The divine Elephant Airavat was born during the time when Brahma Ji was singing sacred hymns from the Vedas as the son of Airavati. Airavat has five heads and ten tusks and was the mightiest of all elephants. Devraj Indr requested Brahma ji to grant Airavat to him and since then Airavat came to the vehicle of Devraj Indr.
Airavat played a significant role in all the victories of Devraj Indr. It also plays a significant role in showering the rains. When Indr strikes the thunderbolt in the clouds, it sucks the water with its trunk and showers it on Earth thus giving abundance of water to the mortal world.
It is well known that the colour of Airavat is spotless white, however there is an interesting story behind it. Previously, the colour of Airavat was as black as the other elephants and it was also called the Elephants of the clouds. Once, Devraj Indr was taking a stroll in it when Rishi Durvasa met him midway. Rishi Durvasa had a fragrant garland with him gifted by Brahma Ji and he gifted it to Devraj Indr. Indr thanked him and adorned the garland on Airavat’s neck. However the fragrance of the flowers of the garland attracted the bees and they started hovering over the garland. This disturbed Airavat and it removed the garland and put it down to get rid of the bees.
Rishi Durvasa took the act of Devraj Indr and Airavat as an act of arrogance. Out of anger, he cursed Devraj Indr would lose his power, all the devas lose their divinity and their strength would diminish day by day. All the devas lost their lustre and the demons started to take over them and rule them creating anarchy in the worlds.
Airavat felt remorseful that Rishi Durvasa cursed them because of its act. With a guilt feeling it left the abode of Indr and went and hid in the waters of the Milky Ocean not showing itself to anybody. Meanwhile, the Devas sought the help of Brahma Ji and Bhagwan Vishnu to relieve them from the curse. Bhagwan Vishnu advised them to churn the Milky Ocean and obtain Amrit which would give them Immortality and relieve them of the curse.
As the task required great power, both the devas and demons came together and started churning the milky Ocean surviving all obstacles with the help of Bhagwan Shiv and Bhagwan Vishnu. All the celestial beings emerged from the Ocean as a result of their churning. Airavat who was hiding in the Milky waters of the Ocean also emerged from the Ocean changing its colour from black to spotless white. As it hid for a long time in the Milky white Ocean, the colour of its skin transformed from black into pure white. It had also become the symbol of purity being absolved from its guilt and went back to Devraj Indr as his vehicle. Devraj Indr was mighty pleased with the return of Airavat back to him.
Thus emerged from the Milky Ocean as a divine form, the Airavat came to be known as the highest among the elephants. This is denoted by none other than Bhagwan Krishna when he says to Arjun during his course of Geeta that among the elephants, he is the Airavat. The Airavat is a symbol of purity and strength amply fit to be called as the King of Elephants.