The Elephant tales from time immemorial, the religious significance of elephants in India has been as majestic as their physical appearance.Popularly, elephants are not just known as ‘Haathi’ the literal translation in Hindi, but they are also known as ‘Gaj Raj’. In south India, we have temples which have beautiful and huge sculptures of elephants. Also, most of the temples in Kerala own elephants and during various festivals the elephants carry the deity during the procession.
In the Vedas, one encounters a white elephant named Airavata, as the vahana of the Lord of Heaven, Indra. Airavata is three-headed and has ten tusks. Airavata is also the symbol of rain and clouds. He was designated the king of all elephants. It is believed that Airavata stands guard at the doors of heaven.
The auspicious nature of elephants is particularly seen in the form of Lord Ganesha, who has the facial features of an elephant. The tale narrated in the Vedas is that once Goddess Parvati made a statue from the dirt of her skin and structured it as a boy. She then put life in the soulless statue and asked him to guard the door of her palace. After sometime, Lord Shiva came to see Goddess Parvati, while she was in a bath. The boy held his fort and did not allow Lord Shiva to enter the palace. Fury raged in the eyes of Mahadev and in a fit of anger, Lord Shiva beheaded the boy using his trishul. On seeing this, Goddess Parvati was outraged and started destroying the universe.The only way to make her calm was to bring the boy back to life. That is when Lord Vishnu placed a baby elephant’s head on the boy’s body to bring him back to life. After this incident, the boy came to be known as Lord Ganesha.
Lord Ganesha is considered to be the harbinger of joy and happiness. Hence, he is worshipped before every auspicious occasion for good luck. Every part of the Ganesha’s head is considered to have special meaning, like the big ears are symbolic of bestowing the patience to listen carefully and the long narrow trunk is considered to possess the power to differentiate between good and evil in this world.
In Buddhism, the elephant is symbolic of royalty and greatness. It has been told over the centuries that the Buddha’s mother saw a white elephant in her dreams during her pregnancy. Thus a prophecy for Gautama Buddha’s greatness was made by astrologers and saints.
Due to their enormous figure, elephants are known to symbolize power. On a wider spectrum, elephants are also associated with wisdom and great intelligence. Their figure and mental prowess make them a pillar of stability in the fascinating world of Indian folklore and legends.
Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered.
Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park.
Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here’s a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger.