The Sanskrit word Vihana means 'vehicle' or 'carrier', denoting an animal or creature that serves as a vehicle or mount for a deity. The vahana accompanies, pulls the chariot of, or serves as the seat or mount of the transcendental personality he serves. A vahana is sometimes depicted on banners and emblems to identify the cult or affiliation of the devotee.
In some instances, the vahana assists an exalted personality to manifest on planes or in spheres or worlds hierarchically inferior to their own. In one of Vishnu's pastimes, for example, he is described as riding upon Garuda, "since the Lord is not accustomed to stand on earthly ground".