Venu Payyanur

In the modern world, vehicles are seen as the status or power symbol of the person riding it more than a mere means of transportation. For example, Airforce one, the most famous official aircraft of the American President is specially designed and built and also the most photographed aircraft in the world. The car specially built for him by Cadillac is called the “Beast”. There is this rich Indian business man who lives in his 27 story house with 168 cars including a Benz costing in excess of rupees five crores. Politicians in India, including MPs and MLAs are constantly fighting to get a red beacon (lal bathi) on top of their cars to signify their authority and position in the social milieu.

In Hindu iconography, positive aspects of the vehicle are often representative of the deity that it carries. The vehicle of a particular deity in Hinduism has symbolic and philosophical significance. The symbolic meaning varies from deity to deity. Some Vahana teach human beings the value and importance of selfless service, devotion to duty and patience.  Often the Vahana of a Hindu God indicates a wrong or evil human quality which has been controlled by riding on it, or a good quality inherent in an animal or bird that needs to spread and adapted by all. Many vahana may also have divine powers as they serve the God/Goddess selflessly and remains in the presence of the lord all the time. And they will also have the power to grant boon or shower curses. The God/Goddess may be seen sitting, standing or riding the vahana or at times the vahana may be seen sitting near the God. These Vahana are the representation of the various energies (animal energies) that exists in the universe as well as in human beings and they need to be controlled and channel properly so as to transform ourselves spiritually. Each god or goddess is in-charge of a particular energy which he or she rides and controls at his or her will. These energies are present in man also, mostly as wild animal energies and they need to be controlled and channelled properly in order to transform the lower self and establish divine consciousness in him. For this he has to propitiate different gods who if satisfied with his supplication arise or descend into his consciousness and help him master them.

Below is a list of Hindu gods and goddesses and their respective ‘vahanas’

•Aditya (Sun God) – seven horses

•Agni – the Ram

•Brahma – Hamsa (swan)

•Durga – the lion

•Ganesha – the mouse

•Indra – the elephant

•Subramanya – the peacock

•Maha Lakshmi – the owl

•Saraswati – the swan or the peacock

•Shani – the crow

•Shiva – Nandi, the bull

•Varuna – seven swans

•Vayu – a thousand horses

•Vishnu – Garuda, the eagle & Adi Shesha, the serpent

•Yama – the male buffalo

Vishnu – According to various Puranas, Vishnu is the ultimate omnipresent reality and one of the most important Gods among the Trinity. Vishnu’s vahana is the eagle King named Garuda.  Garuda is depicted as having the golden body of a strong man with a white face, red wings, and an eagle’s beak and with a crown on his head. This ancient deity was said to be massive, large enough to block out the sun. Throughout the Mahabharata, Garuda is invoked as a symbol of impetuous violent force, of speed, and of martial prowess. Garuda symbolises the space element and the power of the sun, which can dry up the water. Hence Garuda is the natural enemy of snakes and he devours or controls them. He represents the spiritual energy of which devours the delusions of jealousy and hatred, which are represented by the snake. Garuda is also the openness: he can stretch out his wings and soar into space. Garuda represents the human thoughts which can fly in all directions at incredible speed. Lord Vishnu can help us to control our thoughts.

Another name for Garuda is “Veda atma”; Soul of the Vedas. The flapping of his wings symbolizes the power of the Divine Truth of Vedic wisdom. Also the eagle represents the soul. Garuda carrying Vishnu symbolizes the soul or jiva-atma carrying the Super soul or Param atma within it.

Lord Vishnu is seated on Adi Shesha, the serpent god, who represents the desire consciousness in us. The serpent Anantha represents thoughts, endless thoughts that pass through our minds all the time. That is why it has thousand hoods symbolising thousands and thousands of thoughts passing through our minds at any given time. In many pictures, the serpent is shown with five hoods, which represents our five senses, hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching, based on which our thoughts are generated. Lord Vishnu can help us either to fulfil these desires or control them.

Vishnu is shown wearing two earrings: The earrings represent inherent opposites in creation — knowledge and ignorance; happiness and unhappiness; pleasure and pain. Similarly his vehicles also represent the inherent opposites in creation – Garuda and the snake sesha.

Lord Shiva represents the aspect of the Supreme Being that continuously dissolves to recreate in the cyclic process of creation, preservation, dissolution and recreation of the universe. Lord Shiva is the Lord of mercy and compassion. He protects devotees from evil forces such as lust, greed, and anger. He grants boons, bestows grace and awakens wisdom in His devotees. Lord Siva rides the Bull, Nandi, which stands for the bullying, aggressive, blind and brute power in man. The bull symbolizes both power and ignorance. It also stands for unbridled sexual energy, Kama. Only Lord Siva can help us control these and transform them. Lord Shiva’s use of the bull as a vehicle conveys the idea that He removes ignorance and bestows power of wisdom on His devotees. Have you seen villains in Hindi movies, they are generally shown as physically strong persons with lack of intelligence or thinking power. They are the bulls, if under control will do whatever the master wants, or else it can destroy you also.


Venu Payyanur

Animals are also symbolic. Many cultures through the ages have regarded specific animals as representing gods, divine functions and principles, power, the supernatural, etc. They also represent our feelings and affections, some good and some bad. We can look at animals, on their own, or in groups and see a possible reflection of our own inner state. After all we sometimes say that a person is “as cunning as a fox” or “as stubborn as a mule” so we are already used to making some link between animals and how we feel and act.

The place that animal symbols hold in the Chinese culture is perhaps considered to be unparalleled than what we find to be true regarding other cultures. The Chinese philosophers using their profound knowledge and careful observation of the natural world identified certain animals with specific qualities that symbolize certain divine functions and principles and were chosen as symbols for that particular aspect of divinity. Chinese philosophers divided the 12 animals into two categories of Yin and Yang (the underlying principles of Chinese philosophy and medicine), corresponding to the Five Elements (Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth), and then created a set of fortune telling methods which proclaim that the twelve Chinese horoscope animals decide people’s fates. As a result, the Chinese Zodiac began to connect with people’s characters, friendship, love, marriage, career, health, fortune and so on. People thought that when a person came to the year of his attribute (decided by the year when he was born), he must wear a red belt to pursue good fortune and shun calamity. Even children had to wear a red vest and underpants in their birth year. This custom of ‘Birth Year’ is still popular throughout China.

Symbols of the Chinese Horoscope Cycle – The Twelve Earthly Branches and Their Attributes

RAT: intelligent, enterprising, has devotion to purpose, but can be devious and scheming at times.

OX: strong, steadfast and dependable, but not necessarily stupid; faithful to the end, slow to anger, but can be very forceful.

TIGER: loyal, courageous, energetic, strong, cunning. The tigress tends to be shrewish.

RABBIT: modest, fast mover, has delicate senses, and is a good listener.

DRAGON: benign, embodies wisdom, strength and goodness, protector of the weak.

SNAKE: observant, quick to anger, usually possesses great physical beauty and is not necessarily venomous except when protecting the family.

HORSE: strong and powerful, usually vain if a woman, warlike and chivalrous.

SHEEP: proud, domineering, strive to help and guard their fellows, and are sometimes excellent doctors.

MONKEYS: quick and keen of wit, highly observant, curious, loving, a good parent, and excellent in small enterprises.

ROOSTER: quick to fight, single-purposed and persistent.

DOG: loyal, steadfast, persistent in adversity, sensitive to feelings.

PIG: highly intelligent, scholarly, easily angered, easily swayed and affected by emotions.

Egyptian towns usually had their own local sacred animal. It was thought that some gods and goddesses represented themselves on earth in the form of a single representative of a specific species, and honoring that species of animal would please the god or goddess associated with the animal. The animal believed to be the incarnation of the god or goddess lived a pampered life in and near the temples and religious centers

The following animals appear in a variety of cultures and represent a variety of things. In one case an animal might symbolize something good, while in another culture might consider it representative of evil. Each animal below is followed by symbols from different cultures and religions.

Alligator – Aggression, survival, adaptability, cunning, deceptive.

Ant – Group-minded, perseverance, self-discipline, group effort, teamwork, industriousness, orderliness, strength, stamina, and honour.

Ape/Monkey – Mischief, mimicry, cunning, benevolence.

Bat – Guardian of the night, cleaner, obscurity, messenger, double nature, happiness, good luck, longevity, peace; also – hypocrisy, melancholy, revenge, wisdom.

Buffalo – Sacredness, life builder. The buffalo provides all good things for living, and bestows great curing powers.

Bull – Wealth, potency, beneficence, generative force, male procreative strength, kingship, taming of the masculine and animal nature, destructive force.

Butterfly – Metamorphosis, carefree, transformer, immortality, rebirth, resurrection, grace, light, soul.

Cat – Guardianship, detachment, sensuality, stealth, desire, liberty, pleasure, magic, lust, pride, vanity.

Cow – Nourishment, motherhood, power of Earth, plenty, procreation, gentleness, nurturing.

Crow – Messenger, death, wisdom, communication, the underworld.

Deer – Love, gentleness, kindness, gracefulness, sensitivity, purity of purpose, walking in the light, swift, nimble, meek, gentle, meditation, love, longevity, wealth.

Dog – Guidance, protection, loyalty, fidelity, faithfulness, watchfulness, the Hunt.

Dolphin – Kindness, play, savior, guide, sea power, swift, intelligence, communication, breath control, awareness of tone.

Donkey – Humility, patience, peace, stupidity, stubbornness, lewdness.

Dragon – Power of Earth, combining bird and serpent as matter and spirit, breath of life, supernatural power, magic, strength, wisdom, knowledge, guardian.

Eagle – Divine spirit, air, the sun, power in battle, protection from evil, clear vision, success, prosperity, wealth, intelligence, renewal, courage.

Elephant – Strength, fidelity, memory, patience, wisdom, intelligence, power.

Fox – Cunning, provider, intelligence, feminine magic, diplomacy, wildness.

Frog – Power of water, sensitivity, medicine, hidden beauty, power.

Goat – Vitality, fertility, creativity, virility, abundance, lust.

Hare – rebirth, rejuvenation, resurrection, intuition, balance, fertility, fire, madness, transformation.

Hawk – Nobility, recollection, cleansing, messenger, observer, Solar, clarity, discrimination, inspiration, the soul.

Horse – Stamina, mobility, strength and power, coping under difficult circumstances, love, devotion, loyalty, the land, travel. Life and death symbol, intellect, wisdom, power, nobility, energy, freedom, wildness, divination, prophecy, fertility.

Jackal – Guide of souls, associated with cemeteries.

Kingfisher – Beauty, dignity, speed, calmness, serenity.

Leopard – Ferocity, aggression, intrepid, Great Watcher, courage, activity, speed.

Lion – Solar, splendor, power, majesty, strength, courage, nobility.

Lizard – Conservation, agility, promotes dreaming.

Mouse- Shyness, Quiet, Attention to Detail, Sneakiness.

Owl – Wisdom, truth, patience, darkness, a death messenger, divination, solitude, detachment, wisdom, change, totem of clairvoyants and mystics.

Python – Darkness, feminine, power of Earth, wisdom.

Rabbit – Alertness, nurturing.

Ram – Sacrifice, breakthrough, achievement, virility, creativity, the Sun, solar power.

Salmon – Instinct, persistence, determination, wisdom, inspiration, rejuvenation.

Serpent – Life, rebirth, resurrection, wisdom, passion, healing, poison, preserver, destroyer, malice, fertility.

Snake – Shrewdness, transformation, life, death and rebirth, rain, fertility.

Spider – Creative, pattern of life, connects the past with the future, creating possibilities.

Swan – Grace, balance, innocence, faithfulness, solitude, retreat, poetry, sincerity.

Tiger – Creator, destroyer, strength, ferocity, power, anger, power of Earth.

Turtle – Self – contained, creative source, Earth, informed decisions, planning, and adaptability.

Wolf – Loyalty, success, perseverance, stability, thought, pathfinder, teacher, intuition, learning, the shadow.


Venu Payyanur

Number 10 – symbolically represents the incarnations of GOD, the coming together of 1 and 0, the saguna brahman and the nirguna brahman. An incarnation is GOD in human form.

  • Lord Vishnu has taken 10 incarnations.
  • Ten is the foundation of most counting systems, including the decimal systems.
  • In Bible, there are 10 commandments.
  • To reduce something to one tenth or make almost extinct is called ‘decimate’.
  • Something that scores perfectly, like in sports, is called perfect 10.


Number 18 – This number has great spiritual significance in Hinduism.

  • There are 18 Parvas in Mahabharata.
  • Bhagavad Gita has 18 chapters.
  • Mahabharata war was fought by 18 divisions of army (11 in the side of Kauravas and 7 in the side of Pandavas) and lasted 18 days.
  • All the vedas have 18 chapters.
  • There are 18 puranas.
  • Sabarimala Ayyappa temple has 18 holy steps and the Darshan is complete only if one climbs the 18 steps with ‘irumudi’ on his head. The 18 steps have great spiritual significance. First five steps symbolises the five indriyas, vision, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. The next 8 steps symbolises the ‘ashta-ragas’ of kama, krodha, lobha, moha, madha, matsarya, asooya and dhumb. (desire, anger, avarice, lust, pride, competition, jealousy and boastfulness ). Next three steps represents the three gunas, satva, tajas and tamas. The last two steps represents vidya (knowledge) and avidya (ignorance).
  • One becomes major at the age of 18.


Number 108 – another number with great spiritual and symbolic significance in Hinduism.

  • 0 stands for nirguna brahman, the GOD, 1 stands for saguna brahman, the god in human form and 8 signifies eternity.
  • In one minute, we breathe in approximately 15 times, in 1 hour 900 times, and in 12 hours 10800 times, and in a day 10800 * 2 times. A day consists of 24 hours, and if we set aside half the day for our day to day routines, then one can spend 12 hours for recitation of one’s idol. Therefore, the maximum number of times one can recite “mantra”, or perform “Jap” are 10800. If one wants to obtain 100% benefit of its jap, then performing jap 108 times will give you the benefit of 100%. That’s why in a “Mala”, there are 108 beads. It is written in Vedas, that 1 Jap corresponds to 1 mala (which has 108 beads), therefore performing jap of 108 malas will result in 100% benefit.
  • Astronomically, there are 27 constellations in our galaxy, and each one them has 4 directions, and 27 * 4 = 108, In other words the number 108 covers the whole galaxy.
  • According to Indian mythology, there are 4 Yugs
    • Satyug – consists of 1728000 years (1+7+2+8 = 18 == (1+8 = 9)
    • TretaYug consists of 1296000 years (1+2+9+6 = 18 = (1+8 = 9)
    • DwaparYug consists of 864000 years (8+4+6) = 18 = (1+8 = 9)
    • Kaliyug consists of 432000 years      (4+3+2) = 9
    • (1×1) x (2×2) x (3x3x3) = 1x4x27 = 108. (So what?)
    • Sanskrit alphabet: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 are 108.
    • There are 108 Upanishads
    • Sri Yantra: On the Sri Yantra there are 54 marmas where three lines intersect. Each intersection has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti qualities. Thus, there are 108 points that define the Sri Yantra as well as the human body.
    • According to Ayurveda, there are 108 pressure points in our body.
    • There are 108 feelings, with 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, and 36 related to the future.
    • In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equal 108.
    • Sun and Earth: The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
    • Moon and Earth: The average distance of the Moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.
    • The Nepalese parliament has 108 seats.
    • Buddhist followers use 108 beads in their malas. They implement the following formula:
      • 6 x 3 x 2 x3 = 108
      • 6 senses [sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought]
      • 3 aspects of time [past, present, future]
      • 2 condition of heart [pure or impure]
      • 3 possibilities of sentiment [like, dislike, indifference]
    • Most Hindu deities have 108 names – Ashtothara satha namavali.
    • In India the emergency toll free number is 108.