vehicles of the divinities

vehicles of the divinities
   In the post-Vedic iconography of India, gods and goddesses are commonly seen in associa-tion with what is described in SANSKRIT as their vahana (vehicle). Often they are pictured astride an animal; at other times there is a depiction of the animal standing alone in the foreground or background. Vedic divinities did not have such mounts, but mounts were created for them in later times to make their images accord with those of the non-Vedic gods.
   The vehicle of VISHNU is the man-eagle GARUDA; the vehicle of SHIVA is the bull NANDI; DURGA is often depicted astride a lion or tiger; SARASVATI is seen in association with a swan or peacock; KARTTIKEYA, the younger son of Shiva and PARVATI, has a peacock vehicle; GANESHA, the elephant-headed divinity, is seen in association with the lowly rat. LAKSHMI is unique in having a lotus that she is always shown seated upon, which serves as her vehicle.
   There are, however, many prominent divini-ties who do not have iconographic vehicles. These include RAMA and SITA, PARVATI and KRISHNA. Among the Jains the TIRTHANKARAS (perfected beings) were usually depicted in association with particular animals, perhaps in imitation of the Hindu notion. However, since the Jain tradition is so old, it is quite possible that the practice origi-nated with them.
   Further reading: Cornelia Dimitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen, eds. and trans., Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978); Margaret Stutley, An Illustrated Dictionary of Hindu Iconography (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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