Elephant Regalia of Rajasthan

in Module
Published on: 18 June 2018

Shakshi Gupta

Shakshi Gupta is a textile researcher with a M.Sc. in Fabric and Apparel Science, specialising in Conservation of Traditional Textiles from Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi. She has worked on the heritage textile conservation project at Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, City Palace Museum, Udaipur and Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur, for the exhibition ‘Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India’ in collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

This module explores the ancient tradition of decorating elephants with a focus on Rajasthan. Elephants have a special relationship with human beings and are considered as being both sacred and regal. Therefore, elephants were decorated for worship as well as for royal occasions. They have also played a prominent role in battle. We find representations of decorated elephants from the Indus Valley Civilization onward in architecture, art and literature. Elephant regalia witnessed its peak of artistic refinement under the Mughal and Rajput dynasties but with the British rule this art form started witnessing its decline. Today, we find it in pockets, mostly in its religious form and increasingly as a tourism feature.