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Table 1 List of some common animals, birds & reptiles and their associated beliefs

From: Conservation and management of sacred groves, myths and beliefs of tribal communities: a case study from north-India

S. No. Scientific name Local name Beliefs/uses
1 Panthera tigris Tiger Used in rituals and medicine.
2 Elephas maximus indicus Elephant In Hindu mythology, during Sagar Manthan (Milk sea churning), the Gods (Angels) and the demons (Asura) churned the ocean for the elixir of life called “Amrit” (Nectar) which make them immortal. From the churning the ‘navratnas’ (nine jewels) surfaced. Some of these jewels were the Aeravatha (white elephant), Karpavruksha (tree), Kamadhenu (Holy cow). Therefore considered to be sacred among Hindus.
3 Bos Taurus Cow In Hindu mythology the cow is considered holy The cow is equated to one’s own mother (hence the expression ‘Gaumata). In Hindu mythology, Kamadhenu, the wish-fulfilling celestial cow. It is believed that cow could grant any wish for those who worship cow.
4 Bos taurus Bull Bull occupies a special place in Hindu mythology. The reverence of the animal has been one of the central themes of Hinduism, since ancient times. Bull is vehicle/vahana of lord Shiva.
5 Antilope cervicapra Black buck It is also known as Krishna Mruga in Kannada.
6 Macaca mulatta Monkey Monkey is known to be associated in the army of Hindu God Hanuman hence considered sacred.
7 Felis catus Cat Cats are associated with fertility and the goddess of birth, Shakti.
8 Pavo cristatus Peacock Hindu mythology peacocks are associated with the goddess Saraswati (goddess of education & knowledge). The feathers thus represent qualities like: kindness, patience and good fortune.
9 Naja naja Snake The snake is commonly called (‘Nag’ in Hindi language) is worshipped by people across the country. Some of the snakes are considered in mythology as ‘protectors’ and other categories as harmful/destroyers’. Lord Shiva wore snake as an ornament. Lord Vishnu sleeps on snake with thousand heads Adiseshu (King cobra) as his bed on milk sea.
10 Bos grunniens Yak The bushy tail is in great demand as a fly–wish (fan) in many Buddhist monasteries and temples.
11 Gyps indicus Indian Vulture According to the epic Ramayana, when Ravana was abducting Sita to his kingdom of Lanka, a fierce battle took place between him and the vulture King Jatayau. The bird was fatally wounded it its attempt to rescue Sita from Ravana.
12 Columba turica Dove/Pigeon Goddess Rati, the Goddess of passion and lust and the consort of Kama, the God of love, is believed to be usually depicted with a pigeon as her vahana.
13 Corvus splendens House Crow The house crow occupies a special place in Hindu religious rituals. It is usually identified with departed souls of ancestors. In Hindu the ritual of ‘pinda pradhana’ (offering of cooked rice balls) to the crow.
14 Sus scrofa Linnaeus Wild Boar The third avtara of Lord Vishnu was Varaha, a boar. Varaha is generally depicted having a boars head on human body. Varahi is the Hindu Goddess Durga in the form of a wild boar.
15 Ratufa indica Squirrel Squirrels are considered sacred in India and are not to be harmed. Squirrels are association with Lord Rama. During the construction of the Adi Sethu (bridge) at Rameshwaram by Lord Rama and the vanara sena, a little squirrel also contributed in its own little way. Lord Ramas pleased by the creatures dedication, caressed the squirrels back and ever since, the Indian squirrel carried white stripes on its back, which are believed to be the mark of Lord Ramas fingers.