Published On: Sun, Oct 9th, 2016

The Many Forms and Vahanas of Devi

The vehicles of the gods and goddesses in Hinduism are animal mounts that the gods/goddesses ride.  All the Hindu gods and Hindu goddesses are represented as using vahanas to separate themselves; each vehicle is very different and even more symbolical.
Parvati is the goddess who is Shiva’s wife in her most gentle form.  Parvati is depicted as a beautiful woman.  Her vahana is a lion.

The great Devi who exists before creation as the nature of Brahman, the unlimited, ever-expanding consciousness, is called Prakriti after creation. Before creation, this intelligence of the nature of Brahman remains beyond the three gunas, but when influenced by the gunas she becomes the primal force of creation. Then by Her will, the five forms of Devi emanate from Her for the purpose of creation and to bestow blessings and grace upon the bhaktas or devotees. The great Devi, the highest Prakriti, is recognized as five-fold. When engaged in the work of creation, she manifests as: (i) Durga, (ii) Lakshmi, (iii) Saraswati, (iv) Savitri or Gayatri and (v) Radhika.

The syllable pra signifies sattoguna or balance, the syllable kri, rajoguna or activity, and the syllable ti, tamoguna or stability.

Durga Devi

This eternal, all auspicious Devi is the presiding deity of all the Devas, and when pleased, she destroys all the sorrow, pain and troubles of the devotees who take refuge in her. She bestows all the auspicious things upon them, including dharma, name and fame, bliss, happiness and even moksha, final liberation. She is the greatest refuge of the bhaktas, who are in great distress and come to her for protection. This Durga Devi is of the nature of fire and pure light. She is omnipotent and resides always with Shiva. She is worshipped by all the siddha purushas or perfected souls. The eighteen siddhis, spiritual powers or perfections, all reside in her, and when pleased, she bestows them upon her devotees according to their wishes. This great Devi is of the nature of consciousness, intelligence, memory, peace, prosperity, beauty, contentment, kindness, forbearance, hunger, thirst, nourishment, drowsiness, fatigue, sleep, shadow and error. She is sung of in the Vedas and Shastras as Mahamaya, the nature of the universe. In reality, she is the infinite and eternal Shakti of Shiva and of all creation.

Durga is usually depicted with ten arms that hold the weapons of the various gods.  Durga’s vahana is a lion.  Her lion acts as her means of transportation and one of her many weapons.

Lakshmi Devi

The second shakti of the Paramatman or supreme consciousness is Lakshmi or Padma Devi. She is of the nature of pure or shuddha sattwa, which is higher than sattwa, and is the presiding deity of all wealth and prosperity. The very beautiful Lakshmi Devi is a complete master of the senses, and is free from greed, lust, delusion, anger, vanity and egoism. She is totally devoted to Lord Vishnu and to her bhaktas. Her speech is very sweet, and she is very dear to her Lord, being his very life and soul. This Devi resides in all grains and vegetables, and so she is the source of life of all beings. As the heavenly Lakshmi, she resides in Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Vishnu, always in his service. As the royal Lakshmi she resides in palaces, and as the household, Lakshmi, in the homes and families of devotees. She is the trade of merchants and the mercy of saints who are engaged in uplifting others. As such, she is worshipped and revered by all.

Lakshmi is always shown with a elephant by her side.

Saraswati Devi

The third shakti is Saraswati, the presiding deity of knowledge, speech, intelligence and learning. She is all the learning of the endless universe and she resides as intelligence in the hearts of all human beings. She is memory, wit, light, splendour and creative genius. She is the power in poetry and the light of understanding that gives real meaning to the various philosophical works. She is the power in us that writes books, argues, debates, judges, sings and plays musical instruments. As the goddess of speech, she presides over the knowledge and oration of all subjects. In fact, all beings earn their livelihood by taking recourse to her. She is ever serene and peaceful, holding the veena and book in her hands. Her nature is shuddha sattwa, modest and loving. Her colour is white, like the snow-clad mountains, the white sandal, the kunda flower, the moon or the white lotus. She always repeats the name of the Lord, while turning her jewelled mala. Her nature is ascetic and she is the bestower of the fruits of tapasya. She is the Siddhi, power and perfection, and vidya, knowledge, of all and grants success to all.

Saraswati is represented seated on a peacock and a veena.

Savitri or Gayatri Devi

The fourth shakti is Savitri or Gayatri Devi, the mother of the Vedas. She represents the knowledge that is revealed in the Vedas, Vedangas and Chandas. She is the seed of the tantras and mantras, and is well versed in all the shastras. Her colour is perfectly white, like pure crystal. She is shuddha sattwa and her nature is pure bliss. Being an ascetic herself, she is the tejas, brilliance, tapasya, spiritual effort, and japa of all the Sadhakas, yogis and tapasvis. Being ever pure, she resides always in Brahma loka, the abode of Brahma.  She is eternal and superior to all. She is the nature of Parabrahma and the bestower of moksha. She is the fiery shakti and the presiding deity of Brahma tejas, the brilliance of super consciousness.

Gayatri Devi is shown with a swan as her vahana.

Radhika Devi

The fifth shakti is Radhika. She is the presiding deity of the five pranas and the life and indweller of all. She is most beautiful and always brings good fortune. She is the ‘other half’ of Sri Krishna and is not inferior to him in any way. She is of the nature of highest bliss, contentment and joy. She is most auspicious, highly respected and worshipped by all. She is the lady of the Rasa Lila of Sri Krishna and from her has sprung the rasa mandalam, the divine circle dance, of which she is the grace and ornament. She dwells always in rasa or divine dance and her abode is Goloka, the highest spiritual dimension. She transcends the three gunas and is nirakara, beyond form. She assumes forms only to show favour to her bhaktas. The learned pandits read about her glories and the munis meditate upon her, but they never see her. Even Brahma and the other Devas could not perceive her, yet everyone in Vrindavan saw her very easily. From her all the gopikas or cow girls have emanated and every female in every universe springs from a part or a part of a part of her. She bestows all wealth and prosperity.

Besides the above main Devis, there are few other forms who are  the parts of these Prakritis: (i) Ganga Devi, (ii) Tulasi Devi, (iii) Manasa Devi, (iv) Sasthi Devi, (v) Mangala Chandika Devi, (vi) Maheshwari Kali Devi and (vii) Basundara Devi.

Ganga Devi

Ganga sprang from the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu. Her nature is shuddha sattwa and she is white in colour, like the white lotus or milk. Her form is fluid and she is eternal. She is the power of purification which washes away all sins. She is sweet to touch, drink and bathe in. She gives final liberation to the living souls and leads them easily to the abode of Goloka. She is the first of the flowing rivers and the holiest amongst the places of pilgrimage. She is the rows of pearls in the matted locks adorning the crown of Mahadev’s head. He offered to contain her descent from heaven, and thereby imparted to her a part of his ascetic nature. So,“ she is the tapasya of the tapasvis of Bharata Varsha, the land of light, India, and she purifies the three worlds.

Tulasi Devi

Tulasi is the consort and ornament of Lord Narayana. All acts of worship, sadhana and spiritual resolve are performed by her. She is the presiding deity of all the trees and flowers in the land of Bharata. Being pure and holy by nature, she is able to bestow merit upon others. At her sight and touch, nirvana can be attained. Apart from her, there is no other power in this Kali Yuga to purify the sins of man. The earth is purified by the touch of her lotus feet, and all the tirthas or sacred places desire to have her within their precincts. Like a kalpa vriksha, wish-fulfilling tree, she grants all desires and even bestows moksha upon those who yearn for it. She grants blessings to all women and is considered to be the most holy plant.

Manasa Devi

Manasa Devi is the daughter of Kasyapa Muni and the disciple of Lord Shankara. She is also considered to be the daughter of Ananta Deva, the primordial serpent which upholds the Earth, and so is held in great respect by all the Nagas or serpent beings. She is decorated with ornaments of serpents and reclines upon a bed of serpents. She is a siddha yogini and is honoured by the Nagendras, the celestial serpent beings. She is a devotee of Lord Vishnu and is ever engaged in his worship. After performing tapasya for three hundred thousand years, she became the foremost of the ascetics in Bharata Varsha. She is ever merged in Brahman, and her whole body shines with Brahma tejas, the brilliance of super consciousness.

Sasthi Devi

Sasthi Devi is a sixth part of the Mulaprakriti or primal creative principle, hence her name Sasthi, which means sixth. She is highly regarded as one of the sixteen Matrikas or little mothers. Being a Matri shakti, force of the Divine Mother, she protects all children with a mother’s affectionate heart. She is the bestower of sons and grandsons in the three worlds and the godmother of all. She remains near every child in the form of an aged yogini. After the birth of a child her auspicious worship is performed on the sixth day in the lying-in chamber and again on the twenty-first day.

Mangala Chandika Devi

Mangala Chandika goes from one house to another, over land, water and air, benefiting and uplifting the people. She is worshipped on Tuesdays, and when pleased, she grants all desires. She gives sons and grandsons to women, and wealth, prosperity, fame and welfare to all. Chandika emerged from the face of Mulaprakriti. She is Mangala because of her auspicious nature at the time of creation, but at the time of dissolution her nature becomes ferocious and terrible.

Maheshwari Kali Devi

Maheshwari Kali sprang from the forehead of Durga Devi to slay the two demons Shumbha and Nishumba. She is the half-part of Durga, and embodies her fiery and energetic qualities. She is the foremost shakti and the most powerful. In one breath she can destroy this whole Brahmanda or universe. She is of yogic nature and when pleased she grants success to all undertakings.

Basundara Devi

Basundara Devi is also a part of Mulaprakriti and is honoured as the Earth Goddess. Brahma and the Devas, the munis and the Manus or fathers of mankind, as well as all human beings, sing hymns in praise of her. She is the support of all and provides an abundance of grains and foodstuff. She is the source of all gems and ornaments, and bears in her womb all the precious metals. All people, high and low, worship her. All living beings live through her and she bestows all sorts of wealth and prosperity.


  1. The divine forms of Devi by Swami Satyadharma Saraswathi
  2. Hindu vehicles, Hindu Gods Vahana’s, Animal Vahana – Lotus Sculpture


By –  Dr. Vanaja Kumar

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