Man is as much a part of the earth as is the nature around him. The best of nature exists as rocks, trees and animals. Some animals have played a big role in man’s life. He has captured them in art in sculpture,painting and even on coins as symbolic depictions. Fauna is a term used to represent animals in general. Various representations of fauna can be seen in different works of art, mythological story depictions, Buddhist and Jaina relics and rock shelters from prehistoric times. Mughal emperors have left behind hundreds of animal and bird depictions in miniature paintings for posterity.
In Madhya Pradesh, in present day India, rock shelters in Bhimbetka has paintings which depict the early life,beliefs and thoughts of early human populations. Rock art is found in all five continents of the world, two third of India’s art is found in Madhya Pradesh alone. Rock shelters depict many aspects of society and life of the earlier times they were made in; the hunting scenes,scenes of dancing,types of animals,costumes and tools used etc. Many drawings were pictographic representations and connected to the ecosystem of the group or individuals who made them. The paintings at Bhimbetka are most likely from the mesolithic period. Paintings were often made to appease deities,chase away diseases or to ensure fertility.
Animal figures at Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh
By Michael Gunther – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39414027
Horse and man, Bhimbetka caves,Madhya Pradesh
By Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33749834
At Amaravati in Guntur district ,right of the Krishna river of present day Andhra Pradesh, erstwhile capital of the Satavahana dynasty from 2nd century B.C to 3rd century A.D., is a stupa site.Founded by an emissary of emperor Ashoka, Amaravati is an important Buddhist centre, identified as Dhanyakataka and a place of origin of Tantric teachings especially Kalchakra. The stupa was originally a simple structure with limestone crossbars and simple carvings.The Satavahanas renovated and embellished it with superb and intricate carvings depicting Lord Buddha’s life and teachings. Acharya Nagarjuna’s efforts have also gone into the construction of the stupa which was also called Deepaladinne, Mahastupa and Mahachaitya. The slabs of the stupa are famous for its Buddhist inscriptions. The stupa is believed to have stood taller than the Great Stupa at Sanchi. The important remains of the stupa are at The Government Museum, Chennai.
Horse depicted in Amaravati art, Andhra Pradesh
By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22568696
Gazelles in sculpture, Amaravati art,Andhra Pradesh
By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22568681
Madhubani paintings, an age old folk art form of Mithila region , in present day Bihar, literally meaning ‘forest of honey’, portrays images of gods, goddesses and various objects from the animal and plant world. These paintings vibrate with life and hold a very unique place. One of the avatars of Lord Vishnu of the Hindu trinity, as the fish or Matsya avatar, from the Dasavataras or his ten incarnations is depicted in Madhubani art.
Lord Vishnu in a fish, depicting Matsya avatar, Madhubani painting
By Mithiart.com – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30977311
The Hoysala dynasty built ornate, richly carved grand temples at Halebidu and Belur, in present day Karnataka in the 12th and 13th centuries. Built on stellate platforms with chloritic schist, a grey-green stone,these temples had high domed towers with many shrines in the temple complex. Temples of the time were educational centres, musical centres and courts of justice. The outside of the temples are covered with sculptures, the lower friezes include animals and plants and scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana.The term Hoysala means ‘a young man fighting a lion’ and their royal emblem depicting this idea is seen at their Chennakesava temple at Belur.
Elephants, Hoysaleswara temple, Halebidu, Karnataka
By Pushkar V – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19050536
The royal Hoysala emblem, depicting man and lion, Belur
By Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4609444
The Kakatiyas ruled Andhradesa including the areas of Telangana, from Warangal, in present day Telangana during 1150 A.D to 1323 A.D. Great builders, they built many temples. They also built an impressive fort at Warangal whose ruins can be seen today, depicting beautiful sculptural work. The fort’s four impressive gateways called the Keerthithoranams are grand and has been adopted in the logo of the state of Telangana. Among other sculpture depictions, animal motifs, kirtimukha(gargoyles), floral designs have been used to enhance the charm of the creations.
Frieze of lions, Kakatiya sculpture, Warangal, Telangana
Pic : Isha Vatsa
The shalabhanjikas,alasa kanyas and madanikas and are an important idiom in Indian sculpture. A young maiden holding the branch of the sala tree, or holding a mirror, or playing a musical instrument, or as huntress or seen holding a parrot are frequently depicted. The Chennakesava temple at Belur (already mentioned) has around 40 such shalabhanjikas in different moods. Mentionable here is the one with the parrot, ornately carved, with the maiden wearing a serene expression and in harmony with the bird in her hand.
Madanika holding a parrot, Chennakesava temple, Belur ,Karnataka
By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France – Madanika (Temple de Chennakeshava à Belur, Inde), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37213510
The Virabhadra temple at Lepakshi, in Anantapur district of present day Andhra Pradesh is a marvellous example of Vijayanagara art and architecture. It is believed that sage Agastya visited this place on his sojourn to the Vindhya region. The area where Lepakshi is appears to have been under the Mauryas, Satavahanas,Gangas, Chalukyas of Badami,Nolambas and the Chalukyas of Kalyani. The Vijayanagara kings ruled this region between the 14th and 17th centuries. Built by Virupanna, treasurer under King Achyutaraya, the temple is dedicated to Virabhadra. The temple has a rangamandapa, ardhamandapa, a kalyanamandapa and garbagriha. The temple has beautiful mural paintings on its walls and ceilings. The pillars are ornately done in the temple.The great sculptures of the temple are the Nagalinga and Basavanna, a huge monolithic bull, beautifully carved,15 feet high and 27 feet wide, some distance away from the temple.
Monolithic bull at Lepakshi, Anantapur,Andhra Pradesh
By Vinay332211 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21123320
The Mughal empire in India started in 1526 with emperor Babur, after the decisive First Battle of Panipat. During the 16th,17th and 18th centuries Mughal painting emerged as a combination of Persian, Turkish and Indian styles. It grew and developed under different emperors. Emperor Akbar commissioned the painting of Persian and Indian epics. Under Emperor Jahangir, the scenes were mostly from his own life and included flowers, animals and birds. Emperor Shahjahan encouraged painting of palace scenes, gardens, lovers and ascetics.
Emperor Babur on a rhino hunt near Peshawar,from the Baburnama
By Unknown – Painting from the Babur Nama reproduced with the kind permission of the National Museum, New Delhi in pg 127 of Treasures of Natural History (2005) eds A. S. Kothari & B. F. Chhapgar, Bombay Natural History Society and Oxford University Press, Mumbai., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3217018
A Mughal tournament, Mughal painting
By Payāg, Indian style – http://www.iranica.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12223783
Ganjifa playing cards. Mughal style, 19th century.
By Jainamishra – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47578537
Chakravarty, K. K,ed./Rock art of India;New Delhi : Arnold Heinemann,1984.
Thakur,Upendra/Madhubani painting;New Delhi ; Abhinav Publications.
Rao,Amancharla Gopala/Lepakshi;Hyderabad: A.P.Lalit Kala Akademi,1969.
Knox,Robert/Amravati;London: British Museum,1992.