A thread started on twitter on elephants has fascinated me and I am posting some of the paintings from there.
Elephants were an important part of Mughal life and were used in war, entertainment ( elephant fights, shikar), punishment( crushing to death) and travelling or simply for pomp and show.
In Akbarnama Abul Fazl writes
” When India was made illustrious by his blessed advent he gave special attention to elephants, which are wonderful animals both in form and in ways. If in respect of size I liken them to a mountain in order to describe them to those who have not seen them, I do not succeed in my attempt, for where is account taken of their beauty of form, and where is their swiftness? Or if I liken their speed and fury to the wind, how is their wrath depicted at the time of their o’erthrowing the firm-footed on the field of battle? If I compare them for foresight, intelligence, and sagacity to the horse, the real thing is not said. ”
Great Mogul And His Court Returning From The Great Mosque At Delhi India — Oil Painting by American Artist Edwin Lord Weeks
#Emperor Akbar r. 1556-1605 riding a mast (untamed/rogue) elephant from Akbarnama. Abul Fazl writes “the first elephant which H.M. the Shāhinshāh rode was called Dilsankār. The first mast elephant that H.M. the Shāhinshāh rode was called Damūdar, which H.M. had presented to Bairām Khãn. When H.M. the Shāhinshah was going from Delhi to Salīmgarha, which was on the bank of the Jumna, that elephant was tied under a tree by the roadside. As it possessed the virtue of steadiness the driver was, even in the height of its mast condition, taking cooked rice in his hand and putting it into the elephant’s mouth. H.M. was pleased with the good behaviour of the elephant, and went up to it, and getting upon a female elephant which they had tied by its side, mounted upon the neck of Damūdar. The first mast elephant which H.M. the Shāhinshāh mounted upon, and engaged in battle with another mast elephant, was called Jhalpa. This was during the siege of Mānkot. After battle had been waged between these two monsters for a long time the contest ended, like a game of chess,* in a draw, and they were separated. At that auspicious time H.M’s age had reached fourteen years. After this, the power of H.M. in riding mast elephants rose to such a pitch that that victory-supported one would unhesitatingly mount on a mast elephant which experienced drivers despairingly declined to ride (lit. placed the back of the hand on the ground of helplessness). And he would lead it against mast elephants, and without exaggeration he rode more than a hundred times on mast elephants which had killed their drivers and were men-slayers, and were capable of smiting a city or perturbing an army, and engaged them in fighting. May Almighty God preserve this eternally-aided one for cycles and epochs on the throne of success and of fulfilment of the desires of mortals!”
Akbar’s Adventure with the Elephant Hawa’i in 1561
by Basawan and Chetar Munti (1590-95)A Mughal Royal Lady travelling on an Elephant
#elephant Khushi Khan 1660
The War Elephants Citranand and Udiya Collide in Battle-Akbarnama, 1567.
1573-Akbar receiving his sons at Fatehpur-Akbarnama
Portrait of an #Elephant with 2 distinguished riders Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah & his PrimeMinister
By Bichitr. Met. Museum of Art.
This elephant was called Gajraj as is mentioned in Jahangir’s own handwriting given in painting
This #elephant was probably in the imperial use and was commissioned by #Shahjahan c.1640
1602 AD Prince Salim (Emperor Jahangir) returns on an elephant from a hunt
“Prince Aurangzeb riding against the maddened War elephant Sudhakar in the year 1633.”
Mawla baksh the royal elephant in the war of 1857, favourite of Bahadur Shah
Elephant Combat. Hada master. 1610-20.
Mahabir Deb1630 noted painter in ShahJahan’s reign , DaraShikoh riding an elephant
This Emperor Akbar on fierce Hawa,pursuing equally ferocious Ran Bagha,across a bridge of boats over Jumna,1586-89 V&A museum
On this #elephant is riding #Akbar the Great, ‘nim qalam’, minimalist wash #gold c1600 unknown artist, #Lucknow V&A
This is Akbar II with his son Prince Saleem in a Company Painting c1821 now at V&A
This #elephant though from the Mughal stables,probably a working beast. c.18th Murshidabad now at V&A
Many #Mughal ladies were accomplished artists, Khursheed Banu was one of them. She painted this in c.1600
This #Elephant is without the usual trappings of the imperial,though must be 4 royal Mughal’s use c.1650
This #Elephant was probably commissioned by Shahjahan in c.1650-60 most probably by Chand at Ashmolean Museum
Nainsukh: Muhammad Shah’s Elephant Fight
Nainsukh : The elephant fight close up
shikarMughal infantry and Mahut‘s in action.An elephant in war
A ceremonial procession On the occasion of Eid : Two elephants carrying the fish and sun insignia of Mughal sovereigntya green standard with a gold sun
and finally the most gruesome form of the elephant in Mughal era
I am grateful for the tweets on this subject by
@Sree_tweets @ambrin_hayat @DalrympleWill @WhiteMughalsFan @razvinama and @jamaljafri