that is associated with traits like aggression, ego, strength, force, and power of destruction. It also symbolizes power which is untamed, negligent, and unbridled energies of the Kama which are uncontrollable sexual desires. Lord Shiva rides on Nandi thus signifying that He has tamed all these negative traits and is the only one who can help us in controlling and transforming these energies from indisciplined powers to controlled and disciplined powers. He can help us to become wise than living in ignorance and channelize our Kama energy to the energy of Kundalini.
Lord Vishnu and Garuda
Lord Vishnu’s Vahana is Garuda who is known as the king of the birds. Garuda represents pride as no other bird can match the speed of his flight and his ability to fly in any direction at any altitude with great speed. He also represents the five wind energies in his five different forms. These five energies are also known as Vayus within us namely the Brahmana, Udana, Vyana, Prana, and Samana. In this scenario, the Garuda is symbolic of our thought process which wanders and sometimes entangles and sometimes is completely baseless. Thus, Lord Vishnu riding a Garuda denotes that only He can calm the wavering mind and offer us mental peace. Also, the above-mentioned five Vayus can be tamed and disciplined through Yoga and this, in turn, will help in awakening the Kundalini thus getting close to the higher levels of consciousness.
Lord Ganesha’s Vahana is the rat. The rat represents greed, fears, stealing, ignorance, dirt, and giving up. A mouse sneaks out in the dark and quickly eats whatever he comes across. When it senses danger it gets scared easily and runs away. The mouse represents our traits of being fearful, lack of confidence, greediness, and running from situations rather than facing them. Lord Ganesh riding on a mouse signifies that He has tamed these negative traits and gained control over them. Only Lord Ganesha can help us control and channelize these energies in the correct direction. Ganesh can help us become confident, He can help us in facing any situation and help us to be giving and selfless. Lord Ganesh also helps in making the mind calm and putting an end to wavering thoughts. A mouse sneaks out in the dark and steals to eat this act denotes the human nature of being self-seeking and selfish motives trying to get or achieve things that do not belong to them. Lord Ganesh helps us to overcome this negative trait and lead us to work hard towards achieving what we want rather than snatching.