In China, India and Africa, the elephant is a symbol for power, dignity, intelligence and peace.
The elephant is generally considered a symbol of good luck and the animal is a symbol of good fortune. Elephants in Asia are symbolizing a kind of divinity and benevolence and that is why in the recent Asia there are still religious ceremonies where offering is made to the elephants, they wash them and anoint them with special oils and pigments so that the community be blessed with good will. They also symbolize wisdom, loyalty, strength, fidelity and longevity.
As a symbol of wisdom, the elephant is said to attain old age and with all its wisdom. The animal is highly revered for its strength and power. With different species, the white elephant having been chosen by Buddha was because he wanted to use it for his many incarnations. The white elephant is a rare animal and their appearance today will still be considered a phenomenon of the gods. It is the most positive animal symbol known with no negative consequence. There are several lessons we can learn from the elephant and these too are used as its symbol: strength, wisdom, solitude, strong sense of loyalty to the family and intelligence. Other communities still consider the Elephant to be a strong symbol of luck. And thus the saying goes keep a lucky elephant at the door to your house so that you can get protection from bad luck.
Animal Symbolism: Elephant Meaning
Elephant Meaning and Symbolism
Symbolic elephant meaning deals primarily with strength, honor, stability and patience, among other attributes.
To the Hindu way of thought, the elephant is found in the form ofGanesha who is the god of luck, fortune, protection and is a blessing upon all new projects.Ganesha in all his magnificently vibrant elephant glory, is intent on bulldozing obstacles on your behalf (funnily, male elephants are termed “bulls”).
In many western cultures, the elephant meaning pertains to themes of…
Symbolic Elephant MeaningReliabilityDignityPowerRoyaltyPride
In Christian symbolism the elephant is an icon of temperance, patience, and chastity.
As a Chinese symbol, the elephant is considered a symbol of:
Asian Elephant Meaningshappinesslongevitygood luck
Some Asian cultures also believe the elephant is a cosmic creature, and carries the world upon it?s back (much like the tortoise does in some tribal Native Americanmyths).
As a dream animal, elephants come into our dreams it is a message that we are able to deal with any obstacle we are faced with at this time. Dream elephants represent power, sovereignty, stability, and stead-fastness. If you dream that you are riding an elephant this suggests you have a tendancy to be the leader of the family, and others are heavily depending on you. If you dream of elephants in a circus this suggests you have a cavalier attitude about a situation in your life and you may want to invest more attention to it.
We gather more symbolic meaning of elephant by observing it in nature. Specifically, the elephant is considered a symbol of responsibility because it takes great care and responsibility of its offspring as well as their elders.
The elephant also has immense determination and loyalty – always standing up for others and always defending members of the group in its natural habitat.
Elephants also express advanced sensitivity and social connection, particularly during time of death – they travel to a specific place upon their death – fulfilling personal responsibility – even at the end of their days.
Learn more about elephant meaning on my Chakra Animal page here.
Cultural depictions of elephants
Elephants have been the subject of various cultural depictions in mythology, symbolism and popular culture. They are both revered in religion and respected for their prowess in war. They also have negative connotations such as being a symbol for an unnecessary burden. Ever since the stone age, when elephants were represented by ancient petroglyphs and cave art, they have been depicted in various forms of art, including pictures, sculptures, music, film, and even architecture.
Elephant scalp worn by Demetrius I of Bactria (205–171 BC), founder of the Indo-Greek Kingdom, as a symbol of his conquest of India. -British Museum, Dept. of Coins & Medals
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Religion, mythology and philosophyEdit
Ganesha, Basohli miniature, ca. 1730, National Museum, New Delhi[a]
Elephant seal from Indus Valley Civilization 2500–1500 BC
The Asian elephant appears in various religious traditions and mythologies. They are treated positively and are sometimes revered as deities, often symbolising strength and wisdom. Similarly, the African elephant is seen as the wise chief who impartially settles disputes among the forest creatures in African fables, and the Ashanti tradition holds that they are human chiefs from the past.
The Earth is supported and guarded by mythical World Elephantsat the compass points of the cardinal directions, according to theHindu cosmology of ancient India. The classical Sanskrit literature also attributes earthquakes to the shaking of their bodies when they tire. Wisdom is represented by the elephant in the form of the deity Ganesh, one of the most popular gods in theHindu religion’s pantheon. Sometimes known as Ganesha, this deity is very distinctive in having a human form with the head of an elephant. This was put on after the human head was either was cut off or burned, depending on the version of the story from various Hindu sources. Lord Ganesha’s birthday (rebirth) is celebrated as the Hindu festival known as Ganesha Chaturthi. InJapanese Buddhism, their adaptation of Ganesha is known asKangiten (“Deva of Bliss”), often represented as an elephant-headed male and female pair shown in a standing embrace to represent unity of opposites.
In Hindu iconography, many devas are associated with a mount or vehicle known as a vāhana. In addition to providing a means of transport, they symbolically represent a divine attribute. The elephant vāhana represents wisdom, divine knowledge and royal power; it is associated withLakshmi, Brihaspati, Shachi and Indra. Indra was said to ride on a flying white elephant namedAiravata, who was made the King of all elephants by Lord Indra. A white elephant is rare and given special significance. It is often considered sacred and symbolises royalty in Thailand and Burma, where it is also considered a symbol of good luck. In Buddhist iconography, the elephant is associated with Queen Māyā of Sakya, the mother of Gautama Buddha. She had a vivid dream foretelling her pregnancy in which a white elephant featured prominently. To the royal sages, the white elephant signifies royal majesty and authority; they interpreted the dream as meaning that her child was destined for greatness as a universal monarch or a buddha.
Elephants remain an integral part of religion in South Asia and some are even featured in various religious practices. Temple elephants are specially trained captive elephants that are lavishlycaparisoned and used in various temple activities. Among the most famous of the temple elephants is Guruvayur Keshavan of Kerala, India. They are also used in festivals in Sri Lanka such as the Esala Perahera.
In the version of the Chinese zodiac used in Northern Thailand, the last year in the 12-year cycle – called “Year of the Pig” in China – is known instead as “Year of the Elephant”, reflecting the importance of elephants in Thai culture.
Eleazar Maccabeusillustration, Speculum Humanae Salvationis
In Islamic tradition, the year 570 is when the Prophet Muhammad was born and is known as the Year of the Elephant. In that year, Abraha, ruler of Yemen tried to conquer Mecca and demolish the Kaaba, reportedly in retaliation for the previous Meccan defilement of a cathedral Abraha had constructed in Sana’a. However, his plan was foiled when his white elephant named Mahmud refused to cross the boundary of Mecca. The elephant, who led Abraha’s forty thousand men, could not be persuaded with reason or even with violence, which was regarded as a crucial omen by Abraha’s soldiers. This is generally related in the five verses of the chapter titled ‘The Elephant'[b] in the Quran.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, medieval artists depicted the mutual killing of both Eleazar theMaccabee and a war elephant carrying an important Seleucid general as described in theapocryphal book of 1 Maccabees. The early illustrators knew little of the elephant and their portrayals are highly inaccurate.
The unfamiliarity with the exotic beast has also made elephants a subject of widely different interpretations thus giving rise to mythological creatures. The story of the blind men and an elephant was written to show how reality may be viewed from differing perspectives. The source of this parable is unknown, but it appears to have originated in India. It has been attributed toBuddhists, Hindus, Jainists, and Sufis, and was also used by Discordians. The scattered skulls of prehistoric pygmy elephants on the islands of Crete and Sicily may have formed the basis of belief in existence of cyclopes,[c] the one-eyed giants featured in Homer’s Odyssey (c. 800~600 BC). As early as the 1370s, scholars had noted that the skulls feature a large nasal cavity at the front that could be mistaken for a singular eye socket; and the skulls, twice the size of a human’s, looked as if they could belong to giant humanoids. It is also suggested that theBehemoth described in the Book of Job may be the elephant due to its grazing habits and preference to rivers.