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Mount of Gods

All the Gods of the Hindu pantheon have their own special mounts. Often as powerful as the Lords themselves, these divine birds and beasts are propitiated with great devotion.

They both fell in love with the same girls! The brothers Ganesh and Kartikeya, sons of Paravati and Shiva fell in love with the same two girls called Sudhi and Buddhi. Now the parents had a problem! And they devised a solution. The first one who completes three circles around the earth will have them, they decided. And even before they finished, the handsome ripping youth Kartikeya, tossed a scornful laugh into the air, mounted his peacock and flew off. Ganesha, the more prosperous looking elephant god, had a rat as a mount. Obviously it was going to be a losing battle for him! But no. The cute pot-bellied God balanced himself on his rat which scurried around Shiva and Parvati thrice and the Mooshikavahana (the one who rides on a rat) declared himself to be the winner as his parents meant the world to him! The Mayilvahanan (one who rides a peacock) was furious! But vehicles power alone cant’s win!

And yet he cannot be blamed for being disappointed for the finished within seconds of Ganesha in spite of the fact that he had gone around the world! So powerful was his vehicle and so proud was he of it that he had not stopped to think. Neither is his pride uncommon nor is the power of his mount. In the Hindu pantheon all the gods have their mounts which are often as powerful as the Lord himself. Lord Shiva’s mount is bull called Nandi. Once a devotee called Nandanar came to the Lord’s temple at a place called Chidambaram in South India(this is a very famous temple of Lord Shiva) . The priest was away, the door was open, and the devotee was advancing towards the sanctum sanctorum. Nandi moved to block the way! It was only when Lord Shiva welcomed Nandanar as a true devotee did Nandi let him in. All Shaivite temples have an idol of Nandi. The god of death, Yama is said to ride a buffalo. In fact very often a buffalo itself is taken to represent Yama.

Since mythology has the advantage of being able to delve deep into myth and yet emerge with all the dignity and truthfulness of the real, it is also able to convey a message. In this context it is compassion and respect towards animals. Even to this day, temples abound with monkeys devotees and temple priests are most indulgent towards them because they are considered to be representative of Hanuman. Another species of animals which have assumed great importance in Hindu mythology are snakes. Beginning with the Shesh Nag on which Lord Vishnu reclines to the snakes which Lord Shiva wears on his neck and Ganesh ties around his waist, snakes have been regarded by ancient civilizations as symbols of time, death and fertility. The most revered animal is, however, the cow. A gift of God the cow is considered the provider. There is a festival for propitiating every kind of bird of beast, many of them being adulated as vahan (vehicles) to the Lord and therefore prayed to when the Lord if propitiated. Some, like the crows, vehicles of Sani (Saturn), are said to be manifestations of the spirits of the dead. The older generation still others the first ladle of cooked rice to the crows.

Such beliefs and legends keep the tolerance level high and sometimes even reality is moulded in an effort to rationalize mythology. If you see a Khanyana or wagtail kite it is a good omen for Garuda, the vahan of Lord Vishnu, was one. The story of Garuda is told in many ways. One version says he was the son of Kasyapa the sage and Vinata. Vinata is said to have laid an egg and so soon as Garuda was born, he grew rapidly to fill the universe, his eyes were like lighting and his wings flapped to uproot mountains! So brilliant was he that he set the whole world ablaze. And this child felt hungry. “Eat anything you want except a Brahmin” advised his mother. The baby flew around picked himself an elephant and a tortoise and had his meal. And then he was sent on an errand by his mother who had wagered on the moon for a bet. Having lost the bet she was obliged to get the moon. The son got it for her. But one the way all the Gods tried to stop him but to no avail. Only Lord Vishnu could equal him though not vanquish him. An agreement was reached. Garuda was made immortal and granted a higher seat than Lord Vishnu himself (where he flies in the shape of a flag). Garuda was charmed by his opponent and so offered his services as the vahan of Lord Vishnu! And thereafter in every avatar of Lord Vishnu especially as Lord Rama, Garuda helped him. Not only Garuda but his two sons Jatayu and Sampati were also of great help of Rama.

It however it is a Brahmani kite that you see, it is the mount of Durga. More often Durga is seen on a tiger and as Singhavahini on a lion in keeping with the ferocious deity’s nature. Interestingly the jackal is also viewed as a representative of Goddess Durga.

Lord Brahma has a goose for a vehicle while Saraswati sits on a swan. The king of the Heavens, Indra rides on a wonderful elephant called Airavatam. Airavatam is a majestic white elephant with a beautiful white pearl on its forehead Legend has it that sage Durvasu, known for his volatile temper gave Indra a sweet smelling garland which a celestial nymph had given him. So fascinated was Indra that he wanted to garland his prized possession, Airavatam. No sooner had he placed it on Airavatam’s forehead than the elephant, intoxicated with the perfume, started dancing. The garland fell to the ground and got trampled over. The sage was furious and cursed Indra and it was then that oceans were churned to get the magic potion of strength for the gods.

If you are in love, however, you have to look out for Kamadeva’s vahan. Kamadeva is the god of love who shoots arrow of flowers which blossom into love. Kama, a handsome youth himself, travels with a beautiful wife Rati, a cuckoo and a humming bee. He also has spring personified and breezes floating with him while he sits on a parrot. And so keep a watch for a parrot on your window still, may be Kama is coming visiting you!