Top 5 Animal Gods Found In Hindu Mythology

In Hinduism, there is a deity for almost every aspect of life, whether it’s love, wealth, strength, or wisdom. You might have heard the saying that Hindus worship over 33 million gods. While this number isn’t entirely accurate, it does highlight the vast array of deities in Hinduism.

Within this rich tapestry of divinity, you’ll also find gods and goddesses depicted in animal forms. Since animals are an integral part of nature, it’s not surprising that Hindus believe that gods can take on animal forms. In the end, all Hindus share the belief in one supreme god who is formless. It’s the devotees who imagine and portray this supreme god in various forms to establish a personal connection with the divine.

Why Do Hindus Worship Animal Gods?

Many religions worldwide, especially the Abrahamic ones, sometimes find the practice of idol worship, especially when it involves animal gods, to be unusual. Some view it as a symbol of primitive culture akin to paganism. However, in Hinduism, animals have held significant spiritual and economic importance for a long time.

Even during ancient times, in the Vedic period, the knowledge of animals, known as ‘Pasu Vidya,’ was considered an important field of study. Therefore, in the core practices of Hinduism, mistreatment of animals is strongly condemned. This is not surprising considering that India is home to the largest population of vegetarians in the world.

In India, people recognize the vital role animals play in the cycle of life and transmigration of souls. Animals serve as sources of sacrificial offerings like milk, butter, and ghee, which are essential in ritual worship.

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However, it’s important to note that not all animals hold the same sacred and spiritually advanced status. In Hinduism, animals such as elephants, horses, cows, bulls, boars, tigers, and lions are among those considered sacred.

Narashima – Avatar Of Vishnu

Lord Narasimha is the fourth and most powerful avatar of Lord Vishnu among the Dashavatar. According to Hindu texts, this fierce avatar of Vishnu’s mission was to defeat Hiranyakashipu, a formidable demon of his time, and rescue Prahlada from his clutches.

Prahlada was actually the son of the demon Hiranyakashipu. Despite his demonic lineage, Prahlada displayed no evil tendencies; instead, he was an unwavering devotee of Lord Vishnu. This unwavering devotion infuriated his father Hiranyakashipu, who vowed to kill him.

However, when he attempted to murder Prahlada, Lord Narasimha, a divine form that is half-man and half-lion, appeared and vanquished him. In Hindu mythology, Narasimha is revered as the protector of the purest devotees against evil forces. He symbolizes immense power and strength.

Hayagriva – Avatar Of Vishnu

Hayagriva is the horse-headed avatar of Lord Vishnu, revered as the deity of knowledge and wisdom. Similar to other incarnations of Vishnu, Hayagriva did not take birth from a mother’s womb but manifested in this unique form.

The Skanda Purana provides a detailed account of Hayagriva, depicting him with four human arms. In one hand, he bestows knowledge, while another holds the Vedas, the sacred books of wisdom. His remaining two hands hold a conch and a discus. This particular avatar symbolizes the victory of pure knowledge over the dark forces of lust and ignorance.

According to the Puranas, there was a demon named Hayagriva who stole all the Vedas and their wisdom. This demon had a human body and the head of a horse, due to a boon granted by Lord Brahma. His only vulnerability was that he could be defeated by another being with the same horse-headed form.

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Upon the repeated requests of gods and deities, Lord Vishnu assumed the avatar of Hayagriva and vanquished the demon. Ever since, people in the Shakta tradition have worshipped Hayagriva for his speed, strength, and intelligence.

Garuda – The King Of All Birds

Garuda is a legendary bird creature in Hindu mythology, best known as the divine mount, or vahana, of Lord Vishnu. His earliest mention dates back to the Rig Veda, composed around the second millennium BCE.

Garuda is considered the king of all birds and is a prominent figure in the cultures of other Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and Myanmar. In fact, Indonesia’s national airline is named Garuda Airlines.

In Hindu belief, Garuda has the body of a human, the head of an eagle, and majestic wings. He is seen as a symbol of birth and heaven. Garuda is the son of Kashyapa, a renowned sage of that era, and the younger brother of Aruna, who served as the charioteer of Lord Surya, the sun god.

Described as having a golden body, a white face, and red wings, Garuda is said to have been born with a voracious appetite. In a tale from the legends, he accidentally swallowed a Brahmin of higher caste, a deed strictly forbidden. As soon as he realized his mistake, Garuda promptly regurgitated the Brahmin.

AdiShesha – The King Of All Snakes

Adishesha, also known as Shesha Naga, is a revered mythological creature in Hinduism. This colossal, five-hooded serpent serves as the divine bed for Lord Vishnu and is celebrated as the king of all Naga races. Adishesha is considered one of the primordial beings in cosmic creation and holds a prominent position in Hindu mythology, influencing art, culture, and literature.

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The name ‘Adishesha’ has a fascinating meaning, composed of two words: ‘Adi’ and ‘Shesha.’ It translates to ‘the eternal one who persists even when everything else ceases to exist.’ In various Puranas, Lord Vishnu is often depicted resting on this enormous serpent.

Adishesha is recognized as the eternal devotee and companion of Lord Vishnu, assisting in fulfilling the purpose of Vishnu’s incarnations on Earth. For instance, in the Ramayana, Lakshmana is described as the incarnation of Adishesha, who aided Lord Rama in establishing Dharma and bringing prosperity to the land of India.

Similarly, in the Mahabharata, Balarama is identified as an avatar of Adishesha, assisting Lord Krishna in upholding Dharma in society. According to ancient Hindu texts, Adishesha is believed to bear the entire universe, including its planets, on his hoods.

Matsya – The First Avatar Of Vishnu

Matsya is the very first avatar among Lord Vishnu’s Dashavatar, where Vishnu took the form of a giant fish to rescue the earth and its living beings from a devastating flood.

The legend goes that a holy man named Manu once discovered a small fish while bathing in a river. He noticed that larger fish were threatening the small one. Concerned, he took the fish home and placed it in a water jar. However, the next day, he found that the fish had grown too large for the jar and were struggling.

Manu released the fish into a pond, only to find the same situation repeated the next day. The fish had outgrown the pond as well. Manu then realized the divine nature of the fish and released it into the ocean.

To his amazement, the fish had grown into a colossal size the following day. Upon Manu’s request, the fish revealed its true identity as Lord Vishnu and explained why it had taken the form of Matsya, the fish.

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Shiba Prasad

Shiba Prasad

I've been captivated by India's ancient history and Vedic culture. What began as a hobby, reading books on Hinduism, has now turned into my full-time commitment, researching and writing for this blog. When not working, I enjoy spending time with friends.

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