This legendary piece shows a king and his consort who reflect god like attributes on their journey from a spiritual war of epic proportions. We may infer from the signals the artist has given us, that this war is an ethereal war against the darkest recesses of the human mind and spirit. A battle to attain supernatural wisdom and harbor enlightenment for the mind and soul of mankind.
The royal warriors sit astride a majestic sacred elephant which symbolizes royalty, wealth and great wisdom. Both the heroes and their guardians who guide the elephant carry symbols indicative of benevolence and the gods who engage in angry battle against demons. The smaller seated figure is sitting in the Virasana heroic position, with one leg bent up onto the seat while the other hangs straight back against the thigh. This position represents a god who has revealed himself as a hero in the battle against the demons. The Axe (Parashu) held by one of the guardians heralding the elephant is the weapon that conquers darkness and ignorance, and thus liberates man from all ties of worldly matters. It is a definitive characteristic of the war god Skanda. The Spear our primary hero holds raised in his right hand is also the weapon of the war god Skanda, traditionally symbolizing the invincible weapon of the creator of the universe. The bolt of Lightning, which the primary hero holds in his left hand, is the symbol of invulnerability and invincibility. As a weapon, it drives out and eliminates demons.
Skanda is known as the great warrior-general of the Army of Light, leading spiritual aspirants to self-realization and victory over the dark forces, and he is traditionally depicted carrying a spear such as that held aloft by the central figure. Skanda represents man's highest evolutionary attainments and is also referred to as the "way that leads to wisdom". His birth and life are written in an epic poem dating from the 5th century A.D.
Skanda is known to have arrived in Ceylon, when the region belonged to Lemuria, a vast continent that stretched from Madagascar to near Australia and included India and Ceylon. This territory was ruled by a titan who became the terror of the Celestials, and took form to live upon the Earth. In answer to their prayers, the god Skanda was incarnated as son of the supreme god Shiva. He led a mighty host to Ceylon. It is said that the sky and earth were confounded, the earth shaken at its foundation; such was the mighty uproar of this battle among the Gods. Skanda destroyed the titan with his lance, a symbol which typifies Skanda's energy of wisdom and which we see reflected in the hands of both the primary hero and that of the second footman.
Originally the spear was the weapon of Indra, usually depicted as a sort of double edged dagger (which may also be reflected by the weapon held by our secondary hero). As a sword (“Khadga”) this becomes the symbol of wisdom, the battle against ignorance and the force of destruction and it complements the symbolism of the elephant. It is an object of reverence which brings luck.
Indra was the king of all the gods and the god of natural elements. Traditionally depicted as riding upon the royal elephant, Indra fought against the demon of drought, and expelled him with his weapons: thunder and lightning. By bringing the rain, Indra thus saved the earth and all its inhabitants. Indra became the prototype for all lords, thus a king such as the one depicted here, could be called “Indra” or “lord of men”. As an important god in many Hindu mythological tales, he leads the gods who form and maintain Heaven and the elements and constantly wages war against the demons of the netherworlds, or those that oppose morality and dharma. Riding a large, white elephant, he fights in the timeless battle between good and evil. He holds the thunderbolt (and a bow), which signifies his status as the God of War. The legendary Indra lives in a set of heavenly worlds located on and above the clouds around Mt. Meru. These clouds are possibly alluded to by the decoration seen beneath the elephant. Deceased warriors go to his hall after death, as great kings and warriors enrich his court. - (LO.1267)
Ancient Near East