Divine Rider on a Composite Elephant Preceded by a Demon
Artist/maker unknown, India
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.