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Divine Rider on a Composite Elephant Preceded by a Demon

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Kota, Rajasthan, India, Asia

c. 1760

Opaque watercolor on paper

Image: 6 1/4 × 9 13/16 inches (15.9 × 24.9 cm) Sheet: 8 × 11 5/8 inches (20.3 × 29.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Edgar Viguers Seeler Fund, 1976

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In a conceit taken from Persian painting but also popular in India, both the elephant and the demon who walks in front are composed of masses of smaller intertwined animals, many devouring, butting, or biting their neighbors. The animals include a black buck antelope, Indian hares, lions, fish, goats, dragons, a cobra, and a ring-tailed rodent that may be a civet. Atop the elephant is a lotus-crowned deity carrying a large elephant goad. Although not clearly identified, he is most likely Indra, Lord of the Heavens. Indra's vahana (vehicle) is the great elephant Airavata, progenitor of all elephants. Large as a storm cloud, Airavata supports the eastern quarter of the universe.