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Nandī, the vehicle mount (vāhana) of Śhiva, is commonly referred to as "Nandī baila" (नंदी बैल), in the popular hindi jargon.

However, there's a difference between a Bull (सांड) and an Ox (बैल). A bull is a natural male counterpart of a cow, while an ox is an unnaturally made (castrated) cattle.

So, the question is, Śhiva is many a times shown mounted on Nandī, What form does he assume as a vāhana, a bull or an ox?

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2 Answers 2

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From the Shiva Shadakshara Stotram of the Rudra Yamala Tantram:


वाहनं वृषभो यस्य वासुकिः कंठभूषणम् ।
वामे शक्तिधरं देवं वकाराय नमो नमः ॥५॥

Vaahanam Vrssabho Yasya Vaasukih Kamttha-Bhuussannam |
Vaame Shakti-Dharam Devam Vakaaraaya Namo Namah ||5||

Meaning:

5.1: (Salutations to Him) Who has a Bull as His Vehicle, Who has the snake Vasuki as the Ornament of His Neck, 5.2: Who has the Divine Mother Shakti on His Left. Salutations to that Shiva, Who is represented by syllable "Va", The fifth syllable of the Sadakshara mantra "Om-Na-Ma-Shi-Va-Ya".

So, Nandi is a Vrishabh which is translated above as a bull. However, dictionary states that Vrishabh can mean bull as well as ox.


वृषभ m. vRSabha ox
वृषभ m. vRSabha bull
वृषभ adj. vRSabha vigorous

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    The doubt still remains though. Why we call Nandi baila, and not Nandi Saand, in hindi atleast.
    – Vivikta
    May 19, 2021 at 5:26
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    @Vivikta Not sure why but as the dictionary shows Vrishbh can mean an ox too
    – Rickross
    May 19, 2021 at 5:35
  • Isn't it a bit surprising Rickross, that we generally have so many words for a single concept in sanskrit, that counting is impossible. Yet for Bull vs Ox, there seems to be an apparent dearth?
    – Vivikta
    May 19, 2021 at 5:38
  • The Sanskrit dictionary, gives ña (ञ) and usra (उस्र), and Go (गो), etc., as words for ox though,. Maybe these words find mention specifically somewhere?
    – Vivikta
    May 19, 2021 at 5:50
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Nandi is not usually the vehicle of Shiva. One vehicle of Shiva is a goat, who is an incarnation of Vishnu. No clue why he is not mentioned more. He also has a bull, as mentioned later in the quoted text. Vishnu is also the vehicle of Parvati in an undisclosed form (I wonder why)

Sūta said:

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Nārada said:

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Mahādeva said:

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He is Rudra. He is Nārāyaṇa. He is the vechicle of Śaṅkara in the form of a goat. He is the protector of Śiva in the form of a goat.

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He has Śivā (i.e. Pārvatī) mounted upon him.

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Sūta said:

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Brahmā said:

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There Nārada saw the god honoured by deities, seated on the peak of Kailāsa, the god of gods, the preceptor of the world, having five faces, ten arms, and having the trident in his hand, having a skull, having a staff with a skull at the top,1 holding a sharp spear and a sword, holding the trident, fearful, granting boons, and having the bull (i.e. Nandin (probably not Nandin usually)) as his vehicle, with his body (smeared) with ash, having charm due to serpents, and having the (crescent-)moon on his head, resembling a dark cloud, and having the lustre of a crore of suns, and sporting there. (Prostrating himself) like a staff he (i.e. Nārada) saluted the lord of gods.

I love how the text goes from mentioning Rudra as the supreme being to him having a goat as a protector in barely any time.

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  • Here protector means guard. Even Nandi is described as Protector of Whole Kailasha in some texts. Sometimes translations can be tricky so also check for the Sanskrit verses. Though having protector is not a bad thing its not necessary for a supreme boss to attend every single battle. That why a lion has his pride (lionesses) as its protector. But it doesn't means that lion is not powerful well offcourse he is their boss so he is more powerful but again he doesn't need to hunt or fight every single time as he has his loyal subordinates of him because he is the boss, as simple as that. 😊.
    – Savdy
    Jan 7 at 3:30
  • Even Lord Rama and Mata Sita has Lord Lakshmana as their protector in the forest while in exile, but does this makes any difference.? I don't think so. So, all our ancient texts works in a mystic ways. Like Lord Shiva is called Yogic, Lord Vishnu as Seshshayi (sleeping on adi sesa) and Lord Brahma as the Lotus seated one. But these are all their designation based on what they do most of the time. It doesn't means that if suppose they are doing another work but still they can be called by that particular names because its one of their traits.
    – Savdy
    Jan 7 at 4:11
  • So, sometimes our texts are kind of encryptic in nature. Without going by its literal meaning we have to understand the true meaning itself. Like some text can say 1 + 3 = 4 while other can say 1 + 3 = FIVE. So, we have to understand that both are correct, just the second one is kind of hidden like 1 + 3 = FIVE = F.I.V.E = F + I + V + E = 4. Its something like that. So, without going by every literal meaning we have to understand the thinking behind them. Thats what i trying to say. Anyways, cya bye. 👍🌞..
    – Savdy
    Jan 7 at 4:21

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