Our Hindu Culture is abound with stories related to animals and birds and their importance in the existence of the Universe. Our Hindu Panthenon of celestials has them as vehicles which reflect the characteristics of our Gods and Goddesses. Since age old times, they are a part of our culture and we have worshipped them as equal to our Gods and Goddesses.
The Elephant – We start every auspicious ritual, festival or custom with the first worship to Bhagwan Ganesh, who is our Elephant headed God. The elephant signifies wisdom and strength. It is also a symbol of prosperity wherein we see two elephants flanking Bhagwathi Lakshmi at her sides while she is seated on a Lotus which symbolises prosperity. Hence, we have this images carved on painted on the entrance doors of temples and main entrances of our doors very often. Even today, the temples have sacred elephants which carry the deity of the temple in the festival processions and have a special place in the temple.
The Cow – Gomaata, as she is fondly called, the Cow is given the status of a mother in our Hindu Culture. Right from the Kamadhenu which has emerged from the Samudra Manthan to Sabala, the sacred Gomaata is believed to be the fulfiller of wishes and hence it has been a part of worship of every Hindu household. The cow is the abode of all the millions of our celestials and the entire Universe, and hence a pradakshina around the Gomaata is considered to be as equal as the circumambulation around Earth.
The Naga – The great snake on which Bhagwan Vishnu rests is the Sesh Nag, the thousand headed serpent which is the representation of both power and protection. The Seshnaag bears the entire Mother Earth on his hoods and balances it. The Nagas reside in the Patal Lok and are considered to be the custodians of the great wealth and treasures of the world. They are worshipped for fertility and to be free from disease. The Nagas have a dual nature and sometimes the venomous side proves to be a danger to the creation. Hence to control their venomous nature, Bhagwan Shiv adorns the snake as a jewel and keeps control over their dual nature.
The Crow – The crow is the vehicle of Saneeshwar (Saturn) in the Vedic astrology. The crow occupies a special place in the Hindu rituals, especially during the oblations offered to the departed ancestors of the family. It is believed that when the crow accepts the meal, then the ancestors are pleased and bless us. Hence, a portion of food is always offered to the crow before a meal.
The Peacock – The Peacock is the vehicle of Goddess Saraswathi which represents wisdom, beauty patience and kindness. For their kindness and beauty, they are always dear to Bhagwan Krishna who adorned them in his crown. Bhagwan Karthikey also rides the peacock as his vehicle which represents swiftness.
The Swan – The Swan has a unique quality of distinguishing pure milk from diluted ones. Hence it is a representation of an attribute which differentiates between good and evil. The white colour signifies purity and it is because of this feature that great spiritual personalities are called the Parama Hamsa (endowed with pure knowledge). Each animal is unique to its own and it is a pride factor of our culture that we worship the great attributes of animals and accorded them the equal status of the Almighty.