In some westernized places, elephants today are seen as cute animated creatures or exhibits in the zoo or at the circus. However, they are more than just the animals you use as decorations and ornaments. During the ancient times and until today, the elephant is a revered animal that is even being worshiped in some cultures. Here are some elephant images respected in different parts of the world.
The name ‘Airavata’ is of Hindu descent although in some cultures it is called ‘Erawan’ which will be discussed later. Airavata is a mythical white elephant that is known to have five trunks and 10 husks. Airavata goes by the names “elephant of the clouds”, “brother of the sun”, and “Naga-malla”.
Airavata is called the “elephant of the clouds” because a myth claims that elephants produce clouds. However, not all elephants were worshiped the way Airavata was. This is because according to the Matangalila, among the 16 elephants that hatched from the eggs when Brahma sang the sacred hymns, Airavata was named the king of all elephants.
Another reason why Airavata is famous is because he carries the Hindu god, Indra. Together with Indra, Airavata sucked the water from the underworld and threw it to the clouds for Indra to convert to rain.
Erawan, like Airavata, is a spotless white elephant. It is considered to be a sacred animal in Thailand because according to a Buddhist legend, the Mother of the Buddha, Queen Maya, dreamt of a white elephant entering inside her. The elephant was always held as an important symbol in Thailand. From 1820-1917, the flag of Thailand had a white elephant on it. Although today it isn’t seen on the flag, numerous images of the elephant can be seen all over the country.
White elephants are said to be properties of the king by virtue of the law. During the olden times, white elephants were used in wars, but as time passed and the elephants were seen to be burdensome to maintain, they were converted to signs of status. The more white elephants a king had, the more power and riches he has.
The term “white elephant” originated in Thailand simply because white elephants were costly to maintain, but still the King kept them.
In Thailand, there is a mall called Erawan which is considered as one of the luxury malls in the city. It is home to a lot of five-star boutiques and designer jewelry stores. To add to that, a lot of stores in Thailand sell jewelry with elephant charms.
Ganesh is one of the most famous gods in the Hindu religion simply because he is the God of Good Fortune. Both households and establishments put up a symbol or a statue of Ganesh (also called Ganesha) to attract success and fortune. His image is that of a human with an elephant head and four arms. The number of arms depend on the statue and they can even go up to 10. While there are stories that say Ganesh being born with an elephant head, more prominent accounts claim that Ganesh was born with a human head but was beheaded by Shiva when Ganesh went between him and Parvati.
Ganesh is also the god of new beginnings. He is worshiped in countries like India, Nepal, and Thailand during opening ceremonies to bless the future of their endeavors.
There are many depictions of Ganesh. In India, his statue can range from a standing position to a dancing position. There are also charm bracelets sold with Ganesh’s image in the hopes of bringing good luck to the wearer.
Often associated with Ganesh because they have similar features, Vinayaki is a Hindu goddess with an elephant head. Her origin and stories are not clear as of today, but she is known to be an independent goddess in Buddhist traditions.
The first image of Vinayaki is found in Rajasthan. This image shows a slender woman with an elephant head whose trunk is directed to the right. There was one statue of Vinayaki that had a male supporting her body. Stories claim that this was Ganesh and this further supported the link between the two elephant-headed gods.