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The Great White Elephant

Airavata – a majestic elephant and the mount of the great deity, Indra. Airavata is also known as the king-god of elephants. His skin is pure white and he has four tusks and seven trunks. Airavata is also referred to as ‘Abhra-Matanga’, meaning “elephant of the clouds”.Some other names for Airavata are ‘Naga-malla’, meaning “the fighting elephant”, and ‘Arkasodara’, meaning “brother of the sun”.

There are many legends and myths when it comes to how Airavata came to be. The Ramayana states that Airavata is the son of Iravati, hence the name. According to the Kurma Purana, Airavata was one of the fourteen treasures that emerged during the Samudra Manthan, the churning of the ocean of milk. In the Mahabharata, he was listed as a massive serpent. The Matangalila says that Airavata was born when Brahma chanted sacred hymns over the two halves of Garuda’s eggshell. From the right half emerged eight elephants, the first of which was Airavata. He had a wife, who goes by the name of Abharamu. Airavata is the king of all elephants, and according to the Vishnu Purana, he was given this position by a sovereign called Prithu.

Source from internet

When the eight white elephants emerged from the right half of Garuda’s eggshell, one by one, they all took off to the eight cardinal and ordinal directions. They soon became renowned as the Dig-gajas, or the elephant guardians. Airavata is said to guard the entrance to Svarga, Indra’s palace.

Elephants are commonly associated with rain. Why? When the gods churned the ocean of milk to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, the elephant guardians came together and sprayed her with water. This became known as the Abhisheka ritual – the pouring of water. This, to most people, indicates rain. Rain gives birth to vegetation, with vegetation comes wealth, and wealth promotes power. This is one of the reasons that elephants are also associated with fertility, prosperity and power.

In the end, Airavata is one of the most legendary characters of Hindu mythology. He was honourable and his conscience was as clear and white as his skin. He was a mighty king, a loyal husband, but most of all, he was a glorious and gallant guardian.

About the Author

Avani

Avani is a Grade 6 student and her passion is reading books.She is also very interested in writing small stories, and art in general.

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