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Elephant, the glory of the Indian forest, has been transformed here into a toy with wheels on its four legs, obviously for a baby prince or for a highly artistic and lavish drawing-room. A kind of royal grandeur, such as has remained associated with royal elephants that kings and emperors rode ever since the Epic days, characterises the elephant toy. From its trunk to tail the image of the animal has been richly ornamented. Not only his tusks but also his massive legs have been adorned with heavy gold rings. Even his ears have been pierced for putting rings on them. The roots of the ears that join with the neck of the animal have been conciliated by putting on them beautiful hanging ornaments, one each on both sides.
His corrugated trunk, save its tip and its finger, has been adorned with rings attached with large bell-pendents. His domed head has been adorned with most lavish and multi-patterned ornaments consisting of both textile and gold and both richly inlaid. Its foremost part serves as ornamental hanging for his forehead and trunk. Haudah is the most usual seating arrangement on elephant back but the artist has preferred a saddle for his pet. He knew the advantage of a saddle and disadvantage of haudah which could only be a detached thing. By fixing it inseparably tight to the elephant's back and belly the artist could merge the saddle with the body of elephant and thereby what of ornamentation he entwined with the saddle became part of animal's being.
India has elephant's longest past and largest number which despite large scale killing in wars and for his invaluable tusks, in use as ivory for centuries now, exceeds at present eighteen thousand. World's forests have broadly surviving now just two elephant species, the African and Asiatic. The Asian elephant is known as Elephas maximus and is found, besides India, also in Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Srilanka. As compared to African type, Asian elephant has smaller ears, more domed head, just one finger at the tip of his trunk and four toes in his hind legs. Only the male of this variety has two tusks. The female has just one, though the African female has two alike. African elephant has a larger size and larger ears and two fingers at the tip of his tusk. He has just three toes in his hind legs.
In India elephant has a significant mythology as well as a long past of working relationship with man. Elephant mythology is quite queer and interesting. Elephant has always been considered as the most auspicious of all animals. For the beheaded torso of Lord Ganesha, the god of auspicies, the elephant head was considered as the best substitute. Indra, the lord of gods, rode Eravata, an elephant, and just before Trishala gave birth to Lord Mahavira, the last Jain Tirthankara, and Mayadevi to Lord Buddha it was an elephant or an elephant baby that appeared in their dreams. Elephant is pure vegetarian. Hence, Jains adopted the animal for a number of their rituals. This, however, is just one aspect of him. When elephant turns ferocious he is death and destruction incarnate. He has been hence also conceived as demon, one such as eliminated Shiva and the other as eliminated Krishn. The earliest historical evidence of working relationship between man and elephant recedes back to B.C.323. The forces of Porus advancing against Alexander in B.C.323 were led by his war-elephants and Alexander's forces had been bewitched for sometime.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.
Of Related Interest:
Jewelry: Elephant Necklace with Ear Rings
Wood Sculpture: Royal Mount
Marble Sculptures: Pair of White Elephants
Miniature Painting on Old Urdu paper: Caparisoned Elephant with Raised Trunk
Painting on Silk: Decorated Elephant
Painting On Marble: Wild Elephant
Batik Painting: Four Black Elephants
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