History has prominently highlighted the importance of animals in Hindu mythology. The deity of animals and forests is widely worshipped and adored in the country. Every god has their vehicle which is mostly an animal. And similarly, these animals have a deity whom they are submissive to.
The Hindu god or lord of animals is Pashupatinath. And Aranyani is the Hindu deity of the forest and wild creature who live there. Pashupatinath is also another incarnation of Rudra or Shiva.
There is special importance of the different creatures assigned to the gods and Goddesses as their vahanas or vehicles by the ancient gurus. As the common man uses vehicles for their journey similarly the assets or attributes signified by these animals aid us to travel in the sacred spiritual realm, or can also be said to develop spiritually. An illustration of this can be seen using the three examples of three very vital Goddesses of Hindu mythology that is Durga, Sarawati, and Laxmi.
All of these Goddesses are very important and that is adored during different phases of the festival of Navratri or the nine nights, this festival which is also called Dussehra is another very widely celebrated Hindu festival. Deity Durga is worshipped on the first three days of the festival of Navratri and she rides a lion. Similarly, Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on days next three days that is from the 4th day to the 6th day rides an owl, and lastly, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped on the last three days from the 7th to the 9th, rides a royal swan or a Rajhamsa.
The last and final day of the festival is celebrated as the victory day also known as Vijayadashmi or the tenth day of victory. On this particular day, the images or idols of the main demons from the epic Ramayan, that are Ravan, Meghnaad, and Kumbhkaran are burnt by Lord Ram and Lakshman who are the two heroes in Ramayan. This practice is performed and enjoyed in almost all the significant parts of the country of India.
Goddess Durga and her vehicle
Each festival in the country which has been celebrated over the years has its significance and symbolism. Ever wondered what is the importance of the symbols used in the festival of Dussehra? While we look for the answer to this question, we will also see the significance of the animals linked with the three powerful Goddesses.
The festival of Dussehra symbolises the spiritual voyage of any spiritual pursuer, irrespective of his faith, race, nationality or skin colour, it’s the process of Self-wisdom or Self-realization or Vidya. Whenever a human begins his quest, he is in a very ignorant state as far as the understanding of his true own being is concerned.
This deeply ignorant state is signified by the first three nights of Navratra. The Goddess Durga’s elegance is raised in this phase of our pooja or worship to develop enough courage and Self-awakening by her grace to battle with our inner demons and overcome them which are present in the body in the form of bad qualities like hatred, ego, anger, jealousy, too much attachment, cunningness. All of these negative qualities are characterized as the several demons that deity Durga helps us to kill and overcome.
Goddess Lakshmi and her vehicle
As per the Sanatan Dharma, in actual life, all of us are appearances of the SUPREME SELF or the Brahman but do not know our true nature because of avidya. The three Goddesses symbolise the different mental phases that we require to get through a particular kind of problem or hurdle or to attain certain positive qualities in our behaviour. The deity Durga shows a fierce will power to get through the covering of Maya or cosmic misunderstanding as to which we are unsuccessful to understand our true self or our soul.
Her vehicle is a lion and it represents the abilities of fierce willpower, bravery and independent will which is not dismayed by the opinion of the public. All of these qualities are necessary to undertake the vital effort that is must to slay the inner bad qualities that stop us from creating bigger self-awareness. Anybody who has voyaged even a little on this spiritual journey on their inside being can understand what is the meaning of this.
It is not simple to slay deep-rooted psychological behaviour patterns like anger, hatred, possessiveness, greed etc. which lock us to a very egoistic self and an egotistic point of view. It needs tremendous amounts of hard work, tears and toil to overcome these qualities. And so, the Goddess Durga and her vahana the lion represents this great determination that is must at this phase of our sadhana or spiritual journey.
After we overcome our evil qualities, we now require to create some positive qualities and attitudes within our mind. For a searcher, now he requires to love and worship God, and offer bhakti towards God. He needs to turn into a dharmik being. He needs to create the wealth of an ethically upright person. And needs to be a person who wishes to serve God with all their heart. He must learn to respect the spiritual values over the wealth of this world.
This type of attitude goes precisely opposite to what common people value. An average human being is busy in chasing money, name, popularity, power and the worldly networks but a true devotee or upright seeker invest their time in cultivating a deeper connection with God. They are effortlessly content with what so ever worldly possessions they have.
The Goddess Lakshmi who is worshipped in the second part of our sadhana shows that by her blessings and that we can create the wealth of such a holy character. The Owl is a creature for whom the night is as day, and the day as night. To be precise it shows that it is exactly the opposite of how normal creatures live their life. Likewise, a true spiritual searcher lives life as per his inner morals as his goal is to attain self-realization. these values take him deeper within, whereas the rest of the people are busy in gathering outer wealth. And so, Goddess Lakshmi is seen riding an owl.
Goddess Saraswati and her vehicle
The last part of the sadhana, the deity Saraswati is adored. She signifies Atmavidya or the part of self-realization. Her vehicle is a royal swan who is popular for its ability to divide milk from water irrespective of how properly the two are mixed. This capability of the royal swan shows the ability of a mature searcher to divide the truth of the Atma or soul from the else when they are in samadhi while they meditate.
This skill takes him into deeper unity with the deity as his meditation grows better day by day into deeper phases of interiorization. Finally, they come to a state of complete unity with their true Self. This is celebrated as the festival of Vijayadashmi. The demons within have now been won over. There is no option of going back to the hold of the moh Maya or worldly attraction once again.
So, the last deity leads us to the path of self-realisation and discovering our soul. All of the deities have their representation and meaning of the vehicles they possess. So, the Hindu god of animals is Pashupati but all the gods have certain links to these vehicles they use.