Our interest in the animal world is as old as time. Even before we learnt how to farm or build houses, we were drawing animals in our cave walls, spinning magical stories around them and venerating them in our shrines. Learn more about the representation of the animal world in Indian art.
Our interest in the animal world is as old as time. Even before we learnt how to farm or build houses, we were drawing animals in our cave walls, spinning magical stories around them and venerating them in our shrines. With time, the animal world was to only grow more integral to our everyday lives, our collective imagination and our visual vocabulary.
MAP’s collections are home to prowling tigers, majestic elephants, hooded serpents, slithering lizards, soaring eagles, glittering crocodiles, countless bulls–and many other kinds of creepy crawlies, birds, reptiles and animals–that come to life in a range of materials from paper and clay to marble and cloth. Here’s a look at some, from the realistic to the abstract and the fantastic!
Narmada Prasad Tekam, Mangra (crocodile), Poster colour on paper, 1990s
Arunkumar H. G., From a series of Nandis, Various (velvet on fibreglass; cotton rope on fibreglass; polythene, straw, resin and steel), 2008
In Mughal India, there was a growing interest in both the realistic painting style prevalent in Europe as well as exotic animals – both of which were brought into the country by European missionaries, traders and diplomats. Rulers like Akbar and Jahangir, particularly the latter, took a keen interest in naturalism and had experts in their painting ateliers make extremely accurate live drawings of flora and fauna. Drawings, miniature paintings and illuminated manuscripts from the Mughal and other royal courts serve today, as invaluable records of these artists’ draughtsmanship and eye for detail.
Tamed elephant with trappings, Opaque watercolour on paper
Animals often feature as decorative motifs in objects of everyday use as well as luxury items. The trend of using animal motifs to decorate jewellery and accessories goes back to the ancient world and continues today with a particular popularity of the cat and the owl motifs on garments and everyday essentials!
Ornamentation using animal motifs also present instances where the animal form and that of the object seamlessly merge into one another, serving as testament to the ingenuity and creativity of the craftsmen and designers who produced them.
A Dhurrie featuring zebras, Cotton, tapestry woven, 1935
Palanquin pole-end shaped like an elephant, Brass, 19th century