Worship of the white elephant spread to Southeast Asia from the eighth century and the Pallava (seventh to ninth centuries) and Chola (ninth to thirteenth centuries) empires of southern India. When they converted to Buddhism, the civilisations of modern Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand adapted the essentially Hindu character of court ceremony. Buddhist and Hindu kings in India would sacrifice almost anything to gain possession of a white elephant, which in their eyes conferred supreme prestige. In the Jataka, examples abound of the Buddha appearing in the shape of a white elephant in former lives.
The White Elephant
Tuesday 12 July 2011, by Sébastien Duffillot