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| Last Updated:: 20/03/2017

Sacred Animals of Andhra Pradesh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Andhra Pradesh many animals belonging to the invertebrates and the vertebrates are revered with much fervour. Among the invertebrates we can find examples as the velvet mite, the spider, the butterfly and the bumblebee to name a few that are revered by the inhabitants of this state. Each seems to have its own significance in the local myth and belief.

 

 

 

Insects

 

 

 

 

The velvet mite (Arudrapurugu), Trombidium grandissimum, is found throughout Andhra Pradesh and is believed to be the harbinger of rains. It is covered with a scarlet, velvety down, and appears on the ground at the beginning of the rainy season. It is only to be found for a few weeks in the year. However, it is believed to be some kind of aphrodisiac and the oil extracted from this insect is thought to increase sexual desire and also to cure paralysis.

 

 

 

The spider (Salepurugu) is found throughout Andhra Pradesh in many forms and sizes. It embodies tireless efforts that one needs to put in one’s duties as well as signifies the continuity of life. It also represents the essence of ‘Brahman’– as it spins the webs and later eats the same – signifying that everything living and non-living, is produced by the ‘Brahman’ and everything ends in ‘Brahman’. The spider has found a special place among sacred animals in Andhra Pradesh after its name having found its way in that of a very famous temple in Andhra Pradesh. Sri Kalahasti gets its name from ‘Sri’ – standing for spider, ‘Kala’ – standing for snake and, ‘Hasti’ – standing for elephant. It is believed that the Shiva Lingam in this temple was revered regularly by these three animals.

 

 

 

The butterfly (Seetakokachiluka), found throughout Andhra Pradesh is considered very significant in imparting the very essence of Hinduism. The Hindu scriptures emphasize the importance of meditation by exemplifying the life cycle of the butterfly. As the butterfly life cycle begins with an egg resulting in formation of krimi-like larva or caterpillar that metamorphoses into a beautiful and entirely different looking organism after a considerable time spent in the cocoon. Human beings too need to practice meditation to metamorphose from the mortals to the enlightened individuals.

 

 

 

The bumblebee (Bramara), also found throughout Andhra Pradesh is extremely significant and is a much revered insect in some part of Andhra Pradesh in that the presiding deity of the Shakti Peetham at Srisailam (also one of the twelve Jyothirlingas) is the Bramarambika (the bumblebee-incarnate of Goddess Parvati) who took the form of the bumblebee to get close to her consort Shiva who resides in the Srigiri hill in the form of Mallika (the Jasmine). The Hindus flock this temple in great numbers as this temple known as the “Bramarambika-Mallikarjuna Devalaya” has both a Shakti Peetham and a Jyothirlinga at the same place.

 

 

 

 

Amphibians

 

 

 

 

Among the vertebrates there are many animals that hold significant position in the local beliefs. The crocodile (Makara), found in major rivers of Andhra Pradesh is revered in some parts of Andhra Pradesh. Makara is a mythological crocodile-like creature. It is sometimes represented with the head of an elephant and the tail of a fish. Makara appears frequently in the temple reliefs and was considered as ‘vahana’ of the river goddesses. Makara is also sometimes referred to as the dolphin. The crocodile and/or the dolphin is considered as ‘vahana’ of river Ganga, and as the rivers in Andhra Pradesh too are equated to the holy Ganga, the depiction of Makara along small temples on the banks of major rivers is not uncommon.

 

 

 

 

The Turtle (Kurma or Thabelu), is found in major river systems and lakes in Andhra Pradesh. Kurma supports the earth on the eternal ocean. In some temples of Andhra Pradesh, as at the Mallikarjuna Temple in Srisailam, one can find an idol of a turtle that the pilgrim needs to turn 3 or 5 or 7 times to appease the reigning deity and pray for wishes to be granted. The hard cover of the turtle signifies the ‘teachings’ and the head and the four appendages represent the five senses. It is said that man needs to behave like turtle and retract his senses in the cover of knowledge as turtle does in case of external danger.

 

 

 

 

Reptiles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The snake (Sarpa, Nagadevatha), is revered in Hindu religion as it symbolizes fertility and feared due to its lethal bite. Snakes are revered throughout India. On the days of Naga Panchami and Nagula Chavathi women offer milk to snakes at snake/termite mounds and seek the Nagadevata’s blessing. Newlywed women throng the temples that have Naga idols to get the blessings to bear offsprings. The Seshanag has a special place in Hindu Mythology as it represents the reclining couch and the roofing canopy of Lord Vishnu. It is also considered to be the king of serpents and to rule the netherworld – the Patala. The Seshanag is also represented as a serpent with thousand heads and is called Ananta – timeless, because it does not perish with the destruction of the universe. It is generally and widely accepted that the serpent god, the Nagadevatha that is revered is seen in the mithuna form signifying the coming together of the couple. As the snakes lay eggs or give birth to many young and their numbers increase manifold after the breeding season, it is believed that the snakes hold the key to fertility. The long and sinuous body of the snake also signifies the continuity of birth and death cycle.

 

 

 

 

Birds

 

 

 

Egrets, storks and ibises (Kongalu), are practically found through out Andhra Pradesh, respected and tolerated in agricultural tracts. These birds are colonial nesters and would nest in village groves or on trees along the bunds of water bodies. Farmers have since time immemorial understood the relationship between the arrival of these birds and commencement of their nesting activities and the arrival of good rains and bountiful crops. The arrival of ‘Swati Kongalu’ the Little Egrets, in certain tracts of Andhra Pradesh is considered as the ‘harbinger of rains’.

 

 

 

The Peafowl (Nemali), found throughout Andhra Pradesh is revered in some hilly tracts. Peafowl is revered in Hindu religion as the vehicle of Lord Subramanya/Muruga/Kumaraswamy, and also as the controller of venomous serpents. The peafowl is revered in Hindu mythology as vahana of some demi-gods too. This bird due to its beauty and display behaviour shown by the male that coincides with monsoon shower has been considered as ‘harbinger of rains’.

 

 

 

Indian roller (Palapitta), is found distributed throughout Andhra Pradesh. There is a myth that this bird carries the message from humans to gods only on the eve of Dussehra.

 

 

 

The owl (Gudlaguba or the Peddapitta), is found distributed throughout Andhra Pradesh in varying sizes. Although there exists no information about it being revered in Andhra Pradesh, the myth about the owl being the vahana of Goddess Chenchu Lakshmi is prevalent in some tracts especially the tribal areas of the state.

 

 

 Bovine

 

 

 

The cow (Aavu and ox, Eddu), found throughout Andhra Pradesh is revered by all Hindus. The cow is the most sacred animal according to the Hindu religion. It is revered as the provider of all needs. The cow holds the highest position among animals as Kamadhenu, the mother of all cows, is a part and parcel of Hindu mythology. She is the cow that grants all wishes and desires. She is the cow of plenty that emerged from Samudramanthan (the churning of the ocean) and taken by seven gods. She is also called Surabhi, Shaval, Aditi and Kamduh. She is the mother of all cows. According to mythological accounts, Brahma created the Brahmins and the Cow at the same time, the Brahmins were to recite Vedas and scriptures while the cow was to afford ghee (clarified butter) for burnt-offerings in religious sacrifices. The cow is deemed by Brahma as the mother of all gods and is deemed therefore as the perfect object of worship. Unclean places are purified with cow-dung and its urine and in rural areas the practice of cleaning the surface of the doorway early in the morning with cow-dung continues to this day.

 

 

The male of the species is revered as ‘Nandi’ the vahana of Shiva. Owing to its dedicated service to the lord the ‘Nandi’ has got a unique position to be revered alongside the Lord himself.

 

 

The temple at Mahanandi epitomizes this status. The oxen that are used by Hindus as beasts of burden too are revered once a year during the Sankranti festival. Amongst orthodox Hindus the cow is worshipped on the first of Vaisakh, the day it is believed to be when Brahma created the cow. According to Hindu scriptures, whoever kills a cow or allows another to kill it shall rot in hell, as many years as there are hairs upon his body. A child born under unlucky stars is passed under the body of a cow to offset the effects.

 

 

 

Elephant

 

 

 

 

The elephant (Enugu), is found only in the southern part of Andhra Pradesh. It is revered throughout Andhra Pradesh in the form of Elephant-headed God – Ganesha. The elephant-headed god – Ganesha is the most revered among the gods as he has been given the status of the ‘first-worshipped’. He is considered to be the first among the gods. Due to the direct bearing with the Ganesha (having given its head) and also due to its pure dedication that translates into total surrender to God – the elephant has been long revered and has been kept in many South Indian temples to bless devotees thronging the temples.

 

 

 

Tiger

 

 

 

The tiger (Pedda Puli), is found distributed in the Godavari river belt and the Nallamala Hills in Andhra Pradesh. The Tiger is worshipped throughout Andhra Pradesh as the vahana of Goddess Durga. The tiger is more feared than revered throughout India. The reverence for tiger is due to its ferocity. It is an integral part of Shakti worship, no temple or picture of Goddess Durga would be complete without the Tiger – her vahana. The tiger’s ferocity and mythology ingrained in Hinduism has led to inclusion of tiger in dance and art forms. During festivities, Pulivesham either wearing the garb like that of a tiger or body painting to resemble a tiger is a popular art form prevalent in Andhra Pradesh.

 

 

 

Lizard

 

 

 

The golden gecko (Bangaru Balli), is found in the Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh and in Tamil Nadu. It is revered in certain regions in Andhra Pradesh. There exists a belief that by mere touching of the Golden Gecko one would be granted moksha. As it is not possible to touch a live one, a golden replica of the same is kept in Tirupati.

 

 

 

Mythical beasts

 

 

 

 

Besides the animals enumerated earlier in the text, there are numerous real or mythical animals associated with Hindu mythology. Some of them are: Airavata the seven-headed elephant (as the vehicle of Indra); Akupara the tortoise (on which Earth or Prithvi rests); Antelope as the vehicle of Vayu and Chandra; Arva, mythical being half horse and half bird as one of the horses of the moon; Water Buffalo as the vehicle of Yama; Cerbura as the three headed infernal dog of the Krishna legend; Crow as the vehicle of Shani; Dog and Horse as vehicles of Shiva as Bhairava; Jambavant, the king of bears and the ally of Rama; Jalampa the mythical sea monster (as the vehicle of Varuna-god of water); Paravani, the peacock (as the vehicle of Kartikeya); Parrot (as the vehicle of Kamadeva); Ram, the he-goat (as the vehicle of Agni); Sarama as the dog of Indra; Swan as the vehicle of Saraswati and Brahma; Tarkshya as the winged horse personifying the sun; Tiger and Lion as the vehicle of Parvati as Kali and Durga; and Uchchaih-Sravas as the eight headed king of horses produced during the churning of oceans.