Airavata is the huge, four-tusked white elephant who is the vehicle of the king of the gods, INDRA. When the elephants of the eight directions are listed, Airavata is the elephant of the western direction. Airavata appears in the MAHABHARATA as the mount of Indra, but is particularly referenced in the RAMAYANA in the battle with the raksasas. In this battle, he is attacked by the raksasas and loses his tusks, whereupon he turns and gouges RAV-ANA, the demon king. In the myth of the churning of the MILK OCEAN, Airavata emerges along with many other auspicious beings and things. For this reason, it is understood, he is named “the one from the waters.”
   Further reading: Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen, Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978); E. Washburn Hopkins, Epic Mythology (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986); T. G. Gopinatha Rao, Elements of Hindu Iconography, 4 vols. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1997); Margaret Stutley, An Illus-trated Dictionary of Hindu Iconography (Boston: Rout-ledge & Kegan Paul, 1985).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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