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Indian Elephant

Scientific Name Elephas maximus indicus
Common NameIndian elephant, Haathi (Hindi), Yaanai (Tamil), Gajaha (Sanskrit)
DistributionWestern ghats and the trans-Himalayan zones of India
Conservation StatusEndangered (EN)
An elephant carrying the deity during the Pooram festival in Kerala

In religion and mythology

Elephants are sacred animals to the Hindus. Many Hindu temples (especially in South India) own elephants that carry the deities during festivals processions and ceremonial circumambulations in the temples. The famous Guruvayoor temple in Kerala owns more than 60 domesticated elephants, most of them donated by devotees.

Lord Ganesha – the elephant God

Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God of wisdom, is probably the most worshipped Hindu deity in the country today. He is usually worshipped at the beginning of every religious ritual or puja by devout Hindus.

The elephant is associated with Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu deity of wealth and prosperity. One of Her eight manifestations (A shtalakshmi ) is known as Gajalakshmi . One of the navarathnas was a white elephant named Airavatha , which later became the mount of Lord Indra.

Elephants are also sacred to the Buddhists. One of the beliefs of Buddhism is reincarnation. It is believed that Lord Buddha reincarnated as Chaddanta, the legendary white elephant with six tusks. The elephant represents the strength of the mind in Buddhism.

Lord Indra on the Airavatha

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