Picture shows seven gods on Vahanas in Iraq.
(Tamil version of this article is
also available: London swaminathan)
(Please read Hindu Vahanas around the World--first part of this article and Deer
Chariot: From Rig Veda to Santa Claus—second part: swami)
In India, particularly in Tamil Naadu, several gods are taken in procession at
the same time on different Vahanas (Mounts of Gods) during festival times. People throng in
thousands to see the Gods procession. It is a great feeling one gets after witnessing such a
procession. It is amazing that this Hindu custom was followed in Assyria and Babylonia.
An Assyrian king, probably Sennacherib (704 BC) flanks a procession of
seven gods on their sacred animals on a rock relief at Maltai in Northern Iraq. In
the Middle East, all male gods are in standing position.
Goddess is stting on a chair or a vahana.
Procession of 12 Gods in Turkey
In Boghazkoi in Turkey we have a procession of 12 gods. It may be Dwadasa Adityas
(12 Adityas of Vedic pantheon). It is significant we see the 12 gods procession
in a place where an inscription with the names of Vedic gods Indra, Mitra, Varuna
and Nasatyas was excavated. The inscription is about a treaty between a Mitanni
king and a Hittite king. It was dated 1400 BC.
Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran were ruled by Hittites, Kassites and Mitannis who
used Sanskrit Scriptures for their treaties and horse training. We have inscriptional
evidence starting from 1400 BC.
Hindu gods and goddesses are taken in procession during festivals on vahanas.
Vahanas are Mounts of Gods. They are mostly animals. In some big temples like Madurai
Meenakshi temple we several Gods are taken in procession at the same time.
Description of a procession
Madurai is a temple city and a city of festivals. Throughout the year one or
other festival is celebrated in the temple. The temple has got beautiful Vahanas. They are
Rishaba (bull),Horse, Kailash mountain, Kamadhenu (wish fulfilling Cow), Karpaka Vrisham
(Wish fulfilling Tree), Annam (swan), Simmam (Lion), Parrot, Yali (Mythical animal), Nandhi
Deva, Bhutam (shiva’s attendant) and elephant.
Picture shows 12 Garuda Vahana Sevai in Thanjavur.
Madurai temple stands unique in taking out Rishaba Vahana (bull) eighteen times in a year.
In Madurai, first comes the Vettu Vandi/ explosives cart in a procession. A person
is hired to fire explosives to announce the procession to the area. People living
in nearby areas, hearing the explosion, immediately rush to the street where the
procession is on its way. Behind it comes the Temple Bull with Nagara drum. One
person sits on it and beats the drum. It is followed by elephant and camels. Torch
bearers, Petromax light bearers, temple flag and standard bearers follow in two lines
on either side of the gods procession.
The Vedic Pundits come in a group reciting Vedas. Tamil singers sing the Tamil
Hymns in a group and follow them. Then Ganesh, Kartikeya were taken in small
Chapparams (vehicles). In the olden days, they were all carried manually. Now
due to labour regulations, most of the deities outside the temple are taken
in carts with tyres and they are manually or mechanically operated.
Picture shows a procession in Assyria
The main deities follow Ganesh and Kartikeya in different Vahanas on different
days. In Madurai , immediately after the Meenakshi Wedding, even Lord kartikeya
of Tirupparankundram and Kudal azakar Perumal of Madurai follow
Meenakshi Sundareswar and Piriyavidai. So in total there five big deities and
three smaller deities will be taken in procession on the same day. Last comes
Nandikeswara, the attendance taker. He is the one who maintains the account of
devotees’ good deeds and makes sure they are rewarded duly. So, people disperse
only after seeing Nandikeswara.
All the advertisement carts, Toffee sellers, Balloon and Toy sellers and bangle
sellers follow the God’s procession to cater to the needs of children, women and
On Ani Tirumanjanam and Arudra festival days, five to twelve Natarajas are taken
in procession in different towns. In Thanjavur 12 Garuda Vahanas are taken on a
specific day. Each temple or each town has its own special occasions where more
than one deity is taken at the same time. The more the number of deities in a
procession, more the excitement and more crowds are seen.