Mughal Lapis Lazuli Sculpture of an Elephant - PF.6147, Origin: India, Circa: 16 th Century AD to 19 th Century AD, Dimensions: 14.25" (36.2cm) high x 16" (40.6cm) wide, Collection: Asian Art, Style: Mughal, Medium: Lapis Lazuli. The elephant is one of the most sacred animals in the Subcontinent. This majestic creature is featured in the earliest extant cave paintings discovered in South Asia, indicating their importance. Elephants feature prominently in Indian mythology and religion. The Buddha’s mother was said to have dreamt of a white elephant before she gave birth to her son. The legendary story of an elephant named Ashvatthama is detailed in the epic poem Mahabharata. The elephant is also regarded as the vahana, or “carriage of the gods.” Likewise, kings on earth often imitated their divine counterparts and rode on the backs of elephants. This practice is documented as early as the fourth century B.C. when Alexander the Great battled with the Indian King Porus. Elephants also served an active, prominent role in war, both for their imposing presence as well as their strength, durability, and mobility. Throughout the history of the Subcontinent, elephants have been revered as represented in painting, sculpture, and textiles. Today, Ganesh, the elephant-headed god of prosperity and well-being, remains one of the most popular deities in the Hindu pantheon.