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Airavata, the mythological white elephant who carries the Hindu god Indra

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Indra’s multi-trunked elephant from Hindu mythology, at Juna Mahal, Dungarpur. Photo credit: Meena Kadri. CC BY-NC-ND.

Wikpedia tells us:

According to the Ramayana, the elephant’s mother was Iravati. According to the Matangalila, Airavata was born when Brahma sang sacred hymns over the halves of the egg shell from which Garuda hatched, followed by seven more male and eight female elephants. Prithu made Airavata king of all elephants. One of his names means “the one who knits or binds the clouds” since myth has it that these elephants are capable of producing clouds. The connection of elephants with water and rain is emphasized in the mythology of Indra, who rides the elephant Airavata when he defeats Vritra. This mighty elephant reaches down his trunk into the watery underworld, sucks up its water, and then sprays it into the clouds, which Indra then causes to rain forth cool water, thereby linking the waters of the sky with those of the underworld.

As per another legend, Airavatha is believed to have come out of churning the Ocean of milk and it is believed that the elephant guards one of the points of compass. Airavata also stands at the entrance to Svarga, Indra’s palace. In addition, the eight guardian deities who preside over the points of the compass each sit on an elephant. Each of these deities has an elephant that takes part in the defense and protection of its respective quarter.

This book documents some of the quoted details on this mythical elephant.

  • [PDF] W. J. Wilkins, Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Purānic, P. T. S. Library, Ed., Thacker, Spink & co., 1882.
    [Bibtex]
    @Book{hindumythologyve00wilk,
      Title                    = {Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Purānic},
      Author                   = {Wilkins, William Joseph},
      Editor                   = {Princeton Theological Seminary Library},
      Publisher                = {Thacker, Spink \& co.},
      Year                     = {1882},
      Note                     = {Notes the margins on this book were incredibly tight, therefore there is a lack of margins present on many of the crops. There are also a few instances in which the crop box carries into the binding %28which pertain to a few illustrations%29 this was done consciously in order to preserve the entirety of the content.},
    
      File                     = {hindumythologyve00wilk.pdf:hindumythologyve00wilk.pdf:PDF},
      Keywords                 = {Mythology, Hindu, Legends, Hindu},
      Owner                    = {trismegisto},
      Timestamp                = {2016.01.18},
      Url                      = {https://archive.org/details/hindumythologyve00wilk}
    }

Here’s more Airavata elephants:

flickr.com

Article Categories:
1 CE to Present · Illustration · India

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