Vahanas: The Transcendental Carriers, Part Two


Lord Brahma on Hamsa
British Museum Collectoin

Jan 26, 2014 — CANADA (SUN) — The vahana carriers of Brahma, Shiva and Ganesh.

Brahma's Carrier, Hamsa

Lord Brahma's vehicle is Hamsa, the Swan. He is also shown riding a chariot drawn by seven swans, representing the seven worlds. Hamsa means 'pure'. Lord Brahma uses Hamsa not only as his vehicle, but also to chant the Vedas. Lord Brahma himself is sometimes called Hamsa. Hamsa-yana, the airplane by which Brahma travels all over outer space, resembles a swan. Brahma is also known as Hamsa because he can grasp the essence of everything. Some references indicate that Brahma's swan carrier is akin to the vimanas (celestial spacecraft) run by mantric hymns, i.e., that Hamsa is a subtle mechanism of this kind, and not a sentient living entity.

Shiva's Carrier, Nandi

Nandi is the bull vahana of Shiva. In many Shiva temples, Nandi is placed directly opposite the entrance to the shrine containing the central image of Shiva, the shiva linga. In this position, Nandi is acting not only as Shiva's guardian, but also as a constant devotee. As Nandi mimics the position of every devotee who comes to stand before the deity, he is often revered as a model devotee.

In the Panchanadha Shetram, Nandhi is described as a very staunch Shiva devotee who will never tolerate any unbecoming word about Lord Shia. Once during Daksha Yagna, Daksha spoke rudely of Lord Shiva and Nandi closed his two ears, chanting "Siva, Siva".

As an independent deity, the bull was known in ancient India as Nandikeshvara, the Lord of Joy, often represented as a man with a bull's head. Nandikeshvara was a rishi who offered service to Shiva by guarding his door.

Lord Shiva has various names describing his association with Nandi. Vrishavahanamurti, the form of Shiva resting against Nandi, is the form he assumes when blessing devotees with freedom from the cycle of existence.

Mahanandishwara is the presiding deity of Lord Shiva that resides in Mahanandishwara temple in Mahanandi. Within a 15 kilometer radius from the temple lie nine Nandis known as "Navanandis". Mahanandi temple is one of the Nava Nandis, and the other eight temples Prathama Nandi, Naga Nandi, Vinayaka Nandi, Garuda Nandi, Shiva Nandi, Vishnu Nandi, Surya Nandi, and Soma Nandi.

Ganapati's Carrier, Mooshika

The mount of Ganesh is a mouse called Mooshika, the "Little Hoarder". Mooshika Vahana is also called Mooshikam, Minjur or Akhu. A hyperactive creature, the mouse is symbolic of our indriyas (ten senses). Therefore Ganesh sitting on such a vehicle represents a deity of control over the indriyas.

When Shiva and Parvati decided to have their sons, Kartikeya and Ganesh married, they stipulated that he who circumambulated the earth first would be considered the best deity and would be married first. Kartikeya flew off on his vehicle - a peacock. Poor Ganapati's vehicle was a mouse which was no match for a peacock. Being the choicest devotee of God, Parvatiji consoling him showed Ganeshji a simpler and quicker way. She advised him to cicumambulate the cow since she also symbolically represents another earth and he had reap the same benefit as going round the earth.

Another reference cites him circumambulating his parents.Consoling him, Parvati showed a short cut. She divulged that it was ordained in the scriptures that he who offered puja to his parents and then circumambulated them received the same merit as he who went around the earth. Ganapati hence married first showing that one who obeys the wish of the choicest devotee of God or his parents attains his desired wishes. Hence Ganeshji is invoked first in all auspicious events, rites and rituals such as marriage, opening ceremonies, ground-breaking ceremonies, yagnas and so on.


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