Elephants in Hinduism

Intelligent, sensitive, loyal, strong, determined, powerful. These are just a few of the words that are used to describe the humble, majestic animal that is the elephant. Elephants are considered to be the gentle giants of the world when observed in the wild. They are well known for staying loyal and protective over their tribe, their children and their elders. Elephants will remain calm and patient unless provoked or until they feel threatened.  

The elephant is a significant and sacred animal within the Hindu religion, they are the living incarnation of one of the most important God’s in the religion; Lord Ganesh. Lord Ganesh is an elephant headed deity who rides around on a tiny mouse. Hindu tradition states that Ganesh is a god of wisdom, success and good luck. 

He is also giver of different types of favours and is famous for being the remover of all obstacles. Ganesh is easily identified with his elephant head and his human body. He loves sweets and his favourite sweets are round laddoos. He rides around on a mouse who is also his best friend who he had saved from an evil demon in a battle. After which the mouse promised to carry Ganesh wherever he went from that day. 

Each part of Lord Ganesh’s being is symbolic, from his one broken tusk to his small eyes and large stomach.

Ganesh Symbolism

  • His elephant head represents his power and strength. 
  • His one broken tusk represents his ability to retain the good in life and throw away anything that is not needed. 

Ganesh is known for being the remover of all obstacles. 

“All obstacles whatever they may be, will be rooted out by worshipping Ganesh” as said in an ancient Hindu text. 

It is well known that within Hinduism, by using elephant symbolism in and around your house will invite good luck and fortune into one’s home, whilst keeping any negativity out. I remember throughout my life, whenever our family has taken on a new venture like buying a new car or new house; the first thing that is done is to place a Ganesh idol in the room or car. Both my mom and dad’s cars have a mini Ganesh idol on their dashboard to watch over them and protect them. When I moved into my room the first thing that I was given was a little rose gold Ganesh figure to put on my windowsill. It still sits there to this day. 

The Gayatri Mantra in Sanskrit:

“Om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat”

It is chanted as a way to bring protection, luck and power to all those involved and removed any potential obstacles that may lie ahead. It is also believed that by reciting the mantra, it bestows wisdom and enlightenment. This is usually chanted in a mandir or when doing your prayers, this is probably the first prayer you are taught as a child. 

“The Gayatri mantra first appeared in the Rig Veda, an early Vedic text written between 1800 and 1500 BCE. It is mentioned in the Upanishads as an important ritual and in the Bhagavad Gita as the poem of the Divine.”

Elephants are incredibly intelligent animals. Only through my research prior to writing this blog have I been able to learn the extent of what elephants are actually capable of. Elephants are able to show empathy, a recent study ‘observed Asian elephants comforting one another when distressed. The elephants in the study used both physical contact and vocal sounds as forms of comfort, stroking one another with their trunks and emitting small chirps.’ To me this is amazing, this huge animal is capable of empathy and noticing when one of their own is in distress. 

There are several Hindu legends that focus on the power and strength of an elephant. One legend depicts them as the guardians of the world: According to Hindu faith, there are 8 elephants placed around the edges of the world who are sometimes joined by 8 Gods that the elephants hold on their backs. Each of the groups guards an area of space and helps to protect it. It is said then when one elephant moved it causes an earthquake.  

Elephants are also important within yoga, there is a gesture names the Ganesh Mudra. Mudra’s are gestures made with the hands in order to focus the mind and direct energy towards a certain place. The Ganesh Mudra represents strength and power, it is meant to be very good for strengthening the physical heart.



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