Elephants occupy a special place in the life and art of India. Since ancient times, they have been treasured and pampered as the ultimate beasts of burden, venerated as the vehicles of gods and kings, and even worshipped in their own right. Their legendary attributes of strength, intelligence, nobility and longevity are eulogized in myth, epic and popular literature. In the figural and decorative arts, elephants provide an enduring fascination.
Elephant Kingdom traces the myriad stories and symbolisms behind India’s much-loved animal, through its depictions in architectural sculpture. At the heart of the study is a collection of photographs from a diversity of antique settings. At centuries-old temples, monastries, forts and palaces, elephants flank ceremonial entrances, enrich columns and capitals, form balustrades to stairways or stand as enigmatic sentinels of vast courtyards. This book is not only an album of inspirations and motifs unique to India, but also a record of the special status ascribed to these majestic—and now endangered—giants of the animal world.
About the Author
Vikramajit Ram specializes in Indian art and architectural history; antique buildings and heritage sites; people, places and endangered species. Based in Bangalore, he divides his time between practising and teaching design.