February 29, 2020–July 18, 2021
In Sanskrit poetry, people and elephants live harmoniously in a shared natural world, where elephants enhance the aesthetic pleasure of the landscape by augmenting almost all of the human senses. In fact, throughout the history of South Asia, elephants were valued profoundly for their might and majesty, embodying royal power and inspiring comparisons to kings and deities. In the earthly realm, elephants intimidated the enemy on the battlefield, terrified the condemned as executioners, and entertained courtiers in staged fights with each other. Revered as the elephant-headed god Ganesh or admired as the god Indra’s elegant white mount, elephants were also associated with rain and compared to kings and beautiful women. They simultaneously possessed a magnificent grandeur and quiet dignity to which all humans could aspire.