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Hindu Sacred Animals

Nandi Bronze Statue at Mysore

Sacred Animals in the Hindu religion

  • In Hinduism, a number of animals are considered as sacred and are therefore worshipped. There are countless legends and religious tales of sacred animals as divine beings in animal form or with animal features. A majority of these animals are pictured in stone or embodied in sculptures together with their corresponding deity, however in some cases, living animals are also worshipped.
  • In Hinduism divinities with forms of an animal head and a human body have a prominent place. There is the elephant headed Ganesha and the horse-headed Hayasiras. Then there are the snake-gods, the Nagas, who are shape-shifters and can take the form of a human being.
  • As per Hindu folklore, Lord Shiva created different animals by assuming their usual postures. Shiva is also known as Lord of the Beasts. Lord Brahma is regarded as the creator of the Hindu universe who concealed a profound secret within each animal, such as the secret of the mantras in the horse, the secret of longevity in the crow, etc.
  • The reasons of worshipping of certain species of animals differ. Some animals are worshipped due to their enormous strength (elephant, lion etc.), others because they are considered avatars of deities. Since Hinduism reveres such a large diversity of animals, there are religious legends about all animal species. Many Hindus are strict vegetarians.

Nandi the Bull at Meenakshi India

Below are some of the most important animals in Hinduism:

Indian Cobra or the Naga

  • Among all animals worshipped in India, the cobra snake has been among the most significant symbol in Hinduism associated with fertility, power and wealth. Snake worship is mainly an appeasement of a possibly deadly force of nature. Due to the high number of deaths because of snake bites, this response is quite understandable. Presently more than 50,000 Sri Lankans die from snake-bite annually followed by India, which makes India, the second-highest snake-related death rate in the world. Cobras are seen as manifestations of Shiva, the God of Destruction and Renewal. In some parts of India, the festival of Nag Panchami is celebrated around July/August in which milk is offered to the serpents. In India snakes are killed only in self-defense. It is believed that the mother of the dead snake or the mate will take revenge on the offender. That’s why if a snake is killed for whatever reason its body should be burned and the remains buried, otherwise, it’s believed that its family members could be guided by the smell of the dead relative and launch a reprisal attack.

Ganesha On temple Roof Chennai India