Elephant in mythology and Indian epics :

The Indian Elephant goes back to the mythologies. As the Gods ( ‘Deva’) and the demons ( ‘Asura’) churned the oceans during ‘sagar manthan’ ( sagar = sea ; manthan = churning ) for the elixir of life - ‘amrit’ ( nectar ) that would make them immortal , there surfaced the ‘navratnas’ ( nine jewels ). One of these jewels was the elephant. The elephant is, therefore, considered absolutely precious to be preserved and protected like the way jewels are. (e/1)

There are other mythological stories. For example, in one of her dreams, Buddha’s mother dreamt of a white elephant. And then the prophet of peace Gautam Buddha was born. Obviously, therefore, a white elephant in India’s cultural context can never connotate redundancy, as it would in the West. (e/2)


And then comes the greatest of all ‘vahanas’ (carriages for Gods) - the ‘Airavat’ ( elephant ). The Airavat was the chosen carriage for the God of all Gods ‘ Indra ’. There were other Gods as well riding on elephants as well, but Indra’s airavat was special. It was regal in size and had ten tusks, not just the usual two. (e/3)

In the epic Mahabharata, there is the legendary story about an elephant named ‘Ashvatthama’, who carried the same name as the son of the revered teacher for both the warring families of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. At the battle of all battles Kurukshetra, fought between these two families, an innocuous lie in the middle of the battlefield announcing that Ashvatthama was dead, was actually meant to upset the Kauravas by giving out the impression that the teacher’s son was dead where, in fact, it was the elephant that had got killed. However, this strategic piece of lie had had the exact desired effect of lowering the enemy’s guards. And a lie that has since come to be disapproved of.
~Elephant in mythology and Indian epics~

~Elephant depictions by man~

~The majestic elephant - through history and the present~

~Elephant in everyday life in India~

~Elephant symbology~

~The elephant and the designer~

~Elephant Home~