Unknown artist

Death of a White Elephant (Kanada Ragini)

Death of a White Elephant (Kanada Ragini) by Unknown artist

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The elephant is an important symbol in Islamic and Hindu tradition: the Prophet Muhammed was born in the Year of the Elephant and in Hindu tradition the animal is considered one of the navratnas (nine jewels) that surfaced when the gods (deva) and demons (asura) churned the oceans in a search for the elixir of life. This painting is most likely part of a ragamala, a series of paintings conveying the mood of Indian musical melodies (ragas) through colour and verse. This particular raga is known as the Kanada Ragini, which is commonly visualised in poetry and painting as a princely warrior who shows his valour by vanquishing an elephant. As is common in depictions of this ragini (the female mode of raga), the warrior on the left sits on a rocky outcrop, holding the sword with which he has killed the elephant and is saluted by two royal bards. Hunting typically took place at night and the cool tones of this painting’s background convey the quiet, nocturnal atmosphere that is also typical of raga from the kanada family, which are almost always sung madhyarathi (middle of the night).

Title
Death of a White Elephant (Kanada Ragini)
Artist/creator
Production date
late 18th century
Medium
gouache
Dimensions
338 x 250 mm
Inscription
Arabic script on recto & verso. Of Hindu Music / Hamell Kanara Raqun? 145, -.
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2003
Accession no
2003/40/3
Copyright
No known copyright restrictions
Department
International Art
Display status
Not on display

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