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Symbolism in Airavata – the White Elephant of Indra

Airavata is a white elephant that appeared after the Samudra Manthan, or the churning of the ocean, episode mentioned in the Puranas and Mahabharata. It was gifted to Indra, the King of Devas. Symbolically, Airavata represents the white clouds that appear after the rains – Indra riding on the white clouds throws thunder bolts and force the dark clouds to shed rain and clear the sky.

Airavata is a unique elephant – apart from the white color – the elephant has six trunks and six pairs of tusks. In some Hindu cultures, especially of those in Southeast Asia, Airavata is a three-headed animal.

Airavata is also referred as ‘the brother of Surya’, the Sun God. Symbolically, this suggests that Airavata clears the dark cloud that blocks the path of Sun.