Elephants are of symbolic significance to many different groups in India, and hence these beloved, beautiful, and auspicious animals can be found depicted on numerous temples and adorning many a palace wall. To kings they signified royalty, wealth, and strength. The Hindus worship the Elephant-headed god, Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles, and the embodiment of wisdom, innocence, and obedience. The goddess of prosperity – Gaja Lakshmi (consort of Vishnu) – is always illustrated being bathed by two elephants. Maya, the mother of Buddha, dreamt of a white elephant touching her side before she fell pregnant with him after twenty years of desiring a child.
Elephants appear to be (almost) universally loved. And they are not only popular in Indian art for their symbolic power, but also because of their unusual aesthetic qualities, being so large, and yet at the same time so delightfully gentle, graceful, and majestic.
Gaja Lakshmi, Ellora
Kailasanatha Temple, Ellora