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Simurgh Attacking a Gaja-Simha Carrying Elephants
A Simurgh Attacking a Gajasimha Carrying Elephants

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Marwar Region, India, Asia

Early 19th century

Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

12 5/8 x 9 inches (32.1 x 22.9 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Stella Kramrisch Collection, 1994

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With the yellow body of a lion, four golden wings, and a bright red elephant’s head, the hybrid animal, a gajasimha (elephant-lion), flings around seven small elephants using claws, trunk, tusks, and tail. Swooping down from above is a fabulously colored phoenix-like bird, a simurgh, which upends four more elephants in its tail feathers. The ferocity of the battle is evidenced by the simurgh’s beak sunk deep into the gajasimha’s back, and the elephant’s wounds where the larger beasts grasp them. In Islam, the simurgh represents union with the divine. The motif was brought from Persia to India as early as 1600, where it may have merged with the sunbird Garuda, the vehicle of the god Vishnu.