Over the years, I have managed to procure sevaral Vaahanam for my Perumal. Apart from the Garuda Vaahanam and Hanumantha Vaahanam which were custom made, all other Vaahanam were bought off the shelf. I was quite lucky in that regards that the Vaahanam were the right size for my Perumal.

Here is a write-up about the follwoing mentioned topics. They are not exhaustive but will give you a good overview.

What is a Vaahanam?

Garuda VaahanamThe word 'Vaahanam' (pronounced as Vaa-ha-nam) literally tranaslated means, vehicle. But in this context, it is referred to as a mount. Both in Vaishna and Saiva temples, there are a number of Vaahanams that are used in festivals.

The processional deity known as the 'Utsavar' is mounted on these Vaahanam and is lavishly decorated in various forms and taken around on a procession.

The most important Vaahanam used in a Vaishanava temple is the Garuda Vaahanam.

Garuda Vaahanam - Gold plated




The making of a Vaahanam is a craft by itself and the best skilled craftsmen are from South India. The Vaahanam are normally madeout of teak wood and can take about six to eight months to complete. The completed Vaahanam which can be of different sizes is given a colourfull splash of paint.

For temples that can afford a bigger buddget for such projects, the Vaahanam can be coved in copper and then gilded in gold foil or completly covered in Sliver. Each Vaahana is exquisite and no two Vaahanam will look the same as they are all hand crafted.


When are Vaahanam used?

Sesha Vaahanam

There about eleven differnet Vaahanam that are used in festivals such as Brahmotsavam in Thirumala.The use of Vaahanam add pomp and colour to such festivals.

During this nine day festival, Perumal and his consorts are mounted on different Vaahanam in the morning and evening. In these Vaahanam, Perumal is decorated as Vaikundanathan (on Sesha Vaahanam), Krishnan (on Kalpavriksha Vaahanam), Ramar (on Hanumantha Vaahanam).

In my openion, the Vaahana alangaram in Thirupathi is one of the best as they ensure the very best of garlands, jewerry and silk is used for each procession.


Kallazhagar in Aswah Vaahanam

Another important festival when a Vaahanam is used is during the month of Chitirai where Sri Kallazhagar of Thirumaaliruncholai who goes to the Vaigai river on the Aswah (horse) vaahanam. This event is so famous that the whole of Madurai comes to a standstill when Azhagar comes to the Vaigai river.



Kalpavriksha Vaahanam

The use of vaahanam for festival such as Brahmotsavam differs from temple to temple. This may be due to a particular practise or temple tradition.

For example, In India, during Brahmotsavam, Vaahanam are used both in the morning and evening processions. In some Vaishnava temples outside of India, (e.g Singapore), the Vaahanam is only used in the evenings.

This is to suit the timing of devotees who can come to temple after work as they are the ones who make up the manpower for the Vaahana procession.




Garuda Sevai

Thirumala Garuda SevaiWhen Perumal is mounted on Garudan, this alangaram is known as "Garuda Sevai". All other alangaram on other vaahanam are known by their names such as Hanumantha Vaahanam or Aswa Vaahanam.

Hundred of thousands of devotess flock to Thirumala every year to witness the grand Garuda Sevai which is held on the fith day of Brahmotsavam. Apart from the pricessless and century old jewerelly that is debecked on Perumal, it is only during this procession that the precious jewelery worn by the Moolavar such as Makara Kandi and Lakshmi Haaram is decorated on this Vaahanam.


Kal GarudanThe infamous "Kal Garudan" procession of Thirunaraiyur is an event that should not be missed in a person's life time. The specialty of the Kal Garuda is that the vaahanam is said to increase exponentially in weight as it is carried out and decrease the same way while it is brought back inside. When it is just taken out of the shrine, only four people are needed to carry the mount. With each step, the vaahanam increases in weight and by the time it is carried out of the temple, 64 people are required to carry it!



What are the different Vaahanam used in Vaishnava Temples?

The following Vaahanam are used in Thirumala. Although there may be a slight difference in the order of which vaahanam is used compared to other Vaishnava temples, these are the common accross all Vaishnava temples in India.

Garuda Sevai - Sri Villiputtur

  • Garuda Vaahanam - Sri Garudan
  • Sesha Vaahanam - A five or seven headed serpent
  • Hanumantha Vaahanam - Sri Hanuman
  • Aswah Vaahanam - Horse
  • Gaja Vaahanam - Elephant
  • Hamsa Vaahanam - Swan
  • Simha Vaahanam - Lion
  • Kalpavriksha Vaahanam - The wish-yielding tree
  • Sarva Bhoopala Vaahanam - A gold grilded mantapam
  • Surayaprabha Vaahanam - Sun dial
  • Chandraprabha Vahanam - Arc of the moon




Om Namo Narayanaaya | Om Namo Bagavadey Vasu Devaaya



Best viewed in Internet Explorer at with screen resloution of 1024 by 768 pixles