The image shows the west-facing pediment of the east gopura built on the perimeter of the middle enclosure of the Banteay Srei Temple, which is located 16 miles northeast of Siem Reap, Cambodia.
The bas-relief depicts Gaja Lakshmi – one of the eight avatars of Lakshmi – sitting on a lotus flower flanked by two gajas (elephants in Sanskrit) performing abhisheka (showering with water and food) and riding Uluka the Owl. Uluka is often associated with Lakshmi, but not always as her vahana (vehicle).
Lakshmi is Vishnu’s wife and the goddess of wealth in Hindu mythology. She is known as Ashtalakshmi because of her eight avatars (manifestations), each of which symbolizes an aspect of wealth. The Gaja Lakshmi avatar symbolizes wealth through strength.
According to a legend, Gaja Lakshmi was a by-product of the Samudra Manthana (Churning of the Ocean of Milk).
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