Hindu Gods and their Vahanas
A distinctive feature of Hindu deities is that they have their own vehicles. Usually, these vehicles or mounts or vahanas are animals or birds. They are often depicted along with their ‘vahanas’, too. These vahanas represent the various deities who ride them and reflect their qualities or traits. Thus, Lord Shiva’s mount, ‘Nandi’, the bull, represents strength and virility. Goddess Saraswati’s vehicle is the swan or ‘Hamsa’, which symbolizes grace, wisdom, and beauty. Planet Shani has many vahanas like the vulture, raven, and crow. Lord Ganesha’s mount is a mouse or rat, called Mooshika in Sanskrit. It symbolizes the crushing of useless thoughts.
In the ancient Scriptures, the images of Ganesha are seen without his vehicle. The Ganesha Purana talks about different incarnations of Lord Ganesha. Mohotkata’s vehicle, for instance, is a lion. Dhumraketu rides a horse, Gajanana rides a mouse, and Mayuresvara moves about on a peacock.
In western and central Indian iconography, a mouse sits near Lord Ganesha’s feet, and this custom goes back to the 7th century. Do you know why Ganesha rides a tiny animal like the mouse? Therein lies a tale.
The Myth behind Ganesha Vehicle
The mouse as Ganesha’s mount first appears in the Matsya Purana. Later it also appears in the Brahmananda Purana and Ganesha Purana. As per the Ganesha Purana, there was a celestial musician-god, Krauncha. Once, he stepped on the foot of Sage Vamadeva accidentally; the sage became angry and cursed him to turn into a mouse. However, after his temper cooled down, he felt regret for flying off the handle. So to assuage Krauncha’s distress, he promised him that one day even the gods would bow down before him.
As the mouse was huge in size, it caused damage to everything in its path. It so happened that one day, Ganesha was visiting Sage Parashar. But Krauncha stepped on the sage’s ashram and ruined it. Ganesha was annoyed and wanted to meet the giant mouse who had caused the damage and teach him a lesson. He unleashed the ‘paasa’ (rope), which was one of his weapons. It fell on Krauncha’s neck and dragged him to Ganesha’s feet.
Krauncha asked Ganesha to forgive him. Ganesha agreed on the condition that he would have to become small and serve as his mount for the rest of his life. But after he became tiny, Krauncha was not able to bear the weight of Lord Ganesha, who was quite plump. So he asked him to reduce his weight, and Ganesha obliged. Since then, the mouse has been the vehicle of Lord Ganesha. The prophecy of Sage Vamadeva was thereby fulfilled when the mouse became the Ganesh vehicle.
It is said that Lord Ganesha is able to enter all the tiny nooks and corners and accomplish his mission to destroy obstacles because his vehicle is a mouse. Mice, being tiny, can make their way through tiny holes and narrow pathways, even at night. This helps Ganesha to reach everywhere without any obstruction.
The Science behind Ganesh Vehicle
Lord Ganesha, as every Hindu knows, is the One who Conquers Obstacles or Vighnaharta. In the ancient days, people in India sustained themselves through agriculture mostly. One of the biggest problems they faced was the rat menace. The rats would damage standing crops and eat the stored grains. All this caused immense losses to people, and they were left facing ruin. As Lord Ganesha has a mouse/rat as his vahana, it communicates the idea in symbolic terms that he has conquered this pest.
There is also another view. Ganesha is the elephant god. The elephant is a strong animal and can move things that humans cannot. The Mouse, on the other hand, symbolizes the human mind. Like our thoughts, mice keep scurrying around and are never still. The mouse destroys things by gnawing and tearing things with its sharp teeth. Like the mouse, angry people are also very restless and destructive. Only someone with an elephant-sized intellect can control the mind and lead it towards spiritual enlightenment.
When people begin an important project or task, they do Sankalpa first. This is the process of envisioning the project they wish to begin. Then they pray to Ganesha to show them how to apply their intelligence in the right manner so that they can overcome all obstacles in their path and execute the project successfully.
All kinds of thoughts scurry about in the human mind, like tiny mice, preventing us from focusing on the task at hand. Thus, our mind itself is the biggest obstacle to our success. Ganesha, with the mouse by his feet, reminds us that we need to control our mind, the way he controls the mouse, in order to reach our destination and goals without getting sidetracked.