Mughal Exhibit: Elephant trampling a tiger- Sara Bahwan

Elephants are soulful majestic creatures. They are gregarious animals like human beings that live among family units. They can be distinguished from other animals as they share immense emotion. They weep for the dead and express depression. They are social animals that are larger than human beings and for this reason we are in awe of them. One of the historical figures that understood the value of Elephants was Akbar.

Akbar owned 5,000 elephants and had around 40,000 to serve the rest of the empire. It was said that one armored elephant was equivalent to 500 horses. Therefore, these elephants were carefully taken care of and were usually used in war. He knew that they were key to military success and armed them in order to protect them in war. Elephants also played a role in the construction of towns as they cleared paths for agriculture and roads. These powerful creatures were the main force to the presence of the Mughal Empire.

The court historian Abu’l  Fazl states that “this wonderful animal is in bulk and strength like a mountain; and in courage and ferocity like a lion. It adds materially to the pomp of a king and to the success of a conqueror; and is of the greatest use for the army.” As aesthetic as an elephant may seem it is resilient. It endures pain and patience as its rider wipes it. It is better than a man as it acquires the characteristics of an angel: sweet and patient.

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Moreover, the image of an armored elephant trampling a tiger symbolizes power. A tiger is usually at the top of a food chain. As the elephant kills the tiger it symbolizes dominance. It becomes the top predator and the ruler. It possesses characteristics of a ruler, which is patience, calmness, strength and power, but it remains dominated by human. I think the soldier on the elephant is important as it emphasizes that ultimately man conquers all.

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