Three-headed elephant feature on Thai ceramics

Donald Sheridan

Here are two items from my own collection: a vase and an oil lamp.
I cant date them with precision, but they are undeniably antique (17th/18th century).
The vase has undergone a fairly long sojourn in sea water (eroded glaze).
The lamp, though sturdy, is very elegant. 3 elephants head, chest and forelegs sculpted in the round form a pedestal which is topped by a cup, meant to contain oil and wick.

The three elephant heads are a fairly well-known hindu feature. I was told that it had something to do with Ganesh. Im not so sure. I tend to believe that they refer to Airavata (Erawan in Thai), the mount of the god Indra, and to the myth which is attached to it, ie the victory over Vritra, demon personification of drought: Indra resorts to his elephant to pump the water out of the underworld and spray/vaporize it into the sky. He then induces the heavy-loaded clouds to release their salutary content over the fields.