The Sanskrit word ‘Vahana,’ which means vehicle, is used for the animals and birds that serve as the carriers of the gods in Hinduism. The most famous Vahanas are Garuda of Vishnu, Swan of Brahma, 7 horses of Surya, lion of Durga, rat of Ganesha, peacock of Skanda or Muruga. Most of the gods in the Hindu pantheon has a Vahana and it is offered due worship along with the presiding deity. The Vahanas are suggestive of the nature of the power that is expressed by the deities.
Idols and pictures of the Vahanas are prominently displayed along with the gods and goddesses in temples and sacred places. The living counterparts of the Vahanas on earth are protected and provided a sanctuary.
The vehicle of a particular deity in Hinduism has symbolic and philosophical significance. The symbolic meaning varies from deity to deity. Some Vahanas 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 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.