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  • Writer's pictureMandira Antar

Tattoo symbols-The elephant

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

Animal tattoos are really common and popular among tattoo lovers, both artists and wearers. One of the few most artistically and symbolically interesting is the Elephant.

Ancient, intelligent, patient and strong, the elephant is a prehistoric creature (it comes from the mammoth) with magnificent characteristics and of immense symbolic and religious significance.

The word “elephant” comes from the Greek word “elephas” which means “ivory
The world elephant day is in the 12th of August
Baby Elephant tattoo design by Mandira Antar
Baby Elephant tattoo design by Mandira Antar

Elephant Myths and cultures

People always regarded the elephant as wise, kind, strong, pure and loving.

It is true that humans and elephants have some extraordinary similarities that are rarely present in other wild mammals. The capability of experiencing emotions as grief, the splendid memory, the loyalty, the intelligence, the communication in, and protection of their herd are some “human” characteristics of this enormous animal.

Both in Asia and Africa – where elephants inhabit - there are countless myths narrating about elephants supporting earth, elephants of the clouds (Airaavatha) carrying Gods , Elephant headed gods and goddesses, white elephants, elephants that used to be humans or humans that used to be elephants, elephants that judge and punish adultery, re-incarnated old wise chiefs and many more…

Indra  Five Auspicious Events in the Life of Jina
“Indra (alias Sakra) and Shachi riding the five-headed Divine Elephant Airaavatha, Folio from a Jain text, Panch Kalyanaka (Five Auspicious Events in the Life of Jina Rishabhanatha), circa 1670-1680, Painting in LACMA museum, originally from Amber, Rajasthan”

In Sicily they consider the elephant the animal of sorcery and magic.

Things to Learn from Ganesha
Ganesha Illustration

In India the God Ganesha ( the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati), one of the most beloved ones in Hinduism, has an elephant head. “Ga” symbolizes Buddhi (intellect) and “Na” symbolizes Vijnana (wisdom). Ganesha is thus considered the master of intellect and wisdom. Ganesha removes obstacles and accepts life as it is.

Buddhists associate the white elephant with the Buddha and believe it is a magical and sacred creature. It is said that his mother dreamed of a white elephant presenting her a lotus flower on the eve of his birth.

Queen Mahāmāyā Elephant
“Queen Mahāmāyā dreams a white elephant enters her side during the conception."

It is the national animal of Thailand.

In China they consider the elephant good luck, happiness and longevity symbol. They also associate the elephant to successful marriage, fertility and faithfulness.

In Feng Shui elephants having trunks facing upwards represents prosperity, good luck, and success. They are also protectors of the chi energy. The placement of elephant depends on the effects desired.


Elephant and Chakras

A Form with colored chakra symbols illustrated by Mandira
Chakra System Illustration by Mandira

“Chakra” is a Sanskrit word literally meaning "wheel."

The chakra energy system has seven basic energy centres, or energy wheels on the human body. Each of them is represented as a lotus flower with different number of pedals and is also associated with the energy of an animal, a colour, a shape, as well as a natural element.

Elephant, root chakra red symbol
Root chakra symbolism

The first chakra , aka Muladhara (root-support), derives from the area of our roots (the genital), and incorporates the element of earth, the colour red and the elephant.

In this dimension the elephant carries the energies of rooting, stability, determination, setting goals, trusting, feeling wanted.

We meet the elephant again in the chakra energy system, this time in the 5th chakra (Vishuddha – Throat chakra) which is the centre of expression and creativity as well as living your life’s purpose.

It’s colour is blue, the element is ether and the animal is the white elephant (read previous paragraph on what it denotes).

Throat chakra Elephant
Throat chakra symbolism

In this dimension the white elephant carries the energies of creativity, connection to the divine, transformation, finding one’s path.



Elephant as spirit / totem animal

The elephant as spirit or totem animal carries all the beautiful qualities of the animal itself. If you feel connected to this animal (through dreams or meditation) then you should know that it has come to teach you about your strength and true commitment, it reminds you to stay connected and protect whatever is valuable to you, especially the people you love and your family. The elephant calls you to re-evaluate your potential. Maybe you think less of yourself and you have to reconsider.

The elephant will guide you through whatever you want to accomplish if you channel your energy to trust and stay grounded along the way.

Mandira Tattoo Elephant meaning, key words by Mandira Tattoo
Elephant Symbolism Illustration

Elephant tattoo design

The elephant has this wonderful shape that no matter if you choose head or full body representation, it makes it easy to position on and align with the body.

You can pick among many alternative designs, black and linear, free hand and colourful, mandala or watercolour, old school or neo-traditional. The elephant can be approached from every artistic view and a tasteful design can occur with almost every technique.

So if you want an elephant on your body, it is certain that the perfect elephant for you is available!

Tattoos Source: Pinterest

Ganesha elephant tattoo:

Choosing the head vs the full body design is important and makes a difference.

The elephant head tattoo is often associated to the attributes of Lord Ganesha, the Hindu God and it carries the effects of clear thinking, wisdom, mental strength.


Elephant and baby or Elephant herd tattoo:

The elephant represents for many, the family, protection and loyalty. It symbolizes our foundation and whatever keeps us grounded. So, usually, when a baby elephant and mother are designed for a tattoo, the purpose is to express motherhood, strength, protection and affection, tenderness and togetherness.

Mandala / Polynesian elephant tattoo:

Many mandala have been designed on an elephant basis. One basic reason is because the mandala elephant has a tribal impression that suits to it’s symbolic meaning. Another reason is because mandala designs enhance the strength of a spirit animal especially when they include the appropriate symbols.

Tattoo design placed on lower leg. Female tattoo
Colored Mandala elephant tattoo design

Body placement:

Needless to say, that because of the association between the elephant and the first or fifth chakra, the elbows, back of neck, hands, as well as leg positioning are of great energetical importance.

Strength and Balance, Spirituality and determination will come with this tattoo choice. You can enhance this effects with additional colors that apply to your needs or taste as well as symbols that combine the needed energy in them.

When placed on legs area it is good to add some red color or squares that will help your Root chakra empowerment and healing.

White elements in an elephant tattoo placed on your Throat chakra area will help you visualize your true purpose in life, connect to your spirituality and learn to offer the best of you in this world.

My personal feeling when I visualise this magnificent creature is that the elephant is the energy that teaches us to be strong yet kind, resilient yet compassionate, connected to mother earth, respectful to the power that has been given to us and humble in the true sense of it.



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